Vikings vs. Saints: The best of times, the worst of times

Today’s post is by Armand Peterson, author of The Vikings Reader. He, like many other nervous Minnesota Vikings football fans out there, is anxiously awaiting the NFC Championship game this Sunday.

For Minnesota Vikings fans looking forward to the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday—with my apologies to Charles Dickens—it is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. “Best” because Brett Favre has ignited fan excitement for the Vikings we haven’t seen since 1998. And “worst” because you know what happened back then—the sure-thing 15-1 Vikings lost a heartbreaker in overtime to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game.

Frankly, even in the aftermath and euphoria of the 34-3 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, many fans are afraid of what will happen in the Louisiana Superdome.

There are a lot of similarities between the 1998 and 2009 Vikings. Both had star-studded rosters. Ten Vikings made the Pro Bowl team in 1998, and five were voted to the First-team All-Pro squad: quarterback Randall Cunningham, wide receiver Randy Moss, guard Randall McDaniel, defensive end John Randle, and kicker Gary Anderson. Similarly, in 2009 ten Vikings have made the Pro Bowl team. (There were nine originally, but defensive back Antoine Winfield was just added to replace Arizona’s injured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.) Running back Adrian Peterson, guard Steve Hutchinson, defensive end Jared Allen, and defensive lineman Kevin Williams made the All-Pro team. Furthermore, Randy Moss was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1998, while Percy Harvin won the honor in 2009. The 1998 Vikings scored a then-record 556 points, but the 2009 squad was no slouch. They scored 470 points, second only to—ouch—New Orleans, who scored 510.

The odds makers have made the Vikings four-point underdogs. That’s not surprising, since we’re playing on the road—where the Vikings were only 4-4 in the regular season. The Saints, who have only been in the playoffs seven times in their 43-year history (the Vikings are 26 of 49), are the sentimental favorites because of the team’s role in restoring civic pride in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Superdome has been the site of six Super Bowls, but this is the first time the Saints have even played in a conference championship game. The noise in the fixed-roof Superdome this weekend could be even louder than in the Metrodome last Sunday, and should give the Saints players a huge emotional advantage. And, as if they needed any extra incentive, the Saints feel they were snubbed when only four of their players were selected to the Pro Bowl team.

Things seemed stacked against our Vikings. What’s a fan to do?

Well, here’s one Vikings fan who doesn’t care about the past. So what if we’ve lost four Super Bowls and haven’t won a conference championship since 1976. Yes, I still remember 1998—and 2000, for that matter. (You tried to forget the 41-0 loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game that year, didn’t you?)

So I’m investing all my emotional capital in this game. It’ll break my heart if we lose, but think about it, training camp will start again in about six months.

Skol, Vikings!

-Think you know your Vikings trivia knowledge? Take The Vikings Reader Challenge, a quiz compiled by Peterson.

3 thoughts on “Vikings vs. Saints: The best of times, the worst of times

  1. Slight correction: the Saints have played in an NFC title game before – the '06 title game was played at Chicago. This is the first one they've hosted in their history.

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