My best friend going back to middle school – so we’re talking almost 30 years – wrote a book a decade ago titled, “My Least Favorite Team is My Favorite Team.”
In it, he chronicles how being a Vikings fan has made him hate every single NFL franchise — and, as the title suggests, the purple are hardly spared along the way. (You can still find a few scattered copies on Amazon. I suggest the $7.99 used copies, even if you have to pay a few bucks for shipping, as opposed to the two new copies that somehow sell for $148, albeit with free shipping.)
After seeing him recently, I half-jokingly suggested the book needs an update. He’s moved onto other scholarly pursuits, so I’m not sure that will happen.
In the spirit of the book, though, this much is true: The NFC playoff field is a veritable gold mine — or filled with land mines, if you look at it another way — when it comes to the Vikings, their history and potential revenge.
Let’s take a look at the five teams, ranked from the least amount of history that needs to be rectified to the most:
5) Carolina: The Vikings and Panthers have never met in the playoffs. They’ve only met 14 times in the regular season, with the Vikings holding an 8-6 edge. The 2001 Vikings lost the season opener at home to the Panthers, a game that signified the beginning of the end of that Super Bowl window. The Vikings finished 5-11 that year. The Panthers didn’t win another game. And yes, Carolina also defeated the Vikings this year in the regular season. Still, there just isn’t much history between these teams. They would meet in the division round if the Panthers beat the Saints and the Falcons beat the Rams.
4) Rams: The vintage Vikings who made routine trips to the Super Bowl went 4-0 in the playoffs against the Rams between 1969 and 1977. Still, the Rams earn their place here thanks to 1999. They were in St. Louis then, and defeated the Vikings 49-37 in the division round of the playoffs. It was 49-17 with 5 minutes to play, in case you forgot. That kind of butt-kicking a year after what happened in 1998 was hard to take. The Vikings will play the Rams if the Rams beat the Falcons in the wild card round.
3) Eagles: Philadelphia has been a sneaky playoff nemesis for the Vikings. Minnesota is 0-3 all-time in the playoffs against the Eagles, losing in 1980, 2004 and 2008. The Vikings probably deserved to lose all three games, and none of the individual games were particularly painful. But still, that’s not a good history. The Vikings would play at Philadelphia if both teams win their division round games to advance to the NFC title game.
1A-1B) Saints and Falcons: I tried to break this tie. I just couldn’t. The Falcons ended the 15-1 Vikings’ 1998 season with an unconscionably painful overtime win at the Metrodome. The Saints knocked the Vikings out with an overtime win in the 2009 NFC title game — a game later found to be part of the New Orleans “Bountygate” scandal. Those are the two most painful Vikings playoff losses of the last 20 years, and it’s not even close — which is saying something, given what happened with Blair Walsh in the 2015 playoffs. The Vikings could face both teams in the playoffs. They’d get the Saints if New Orleans defeats the Panthers while the Falcons beat the Rams in the wild card round. If they won that game, the Vikings would get Atlanta in the NFC title game if the Falcons defeat the Eagles. Both of those games would be at U.S. Bank Stadium, which is of course also the site of the Super Bowl.