Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD and managing editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.
So, we are hearing reports that the Vikings are returning to the scene of the crime on opening weekend. According to Howard Eskin at Sports Radio WIP in Philadelphia, the Vikings will travel to Philly on that opening Thursday night for a rematch of last season’s NFC Championship game (in which, if you will recall, the Vikings got their tails handed to them). Buckle up, Purple fans, the 2018 season will be coming at you fast and furious.
“When [the] NFL schedule comes out, sources tell me [the] Eagles will play [the] Vikings to open [the] season—Thursday night, September 6th in Philadelphia,” Eskin tweeted. “It’s rematch of [the] NFC Championship game.”
I usually don’t spend much time writing about the Vikings or NFL schedule because basically they have to play them as they come, to be the best you have to beat the best and the Vikings might as well get this one over with. We already knew they would have to go to Philly at some point in the season, so perhaps opening night is a good night, when both teams are healthy (Carson Wentz may not yet be back from injury) and an upset of the defending Super Bowl champs is possible.
That means the Vikings will return to the scene of their defensive debacle, their Purple Poseurs playoff, their Miracle Meltdown, where the Eagles defeated the Vikings in humiliating fashion by a score of 38-7. A team with backup quarterback Nick Foles at the helm riddled the Vikings defense like it was the New England Patriots defense two weeks later. It is also the return to the place where the local fans set a new low in decorum when they hurled insults and projectiles at Minnesota fans and walked the streets with signs that cursed out a 99-year-old lady.
The Vikings (and maybe some of their fans) return to the scene of the crime, which was stealing epic glory from Minnesota as it could have been the first team to play in its own stadium for the Super Bowl title. Emotions will be running hot for this one.
It also means the Vikings will be playing two games in a row in the same stadium and it is not U.S. Banks Stadium. The will happen across an entire offseason, but it is still a very strange scheduling quirk. It does, however, give the Vikings (particularly, members of the defense) a chance to get rid of the bad taste in their collective mouths over that embarrassing beat down last January.
Doing so won’t come easy, as many things will have changed since the last game, and a lot of those changes add to the intensity of this game. The NFL schedulers, who love these kinds of games to open a new season, are likely drooling over this matchup—if in fact the reports are accurate.
It is no small thing that the Eagles danced and sprayed champagne all over the Vikings’ locker room this past February. It should have been the Viking doing so, but then there is that saying: “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, it would be Christmas all year long,” or something like that.
It is also no small thing that the Vikings have hired John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator. DeFilippo is fresh off a stint as the Eagles quarterback coach, where he was instrumental in making Wentz an early league MVP candidate and Foles, following a two-game playoff offensive explosion, the Super Bowl MVP. DeFilippo will certainly let Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer know how the Eagles blistered his defense and offer insight into how the Eagles defense shut down his offense in the NFC title game. This story line in itself will be fascinating to follow.
Then there is the quarterback situation for both teams. Will it be Wentz, who is returning from an ACL tear (perhaps not in time to play) or will it be Foles, who the Vikings defense would definitely like a rematch against? Both present problems for the Vikings—but neither is impenetrable
On the other side of the coin, the Vikings have totally cleared out their quarterback room, sending Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater packing (it is still slightly jarring to recognize and write that) and brought in former Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has plenty of experience in facing the Eagles’ tough defense. The Vikings won’t be short of any ideas on how to combat this very formidable force in Philly. (Cousins is 4-3-0 against Philly with 16 touchdown passes versus five picks.)
Any way you slice it, this game is going to be great theater and the likelihood of it taking place on opening night—a Thursday night game—seems to be a no-brainer for becoming reality. Playing the opening Thursday night game would be a benefit for Minnesota, as the Vikings will have plenty of time to prepare for it (no short week turnaround, as it were) and will get the 10 days afterward to prepare for the next game. And since the Vikings will be a prime-time target of all the networks this season, getting one out of the way early seems to bode well.
The Vikings will be underdogs, which, perhaps, can give them the de-pressurized feeling of nothing to lose and allow them to play fast, loose and aggressive (something they experienced from the other side of the equation the last time they played in the City of Un-Brotherly taunts). They will have some surprises for the Eagles in the form of Cousins in Purple, Dalvin Cook returning and Sheldon Richardson in their quarterback’s face. They might be able to catch the defending champs fat and happy off of last season’s stunning title.
So, I say, bring it on. The Vikings have all offseason to prepare for it. I don’t expect them to be caught unawares by the Eagles this time around.