The Vikings put a bow on 2017 Sunday afternoon when they defeated the division-rival Bears 23-10 and finished the regular season 13-3.
Minnesota's win effectively clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs, and the postseason will start with a home game at 3:40 p.m. (CT) on Jan. 14.
Bob Sansevere at the *Pioneer Press *said that this year's Vikings team is a special one.
He acknowledged that the offense hasn't been "lights-out" in the past two games but reminded readers that the field conditions and harsh temps at Green Bay were less than ideal, and the Vikings were playing with a shuffled offensive line against the Bears. Sansevere opined that the offense "should start humming again" in two weeks.
Sansevere quoted Brian Robison, the longest-tenured Viking in the locker room, who said "the sky is the limit" for the 2017 Vikings.
"If we want to be compared to great defenses, we have to win more ball games," Robison said. "I'm hoping we haven't played our best game yet. Hopefully, we're getting hot at the right time and we'll keep getting better."
So far, it has the most balanced team since the '87 squad that reached the NFC championship game. The defense is the league's toughest to score and gain yards against, and the offense has game-breaking players in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs and one of the feel-good stories in the NFL, journeyman-turned-star-quarterback Case Keenum.
He went on to point out the significance of home-field advantage to start the postseason and added that, if the Vikings win in the Divisional round and the Eagles lose, home-field advantage would remain with Minnesota for the NFC Championship game.
*There is nobody in the NFC playoffs the Vikings should fear. They have beaten more than half of their potential opponents, and lost to just one (Carolina). And is there a player or fan out there who doubts the Vikings would win a rematch with the Panthers? Or beat the Eagles, even in Philly? *
As for the Super Bowl, the Vikings have a chance to do what no team has ever done: Play the Roman-numeraled game in their own stadium.
Vikings investment in their defense paying off
The Vikings defense has remained, at its core, nearly the same over the past three seasons.
During the offseason, General Manager Rick Spielman and the Vikings continued to invest in the defense, signing three starters – Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph – to contract extensions.
*Star Tribune *writer Chip Scoggins wrote recently that the efforts are paying off on the field. Scoggins wrote:
The Vikings enter the postseason as strong Super Bowl contenders largely because their defense is entrapping opponents like quicksand. They finished No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and scoring defense and posted the league's lowest third-down percentage (25.2) since 1991.
Scoggins said that Minnesota's defensive players have confidence, but it shouldn't be confused with contentment.
[Vikings Head Coach Mike] Zimmer's crew never seems satisfied, not even after dominating performances. They often acknowledge their mistakes as counterbalance to weekly praise.
They understand that playoff success ultimately will define them and their place in history. Owning the NFL's top defense in the regular season is a noteworthy achievement. Continuing that dominance in the postseason will validate it.
Vikings have 'great chance' to make it to Super Bowl LII
Following the wrap-up of the 2017 regular season, NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal delved into the upcoming postseason and its various storylines. He wrote:
This postseason, with eight teams that weren't in last season's playoffs and a truly wide-open NFC, appears more ripe for insanity than any in the last five years.
Rosenthal highlighted the Vikings in his "strange but true" category.
The Minnesota Vikings are the slight favorites in the NFC, with a great chance to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium, despite having backups at quarterback and running back. Case Keenum on the Super Bowl stage would be a deliriously delicious underdog story for the ages.