A year ago, there was reason for hope for all 32 teams heading into the 2010 season. As we reached the round of eight in the NFL playoffs, all eight divisions had one team involved – New Orleans, Minnesota, Dallas and Arizona in the NFC; and Indianapolis, San Diego, New York and Baltimore in the AFC. Parity was as extensive as possible. Two of the four division champions that had to play in the wild card round got beaten at home, setting the stage for a postseason run in which every division in the NFL had a stake in the race.
For anyone who follows the NFL, if given the choice of last weekend's four games and only allowed to pick one lead-pipe lock for the weekend, most would have taken the Saints to beat 7-9 Seattle. Had that happened, the eight remaining teams would have come from four divisions – two each from the NFC North, NFC South, AFC East and AFC North.
For teams like the Vikings, it's cringe-worthy to consider the possibility of two division rivals playing in the NFC Championship Game. However, it is a very real possibility given that the Packers are one of the hottest teams in the league and weren't intimidated going into a hostile environment last weekend in Philadelphia. The oddsmakers still have no love for Seattle – the Bears are a 10-point favorite – but they are showing the Packers a lot of respect, making Atlanta a 2½-point favorite – shockingly low for a No. 1 seed with a 14-2 record and a win in hand over their divisional playoff opponent.
The parity that marked the 2009 playoffs is all but gone. In both AFC matchups, this weekend's games will be the third time they have played this season – with all four teams winning their matchups when they were the home team. Even the NFC features a pair of rematches, as the Falcons host the Packers for the second time after beating them 20-17 in Week 12, while the Bears seek a little redemption after a 23-20 loss at home to the Seahawks in Week 6.
In a year when the Vikings came into the season with high Super Bowl hopes, watching the Packers and Bears both being capable of moving within a game of making the Super Bowl themselves, it may be a weekend Vikings players find things to occupy their time. Actually watching the games may be too painful.
The anticipated signing of Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur as the new head coach of the Browns could vault the Rams into the position of frontrunner for Josh McDaniels to become their new offensive coordinator. However, with Sam Bradford locked and loaded with the Rams after being the first pick in last April's draft, it would all but preclude one of McDaniels' two quarterbacks – Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow – to follow him to his new destination. There were rumors swirling that if McDaniels signed with the Vikings, one of his two QBs would likely follow via trade. That won't happen if McDaniels lands in St. Louis.
Carolina's deposed head coach John Fox didn't stay unemployed for long. Less than two weeks after being fired by the Panthers, Fox was named the new head coach in Denver Thursday.
Brett Favre's sister Brandi is accused of getting a little preferential treatment following her arrest for the manufacturing of methamphetamine Wednesday. Due to the attention she was drawing as the sister of an NFL quarterback, she was arraigned before the other four people arrested with her. She posted the $40,000 bond assigned to her and was released, while he co-defendants remained in jail. If convicted, she could face up to 30 years in prison with fines up to $1 million.
Two of the more controversial topics at the Minnesota State Legislature over the last few years – a Vikings stadium and a racino proposal – could well end up tied together. In recent years, legislators have tied together the Vikings stadium proposal and a racino (allowing slot machines at the horse-racing tracks in the Twin Cities area) as a funding option have been tied together, with the racino option quickly being dumped each year. This session, however, it may be a more palatable way of helping to fund a stadium in a state facing a $6 billion budget deficit in the current session.
The Vikings are clearly hoping Brad Childress works out a deal with the Dolphins. He is currently owed $3 million for next season from the Vikings after being fired Nov. 22. If he gets a job with another NFL team, the amount the Vikings owe him would be reduced by the amount he would be paid. He would still get his $3 mil this year, but, for example, if he would sign with Miami for $1 million a year, the Dolphins would pay him the $1 million and the Vikings would pay up $2 million in 2011.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
The divisional playoffs are full of rematches from earlier in the year, in some cases the third time the teams have met. The Vikings could end up watching their NFC North rivals meet in the NFC Championship Game.
The Vikings could end up watching their NFC North rivals meet in the NFC Championship Game.