Here's how this goes, obviously.
The New Orleans Saints' victory over the Carolina Panthers sends them to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Vikings. Saints fans will see this as a big game, but likely not so different from any other. Vikings loyalists know better.
For this is Minnesota's chance at revenge for the painful and still-fresh 2009 NFC Championship Game, when the (definitely not cursed) Minnesota had the ball, the second-best offense in the NFL, and a small amount of time in a tie game. We don't need to explain what happened next. Quarterback Brett Favre completely Favre'd the whole thing up, with his least-considered attempt at making a pass since he punched 'SEND' on those dick pics.
New Orleans won in overtime. It would later emerge that Saints defensive players had deliberately targeted Favre, attempting to injure him and knock him from the game, part of a sick financial incentives scheme now known as "Bountygate." If Saints players and fans felt at all guilty, it was hard to tell during their post-Super Bowl celebrations.
All this is why these 2017-18 Vikings, led by a less-explosive offense, a less-dynamic quartberback, Case Keenum, and a bruising-but-clean defense of their own, must win on Sunday. Does Harrison Smith pick off a late Drew Brees pass to halt a driving Saints offense? Does kicker Kai Forbath (a 2016 cast-off of the Saints!) convert the clinching field goal Ryan Longwell never got to attempt?
Such scenes would add poetry to these playoffs, but are not necessary. All that matters is that Minnesota wins. And that Atlanta does, too.
See, this Vikings franchise has a lot of ghosts to exorcise, and any horror movie afficianado will tell you it is best to get rid of them all at once, right in a row. No sequels.
In 1998, the Randall Cunningham/Cris Carter/Randy Moss Vikings took the league's best record (15-1) and best offense (35 points a game!) into the NFC Conference Championship Game, where the Vikings played host to the Atlanta Falcons. With two minutes to play, Vikings kicker Gary Anderson --- who had just completed the most prolific perfect kicking season in NFL history, 39-for-39, no misses -- inexplicably hooked what looked like a game-winner wide left.
As happened a decade later with New Orleans, Atlanta went on to win in overtime.
So Atlanta, this year's defending NFC Champions, absolutely must win its divisional playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles, who will play without the injured MVP candidate Carson Wentz. With Wentz missing, the Eagles are the first No. 1 seed ever to be an underdog in its home field playoff debut.
Nearly two decades after the cruel end to Minnesota's 1998-99 season, the Vikings will host the Falcons in another NFC Championship Game. And this time they will win.
Look at it this way, Vikings fans. Your squad could defeat New Orleans next week ( if they win tomorrow) then the Falcons in the NFC title game. And get your revenge for 1998 and 2009.— LaVelle E. Neal III (@LaVelleNeal) January 7, 2018
And then they will go to the Super Bowl, becoming the first team in the history of the NFL to play in a Super Bowl its city is hosting. And there, Minnesota will face... oh, let's say the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL's most successful franchise ever (eight Super Bowl appearances, six championships), and one of four opponents to win a Super Bowl by defeating the Minnesota Vikings.
The cosmos have aligned to right long-standing wrongs and heal scars that still itch. Other teams in these NFL Playoffs think they are preparing for mere football games. They misunderstand the moment. They are players in a redemption tale, points in a moral arc bending toward justice. This is the Vikings' year. It just has to be.
Either that, or they're going to have to update this video.
[Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the Atlanta Falcons won the Super Bowl after defeating the Minnesota Vikings. In fact, the Denver Broncos won. City Pages regrets the error, and the fact that Super Bowl XXXIII was played at all.]
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