Zone Coverage: The Vikings' biggest non-divisional rivals of 2020

Hello again, Philly and New Orleans.
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Ifeadi Odenigbo

This story first appeared at Zone Coverage and was re-shared through a collaboration with Bring Me The News

The Border Battle rivalry between the Vikings and Packers is the biggest in Minnesota sports, and it’s really not even close. Or is it? 

The Chicago Bears remain the Packers’ biggest rival due to proximity and the long history between the two teams (both franchises predate the Vikings by four decades). However, it would be fair to say the Bears might be the Vikings’ second-biggest rival, and the Vikings are probably the second-biggest rival of both the Packers and Bears.

There’s no love lost between these teams… you can throw the records out the window when these teams meet, etc. You’ve heard all the clichés. And that rivalry, as everyone seems well-aware, extends to the fans of each team.

Then there’s the Detroit Lions.

Given their residence in the NFC North and the fact divisional foes face each other twice a season, the games against the Lions are critical. They would have to be considered a rival of the Vikings (and Packers and Bears). However, the Lions probably don’t rate as even the third-biggest rival of any other team in the Black and Blue Division. Several decades of losing records will do that.

So, which team would be considered the Vikings’ biggest non-divisional rival beyond the Packers and (maybe) the Bears? One doesn’t need to think too long and hard to come up with a shortlist of contenders. I posed the question via a Twitter poll, which of course is extremely unscientific and generally lacks a sufficient sample size.

It wasn’t even a contest.

We could probably multiply the sample size ten-fold and get very similar results.

Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape between the three candidates.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

The newest, non-divisional Vikings rival has to be the Eagles.

The Vikings have defeated Philly each of the past two Octobers, but that in no way, shape or form makes up for what happened during the 2017 postseason.

Let’s do a quick review.

Following the “Minneapolis Miracle,” the Vikings were pummeled by the Eagles in Philadelphia, 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game, preventing the Vikings from finally returning to the Super Bowl and, in doing so, also preventing the Vikings from becoming the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. It was an absolutely embarrassing and lopsided defeat in the aftermath of one of the biggest highs in team history.

Then for good measure, the Eagles won the Super Bowl in the Vikings’ house, defeating the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Ouch!

Making matters worse, it was widely reported (and well-documented) that Vikings fans who attended said NFC Championship Game blowout at Lincoln Financial Field were verbally, and in some cases even physically, abused. Eagles fans have a reputation for being among the worst in sports when it comes to, shall we say, their “hospitality” for visiting fans. But things reportedly were more brutal than usual when the Vikings fans came to town for the NFC title game. And if you think Twitter is usually a septic tank of human behavior, the back and forth between fans of the two teams was obnoxious that week. It hasn’t gotten much better. In fact, it remains quite pungent.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Of the three rivalries in my Twitter survey, this one goes back furthest.

The missed Blair Walsh chip-shot field-goal attempt on the frozen tundra of TCF Bank Stadium that cost the Vikings the 2015 Wild Card Game against the Seahawks still burns uncomfortably in the bowels of Vikings fans. Since that crushing defeat, the Vikings have lost Monday night games amidst the noise in Seattle the past two Decembers. In fact, the Vikings have now lost six straight games, including playoffs, to the Seahawks in what has become a very one-sided rivalry. The Vikings are 5-11 (.312) in regular-season games against the Seahawks, which is their worst all-time record against any NFC opponent.

There’s also a startling history of high-profile players (and coaches) switching sides between the Vikings and Seahawks, adding an extra layer to this heated rivalry.

Most famously, Hall of Fame guard Steve Hutchinson signed as a free agent with the Vikings in 2006 — a controversial deal that included a “poison pill” clause requiring Hutchinson to be the highest-paid lineman on the team or else his entire salary would be guaranteed. Hutchinson was a transition player for Seattle that offseason, but they had just inked Pro Bowl left tackle, Walter Jones, to a huge deal and couldn’t match the seven-year, $49 million offer sheet by the Vikings. This contract created a lot of bad blood between the franchises.

Current Seattle head coach Pete Carroll coached the Vikings’ defensive secondary under Bud Grant for five seasons (1985-89). Mike Tice played tight end for 10 seasons with the Seahawks before doing the same for the Vikings for three seasons and then joining the coaching staff. He was named Vikings head coach in 2002. Darrell Bevell was the Vikings’ offensive coordinator from 2006-10 before jumping to Seattle as their O.C. in 2011.

The Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks following the 2012 season after for years in Purple. Before Harvin, wide receiver Sidney Rice signed with the Seahawks in 2011 after four seasons with the Vikes.

The late Tarvaris Jackson spent five seasons with the Vikings before landing in Seattle and winning a Super Bowl ring.

John Randle built his Hall of Fame resume as a Viking but spent his final three seasons with the Seahawks. Remember that? Yuck! Even legendary Purple People Eater Carl Eller spent the final season of his Hall of Fame career with Seattle. Gross! In addition to those two, potential Hall of Fame defensive lineman Kevin Williams also played for the Vikings and Seahawks.

Among the other significant players who have played for both teams: Warren Moon, Heath Farwell, John Carlson, Tom Johnson, Shamar Stephen, Sheldon Richardson… oh, and Blair Walsh.

Frankly, the Seahawks should have received a few more votes in our rivalry poll.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

There’s a good reason for all the malice the Vikings and their fans bear toward the Saints franchise. In a word: Bountygate.

You know the story by now. Brett Favre was one of a number of high-profile players targeted by the Saints in a bounty program that allegedly rewarded Saints defensive players for inflicting injuries and knocking opposing players out of the game. The Saints’ dirty scheme took a toll on Favre and the Vikings during the NFC Championship Game following the 2009 season. Do you remember the pictures of Favre’s leg and ankle following the game?

In the end, the NFL came down hard on the Saints, fining them, making them forfeit draft picks and suspending several players, coaches and executives. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season. The Vikings weren’t the only team the Saints victimized with their bounty program, but doing so in the NFC Championship Game took things to a new level.

The Saints have been Public Enemy No. 2 right behind the Packers amongst Vikings fans ever since. Payton might be the only NFL figure to rival Aaron Rodgers among targets of Vikings fans disdain.

The Vikings and Saints have met five times in the regular season since that infamous Bountygate game, with the Saints adding insult to injury by winning four.

This was the backdrop for the drama that unfolded in the NFC Championship Game in January of 2018. The Saints seemingly had that game wrapped up and Payton himself was leading the mocking of the Vikings’ Skol Chant, which was super classy. It made the Miracle ending that much sweeter for Vikings fans.

The overtime playoff win in New Orleans on the Kyle Rudolph touchdown this past January was a nice touch as well. As Vikings fans see it through their purple lenses, karma is catching up with the villainous Saints.

The two teams meet again on Dec. 25 this season. Merry Christmas!

At this point, I would submit a lot of Vikings fans rank the Saints right smack behind the Packers as the teams’ second-biggest rival heading into the 2020 season.

As such, my current rankings of the Vikings’ biggest rivals, regardless of division, would look like this:

1. Packers

2. Saints

3. Bears

4. Seahawks

5. Eagles

I don’t foresee the Lions crashing this top five anytime soon. Are there other contenders?

How ’bout dem Cowboys? Everyone hates the Cowboys outside of Dallas, right? Besides, a lot of (ahem) older Vikings fans are still rightfully bitter about the “Hail Mary” play on which Drew Pearson very clearly pushed off, preventing what might have been the greatest Vikings team of all time from advancing in the 1975 postseason. And then there’s the Herschel Walker trade. That’s two football felonies that have been perpetrated against the Vikings by Dallas. I’d say the Cowboys might be a strong number six on this list.

If we want to really stretch the imagination, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could potentially emerge as a rival of sorts in the coming years due to the drafting of Golden Gophers greats Antoine Winfield Jr. and Tyler Johnson (both of whom were coveted by Vikings fans). The only AFC team that appears to have the makings of a rivalry contender are the Buffalo Bills — have you seen the Twitter war of words between fans since the Stefon Diggs trade? It’s stupid, but it’s intense. What is it about Diggs being a key player in rivalries?

Who’d I miss? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know.

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