Rick Weegman column: Vikings may be cursed in more ways than one
With the Minnesota Vikings' season in disarray, email chains have been floating around blaming the team's demise on a little-known curse involving the even lesser-known Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy.That trophy, named for a former referee, was the pro...
With the Minnesota Vikings’ season in disarray, email chains have been floating around blaming the team’s demise on a little-known curse involving the even lesser-known Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy.
That trophy, named for a former referee, was the property of the NFL champion from 1934-1969, when the coronation was discontinued as a result of the NFL-AFL merger.
The Vikings were the final winners of the trophy after capturing the NFL title in 1969 before losing to Kansas City in Super Bowl IV.
As the legend goes, the Vikings misplaced the trophy and Thorp’s spirit cursed the team. What actually happened is unknown, but it’s hard to argue against the curse’s validity with what’s happened since. Among the lowlights:
- Three more Super Bowl losses in 1970s to add to the defeat to the Chiefs
- A loss to Dallas in the 1975 playoffs on a Hail Mary pass
- Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a kick all year, blew the game-clinching field goal in the 1998 NFC championship game, which once-beaten Minnesota lost in overtime
- Arizona’s fourth-and-27 touchdown pass on the final play of the 2003 season knocked the Vikings out of a playoff spot
- Love Boat scandal that rocked a very talented 2005 team to its core
- Brett Favre’s interception that cost the Vikings a chance at a game-winning field goal in the 2009 NFC championship game, which Minnesota again lost in OT
- Metrodome roof collapses in 2010
- Adrian Peterson suspended for most of 2014 season and then lost for most of this year with a knee injury, as was QB Teddy Bridgewater
- Blair Walsh’s gag from 27 yards out in 10-9 playoff loss to Seattle in January
Whether coach Mike Zimmer being MIA for one game due to eye surgery makes that list probably depends on how the Vikings do the rest of the season, but it fits in with the inevitable oddities and mishaps that have cursed the franchise for the last 47 years. Now that other “curses” involving the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have been lifted, it’s time for the Vikings to do their part. It might take someone finding a dusty Ed Thorp trophy in their garage or basement to do the trick.
Speaking of curses, I’ve felt hexed throughout most of this season.
Minnesota (6-6) at Jacksonville (2-10): Teams are a combined 1-13 since Oct. 23 and have scored more than 22 points in a game just once. Vikings, whose last four losses have been by a combined 17 points, are more competitive than Jags. But neither team passes the eye test. Jax has outrushed its last three opponents, while Minnesota outrushes nobody. Expect a close, low-scoring game throughout.
Line: Vikings by 3½
Rick’s Pick: Vikings 20, Jaguars 17
Seattle (8-3-1) at Green Bay (6-6): Many pegged this as a preview to the NFC championship game before the season but Packers need this just to survive playoff chase another week. Difference could be on the defensive side, where Seahawks are tuning up for a Super Bowl run and Packers are battling numerous injuries. Take the better team (unless there’s another snowstorm).
Line: Seahawks by 2½
Rick’s Pick: Seahawks 26, Packers 20
Oakland (10-2) at Kansas City (9-3): Raiders have had no problem on road trips this season, winning all five road games plus a trip to Mexico City. But Chiefs’ bend-but-don’t break defense (409 yards, 16.8 ppg allowed at home) made the big play vs. Atlanta a week ago and shut down the Raiders in earlier meeting - Oakland’s last loss before a six-game win streak. This one goes down to the final play, a Cairo Santos field goal.
Line: Chiefs by 3½
Rick’s Pick: Chiefs 17, Raiders 16
Chicago (3-9) at Detroit (8-4): How will Lions fare coming off one of the franchise’s biggest road wins in a generation? Will they make a video a la “Another One Bites the Dust” circa 1980. Winners of seven of its last eight games, Detroit needs to tread carefully against a Bears team that defeated the Lions 17-14 in October and is showing life now that it’s excised Jay Cutler.
Line: Lions by 8½
Rick’s Pick: Lions 24, Bears 17
Arizona (5-6-1) at Miami (7-5): Dolphins have the better record but the Cardinals have the better players at all key positions. Miami laid an Easter-sized egg at Baltimore on Sunday and there’s no certainty it won’t do the same at home. Expect Arizona’s veterans to take a last-stand mentality and return to the desert victorious.
Line: Dolphins by 1
Rick’s Pick: Cardinals 24, Dolphins 21
Denver (8-4) at Tennessee (6-6): Trevor Siemian is questionable but his absence didn’t affect Denver’s road win over another AFC South team on Sunday. Titans are more of a threat than Jags, however, and expect Nashville
to be caught up in rare playoff fever. But Marcus Mariota hasn’t been in this type of environment since college, while Broncos defense seems to thrive in it.
Line: Titans by 1
Rick’s Pick: Broncos 23, Titans 17
Cincinnati (4-7-1) at Cleveland (0-12): Is this finally the week that the Browns end their race toward infamy? RGIII might be ready to return for a team that’s averaging just 9.7 points and 232 yards the last three games. Plus, Browns are 0-9 vs. spread in division games and 1-10 against the line at home. Cincy won’t win AFC North but might decide who does.
Line: Bengals by 5½
Rick’s Pick: Bengals 27, Browns 16 (best bet)
Pittsburgh (7-5) at Buffalo (6-6): The outcome of this game rests on how well the Bills can run on the Steelers’ defense. Buffalo, led by LeSean McCoy, is averaging 182.7 yards rushing per game the past three games, while Pittsburgh is allowing 10 points and 60 yards rushing over the same span. Bills haven’t won matchup this century, so go with the Steelers.
Line: Steelers by 1½
Rick’s Pick: Steelers 24, Bills 20
San Diego (5-7) at Carolina (4-8): Which team will react better to a loss that snuffed out its playoff hopes? Panthers are unrecognizable from the team that was favored in Super Bowl 50. Chargers, 10-2 vs. spread on the road in last 12, are at least competitive and go across the country to win an early kickoff.
Line: Panthers by 1½
Rick’s Pick: Chargers 27, Panthers 24
Washington (6-5-1) at Philadelphia (5-7): A once-promising playoff-like battle has faded faster than a twice-washed tourist shop T-shirt. Redskins have lost back-to-back game and Eagles, like my fantasy team, are 2-7 in last nine contests and should be eliminated by the end of the weekend. Though Philly has been tough at home (13 ppg, 302 ypg), expect a high-scoring game and play all the Redskins you own in fantasy playoffs.
Line: Pick ’em
Rick’s Pick: Redskins 31, Eagles 24
Houston (6-6) at Indianapolis (6-6): Colts dominated this series before Texans won past two, including 26-23 at home earlier this season. But Houston’s offense is in the tank, averaging 15 ppg in last three games and less than a dozen on the road, while Andrew Luck’s return sparked Indy to a 41-point effort Monday night. Houston is 7-0-1 vs. spread in division games and last five matchups have been decided by one possession so expect a tight contest for the AFC South lead.
Line: Colts by 6½
Rick’s Pick: Colts 23, Texans 20
N.Y. Jets (3-9) at San Francisco (1-11): CBS isn’t showing this game to most of the people on both coasts, but the Northland isn’t so lucky. San Fran QB Colin Kaepernick had the worst game imaginable (1-for-5, 4 yards, 5 sacks) vs. Bears but will start again. Jets are ready to give the reins to Bryce Petty, but who really cares?
Line: 49ers by 1½
Rick’s Pick: 49ers 12, Jets 9
New Orleans (5-7) at Tampa Bay (7-5): A December game in Tampa with playoff significance? What in the name of Jon Gruden is going on down there? Bucs have beaten KC, Seattle and San Diego last three weeks in what has likely been the team’s best run since their last Super Bowl season. But this where they always stumble, going 1-8 vs. Saints in recent years. New Orleans needs to win in a shootout because its defense can’t stop anyone.
Line: Buccaneers by 2½
Rick’s Pick: Saints 34, Bucs 31
Atlanta (7-5) at Los Angeles (4-8): Rams have struggled mightily, scoring 10 or fewer points in five of last six games. That lack of offense won’t work against a team averaging 32-plus points per game. Atlanta needs an easy game to recover from the blow to its psyche caused by loss to Chiefs. Favorite has covered eight of last nine meetings.
Line: Falcons by 5½
Rick’s Pick: Falcons 30, Rams 17
Dallas (11-1) at N.Y. Giants (8-4): Cowboys get rematch with team that handed them their only loss this season. That was Dak Prescott’s first game, and the rookie has come a long way since by throwing 19 TDs and just two interceptions. Giants QB Eli Manning (12 INTs) is nowhere near as accurate. Eight of last nine meetings have been decided by a TD or less so this one could last late into the evening.
Line: Cowboys by 3
Rick’s Pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 21
Baltimore (7-5) at New England (10-2): Nobody has a better December home record than Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They will continue that theme despite the loss of Rob Gronkowski. These teams have met four times in recent playoffs, but a Ravens’ return to the postseason rests on their ability to win a December road game. No such luck here.
Line: Patriots by 7
Rick’s Pick: Patriots 24, Ravens 13
Last week (season) - straight up: 10-5 (117-73-2); against the spread 11-4 (99-85-8); best bets 0-0 (6-4).
Rick Weegman is the News Tribune’s sports editor and does not have the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy in his garage.