You didn’t really want the Minnesota Vikings to clinch a playoff berth on the road?

Oh, right. Forgot about the pessimism of this state’s fans, who expect the worst until they realize something positive.

Maybe that will happen this week, when the Vikings host Cincinnati. It’s one thing to lose at Carolina, which will likely be another playoff team, but the Bengals? In order to be taken seriously as a Super Bowl contender, you have to defeat, decisively, the Bengals at home.

Eight straight victories showed the rest of the National Football League that the Vikings are one of the best teams, but that’s not enough for this fan base.

There will be no joy around here unless Mike Zimmer and Zygi Wilf are hoisting the Super Bowl trophy late on Feb. 4 on the podium that’s been rolled onto the turf at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The most pessimistic fans will point toward injuries in the offensive line, and certainly if tackle Riley Reiff (ankle) and center Pat Elflein (shoulder) are unable to play, that’s a problem. But it seems that as of now, those injuries aren’t serious, and the offensive line has been one of the most pleasant surprises this season.

The most pessimistic fans will say there’s nothing in Case Keenum’s history to suggest that he can keep playing at this pace, and they’re correct. But a more experienced quarterback, playing in an offensive system that suits him and the entire offense, can have a “career year.” It’s been done plenty of times before.

The most pessimistic fans will point to last week’s loss at Carolina, which rushed for 216 yards with two runs of 60 yards or more, as a regression by the defense. But until it happens more than once, there’s no reason not to trust one of the best defense’s in the NFL.

The most pessimistic fans will point toward history, which doesn’t favor the Vikings. The fans got excited in 1998 and 2009, and it’s no longer cool to say “wide left” or “12 men in the huddle” in January. But unless you can release the past, you won’t enjoy the present, which has been kinda fun.

There’s a good chance the Vikings will clinch a playoff berth, the second in the last three seasons, Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, giving the home fans a chance to celebrate with the coaches and players. But if you’re a fan of good drama, wouldn’t it be much more fun to have something on the line Dec. 23 in a night game at Lambeau Stadium?

The Vikings have passed nearly every test, and there have been many. The season-opening home win over New Orleans was impressive, though it seems that the Saints are playing at a higher level now. The win at Washington was nice because the team showed it could score 38. Defeating the Lions on Thanksgiving Day and winning the next week at Atlanta was seriously good. 

The biggest challenge, however, might be to get the fan base to go all-in on this season.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.

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