It was Christmas Day 2021 and I was out for an early morning walk. The journey through life has its strikes and gutters and at the time, let’s just say my bowling game was going through a cold streak.
As I trudged along the sidewalk feeling sorry for myself, something caught my eye on the ground about 10 yards ahead. Nah, it can’t be. As I got closer, my suspicions were confirmed. It was a crisp $100 bill. That’s when I got nervous and started looking around for hidden cameras. But there were none.
So, I picked it up and thought maybe someone dropped it. There was a gentleman at the end of the block, so I followed him and before he was able to walk into his apartment complex, I got his attention and asked him if he dropped anything. Of course, I wasn’t going to say I just found a hundo lying on the ground because he could just lie and say it was his.
He gave me a strange look, said he hadn’t dropped anything and went inside the building. Welp, I did my best. My conscience was clear. I put the bill in the pocket and went about my day. So, my lesson here is: Stick around, you never know when a good thing will happen.
Which brings me to the Minnesota Vikings. Back on Sept. 24, things were looking shaky. They had just fallen to 0-3 after a home loss to the Chargers. Those three defeats came by a total of 13 points. At the time, it was easy to point to them and say that the good fortune they had in close games last season (11-0 in one-score contests) had evened out.
Two weeks later, they were 1-4 after losing at home to the Chiefs and star receiver Justin Jefferson suffered a hamstring injury that would lead him to a stint on injured reserve. Time to trade everyone and plan for next season, right? Nobody would blame them if they took that tack.
But they didn’t. On Oct. 15, they beat the Bears. Eight days later, they got past the 49ers on a Monday night. Disaster did strike the following Sunday when Kirk Cousins was lost for the season with an Achilles injury during a victory over the Packers. But apparently that blow wasn’t fatal because the Vikings traded for Joshua Dobbs two days later and he led the team to another two wins in a row. Maybe he was the team’s $100 bill on the ground?
Don’t look now, but Minnesota is 6-4 and would have the No. 7 seed if the regular season ended today. They have seven games remaining, including a bye week, and two of those games are against the first-place Lions. So, a division title is not out of reach.
And in case you’re wondering, only six teams in the Super Bowl era have started 0-3 and made the playoffs, the last one being the 2018 Texans. If the Vikings can finish out strong and make it to the postseason, they’ll be in rarified air.
It’s a good thing they stuck around. Good things have happened.
NFL’S TOP 10
1. Eagles – I hope Philly rested up during their bye week. Maybe they did some yoga, perhaps some of that weirdo blackout room stuff that Aaron Rodgers did last offseason. Because they’re going to need to marshal whatever strength they have to get through this upcoming stretch against the Chiefs, Bills, 49ers, Cowboys and Seahawks. A murderer’s row of competition. This is going to be fun.
2. 49ers – Uh oh. My Sports Tonight podcast partner Chris Stoner and I have been on the record about San Francisco being the best team in the league. They went through a little bit of a rough stretch there for a while, but they regrouped during their bye week, traded for Chase Young and then absolutely demolished the Jaguars on the road. I hope you didn’t sell your Niners stock.
3. Chiefs – Another team that’s coming off a bye. And they’re facing Philly in a Super Bowl rematch, or maybe even a preview of what’s to come. Defensively, I’m not worried about them. And that might be enough to carry Kansas City through whatever offensive weirdness they’ve had this season. Their overall numbers are OK, but they need to get better in the red zone.
4. Lions – The bad news is, they just gave up 38 points to the Chargers. But the good news is, they scored 41, got the victory on the road and have five very winnable games ahead of them. Things are rolling in Detroit.
5. Cowboys – I know, they beat up on the Giants, who are objectively a bad team. But, their numbers are pretty impressive. They’re second in the league in points per game on offense, and fourth in the league in points allowed per game. Dak Prescott is completing 70 percent of his throws, has a QB rating of 105.1 and his interceptions are down.
6. Ravens – Sometimes you have a game in your hip pocket and it finds a way to fall out. Baltimore had Cleveland right where they wanted them with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. But the dependable Ravens defense couldn’t keep the Browns offense from dominating time of possession and rushing for 178 yards. That’s a losing formula on most days. The AFC North is no joke.
7. Dolphins – Another top 10 team that’s coming off a bye. And aside from a game in two weeks against the Jets, their next month of games should allow Miami’s offense to display some fireworks. They’re in a good spot.
8. Browns – Oh, for god’s sakes!! Right when fantasy football owners were scrambling to get Deshaun Watson into their lineups, it was announced Wednesday morning that he’s now out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. And it’s too late to trade for a quality backup quarterback since the trade deadline has long since passed. Sigh. Welp, enjoy the spot in these rankings for now.
9. Seahawks – They’re not doing anything particularly well. Taking a look at the numbers, they’re not in the top 10 on offense or defense in any of the big categories. But yet, they’re 6-3 and would have the fourth seed in the NFC if the season ended today.
10. Texans – I like to give kudos to scrappy teams in this spot and Houston gets the nod this week for winning on the road against the Bengals. I can’t imagine anyone thought this squad would be competitive this season, but we’re in Week 11 and they’re above .500. And with every game, they look like geniuses for drafting C.J. Stroud. Man, what a gift he is.
WHAT’S THE CHATTER?
Clown of the Week Award: The Jaguars are a collective clown show after their embarrassing home loss against the Niners. Trevor Lawrence threw picks, others couldn’t hold on to the ball, they screwed up trick plays and had mental errors. It was a smorgasbord of ineptitude. Gross.
Sorry, dude: Someone was going to pay the price for the Bills’ struggles this season, and it turns out offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey was that guy. He was fired on Tuesday after Buffalo lost at home to the Broncos, of all teams. Look, there’s plenty of blame to go around in that organization, but Dorsey’s head was the first to roll. Bummer.
Can you imagine? Fate can be cruel. If Aaron Rodgers had not blown out his Achilles in Week 1, I have to think the Jets would be the top seed in the AFC. Maybe Rodgers isn’t the guy he was five years ago, but he would definitely be consistent enough for this team to be 7-2 right now instead of 4-5. Why can’t we have nice things?
Sorry, I’m not done yet: Cleveland has to be kicking themselves. We all thought Deshaun Watson’s ankle injury would be something that could keep him out of the lineup for a game or two. I had no idea that he had a shoulder problem, as well. Again, why can’t we have nice things?!
He’s back? Matthew Stafford will return to the Rams lineup after missing time with a thumb injury suffered during that embarrassing road loss to the Cowboys a few weeks ago. Why start him? So he can get hurt again? Might as well pack it in for the season and tank for a better draft pick. Wait, didn’t I just say earlier that you shouldn’t give up? I’m all over the place today.
APPOINTMENT VIEWING FOR WEEK 11
Bengals at Ravens: Hoo, doctor. Both of these teams are coming off tough losses at home and can’t afford to lose ground in the AFC North race. Looks like Cincy WR Tee Higgins won’t play on Thursday and Baltimore is dealing with some injuries on defense. I can’t wait for this one.
Steelers at Browns: Another AFC North war. Oh lord, and more good fortune for Pittsburgh now that Cleveland won’t have Deshaun Watson. Get ready for another aggravating and confounding Steelers win.
Bears at Lions: Justin Fields will apparently play. Again, why? The only reason to keep an eye on this game is to make sure that the young quarterback doesn’t get hurt.
Chargers at Packers: The only reason to watch this game is to see if Los Angeles fired Brandon Staley if they lose. Other than that, nothing much to see here.
Raiders at Dolphins: Las Vegas is 2-0 under interim head coach Antonio Pierce. I think it will soon be 2-1.
Jets at Bills: If Buffalo loses, other seats are going to get a lot warmer. Ken Dorsey might have some company on the unemployment line.
Seahawks at Rams: Remember when L.A. shocked everyone by blowing out Seattle in Week 1? It’s time for the Seahawks to return the favor.
Vikings at Broncos: The feel-good story continues. But, I should mention, Denver has suddenly started playing well. If the Broncos win, they’ll be back at .500, just saying.
Eagles at Chiefs: Ahhh, wonderful. A Monday night matchup that will definitely be worth watching. Can’t wait.
Enjoy the games!
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 – Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 – Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.