by Kevin Burton
Right this minute, even the Seahawks fans have hope, or should I say Super Hope.
The NFL playoffs start Saturday. With seven teams in each conference there are 49 possible combinations of pairings for the big game. In that strictly mathematical sense, all teams are equal.
But to paraphrase Animal Farm, some teams (San Francisco) are more equal than others (Seattle).
Maybe your team made the playoffs. If not, you’re just hoping – like companies who bought commercial time in the fourth quarter – that the game is a close one.
Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports has ranked the 49 possible matchups from least intriguing (Seattle-Baltimore) to most (Dallas-Buffalo). He has his reasons.
He has ranked at number seven, the obvious pairing that jumps out of the list as a cosmic alignment. And he doesn’t even get to why the game demands to be played.
Here’s how he wrote it:
“7. Vikings-Bills: In one of 2022’s best games, Minnesota defeated Buffalo 33-30 in overtime earlier this season, marking just one of the many times we couldn’t figure out whether Minnesota is a great team with occasional lapses or a terrible team that occasionally shines. Still don’t know.”
All this is undeniable. But to see why the Minnesota-Buffalo game would be so delicious, you have to look back in Super Bowl history.
Four times in history each fan base has awakened on Super Sunday with its team in the big game. Four times each, they have suffered a Super Setback. Vikings 0-4, Bills 0-4 in Super Bowls.
If they were to meet this year, somebody would have to win and get that first Lombardi Trophy. It would have to be.
So now I’m thinking of some kind of surrealist play I could write, in which Bills-Vikings goes into endless overtimes, filled with blunders and squandered opportunities. It goes on so long that Doritos and Budweiser won’t even buy ads any more.
But in real life someone would have to win, and someone would have to lose and go to 0-5 in Super Bowls.
Don’t you want to see that drama play out?
Here, some love and admiration for the eight Buffalo and Minnesota teams that came up short on Super Sunday.
Buffalo’s four losses came in consecutive years, in Super Bowls ending the 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 seasons. No other team has appeared in four straight Super Bowls.
In the first game, a 20-19 loss to Bill Parcells’ New York Giants, Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard potential game-winning field goal. There were eight seconds left. Norwood was 1-5 in field goals of 40-plus yards on grass fields. I was rooting for Buffalo and screaming for the Bills to throw a quick sideline pass to get Norwood closer.
I didn’t think he could make the 47-yarder. He didn’t. And the Bills never again got within kicking distance of winning a Super Bowl. Those terrific Bills teams are now overlooked when historians talk about the great NFL dynasties.
The Minnesota losses came in Super Bowls 4. 8, 9 and 11 (or IV, VIII, IX and XI for you readers from Rome).
The first of those games is remembered for the best film that NFL Films ever made. It shows the Kansas City Chiefs’ 23-7 dismantling of the Vikings through the eyes and manic narration of KC coach Hank Stram.
The game was a coronation for the upstart AFL, which had now defeated the NFL in two straight championship games.
That Vikings team was much better than it showed in the loss.
The other three Minnesota Super Bowl teams were led by dynamic scrambling quarterback Fran Tarkenton and the Purple People Eaters defense. They were vanquished by the great AFC dynasties of the time, first Miami, then Pittsburgh, then Oakland. The Vikings were worthy, but overmatched.
Beyond the teams’ Super Bowl history, the Damar Hamlin story would add extra emotion to a Buffalo-Minnesota matchup.
For the record, Busbee says Buffalo-Dallas would be most intriguing because Dallas beat Buffalo two straight years in the big game.
I’m hoping for Cincinnati against anybody, because the Bengals are my team. Failing that, I could go for Chiefs-Cowboys to see my wife watching her favorite two teams and screaming instructions to both of them. But Bills-Vikings seems right to me.