Charlie Brown’s omnipresent rain cloud seems to permanently hover over the Minnesota Vikings, as confusion and frustration flow through the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
The Vikings have suffered three stunning defeats so far this season, despite having led at half-time by 10, 17 and 20 points in those respective losses to San Diego (24-17), Tampa Bay (20-24) and Detroit (23-26 in overtime).
A movie depicting their season is planned with the provisional title of Meltdown (directed by Al Gore and starring Charlie Sheen, with Mike Tyson and Mel Gibson as cheerleaders).
But should we really be surprised?
This bad luck has a history. Back in the early 1800s, the leaders of the little-known ‘Cho’ and ‘Keartist’ Native American tribes reneged on a property deal with wealthy Scandanavian settler Thor Favre-Tarkenton before raping and killing his beautiful wife Franbrett.
They were chased across the mid-west before being slaughtered on the banks of the St Paul River.
Wailing apparitions of Franbrett are said to have made occasional appearances in the Vikings’ locker room, usually in big play-off games.
The ‘Purple People-Eaters’ were 0-4 in Super Bowl games (1970, 1973, 1974 and 1977), including at least two where they probably had the superior team.
But Franbrett seems to have been at her most mischievous on a few occasions where they have failed to reach the Super Bowl:
• In 1987 they reached the NFC title game but Darrin Nelson dropped the ball on the goal-line allowing the Redskins to advance.
• In 1998, when they were 15-1 but lost the NFC title game to the Falcons with Gary Anderson, the most accurate field goal kicker in history, missing what would have been a game-winner.
• In 2000, when they lost the NFC title game to the underdog New York Giants by an embarrassing score of 41-0.
• In 2010, when their gun-slinging quarterback threw an interception in the NFC title game against New Orleans with less than two minutes of the fourth quarter remaining, when a makeable five-yard scramble would have sufficed. The Saints won in overtime 31-28.
On Sunday, the miserable Vikings take their Helga Hats and their Gjallarhorns to Kansas City, home of the Chiefs, who beat the Vikings to earn their only Super Bowl in 1970.
The Chiefs are also 0-3 after being outscored 109-27 in their three losses to Buffalo, Detroit and San Diego.
Minnesota’s star running back Adrian Peterson is confused. He says he can’t understand why he isn’t getting the ball as much this year. That’s odd, because he’s handled the ball 22 times a game this year; he averaged 21.3 in 2010.
And Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassel is also confused and a little dazed. He’s been knocked back so far into opposing backfields this season that you need Google Earth to gauge the distance.
With the Cassel-to-Dwayne Bowe magic having been turned back into a pumpkin (Bowe’s 15-touchdown season of 2010 a fleeting memory, since he has only caught 11 of the 22 balls thrown his way), what should bettors do?
Back the Vikings, of course.
The loss running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki for the season has hamstrung the Chiefs.
Minnesota’s offensive and defensive lines are simply playing better football than the Chiefs’ respective units and if Peterson’s pleas are heard by the coaching staff and he’s given the ball more often, it’s feasible to see Minnesota gaining a rare win at Arrowhead, providing their Cho-Keartist genes don’t get the better of them, that is.
(Ed – ‘That choke Isn’t Funny Anymore’… and in any case, I prefer ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’, an equally apt tune from The Smiths).
The Washington Redskins could easily be unbeaten heading into their clash at St Louis. They lost 18-16 in Dallas on Monday night to drop to 2-1.
The Rams are winless after three games, but playing back-to-back road games on a short rest week is no easy task, especially against an opponent who is desperate.
There was an initial weight of money for the Rams in Vegas when the opening lines were unveiled on Monday night. Washington opened up as a 1-point favourite but by Wednesday the Rams were the 1-point jollies. Redskins’ backers have swung the line back the other way, although Betdaq have kept the Rams as favourites.
The Redskins are 1-5 against the handicap in their last six games when playing on a Sunday after they have played the previous Monday night and the initial reaction in Vegas deems following the Rams might be the right option.
St Louis were short-priced favourites to win the awful NFC West at the start of the season, but their early schedule was loaded against them and they were a false price.
With Seattle, Arizona or San Francisco so far failing to too much daylight ahead of the Rams, they are now an overly-big 4-1 and that looks back-to-lay value. Even if they lose to Washington, their run-in is much easier and with the division games crucial, they should still be in the mix.
Buffalo have a 10-game winning streak against Cincinnati and Chan Gailey takes his unbeaten Bills to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday looking to extend that record.
The Bills are 3-point favourites, which looks too good to be true. But before getting too carried away, the Bengals’ defence is allowing just 2.9 yards per rushing attempt and with a high one-in-three success rate in getting off the field in third-down situations, the Bills might find things a struggle.
Yet these games are usually high-scoring affairs. In their last 11 meetings in Cincinnati, only twice has the points total fallen below the 43.5-point line set by Betdaq. That might be the route to go.
Buffalo/Cincinnati over 43.5 points
St Louis -1
St Louis to win NFC West