Sunday afternoon, the Vikings take center stage across the nation and across the world when they host the Dallas Cowboys at the Metrodome. I know many fans will be bored at home around noontime because they cannot get their Vikings fix. Hey, I know the feeling. I hate a Monday night matchup when I can't watch my football team all weekend. And let's not even think about the emptiness felt during a bye week. But for those tailgating tomorrow (I'll be there!), the extra three hours is more time to soak in pro football at its finest.
Because of the later start, I don't expect the tailgate lots to fill any later and I don't expect the fans to be any quieter at game time. I do expect fans to be a little more tipsy and more ready to rock the 'Dome.
I must admit I was surprised when FOX and the NFL (Yes, in that order. We all know that money drives the NFL) circled the Cowboys at Vikings as their premier matchup. After the debacle in the desert, FOX recognized this could be Minnesota's year and the Vikings a team to watch in 2004. Of course, the media and the Cowboys still cling to the America's Team title from the '70s for Dallas. This may not be true anymore in today's diverse NFL (expansion has segmented the US so that almost everyone has a local team) but the average fan still seems to watch the Dallas Cowboys when they are on TV.
In any case, the eyes of the world will be on Minnesota tomorrow. I hope everyone enjoys the game. I expect America will get a full plate of NFL drama. The big question for me is can Nate Burlson step up if Dallas keys on Randy Moss? Can Randy shine anyway?
Minnesota's offense has looked ready for the season but Dallas' D has not been what it was last year. The Vikings D is also looking to improve in 2004 trying to make Minnesota a complete team. Though Dallas has new players in key positions (new QB in Vinny Testaverde, new WR in Keyshawn Johnson, and new RBs in Eddie George and Julius Jones), they are veterans looking to contribute. However, the Dallas offense has not looked sharp in pre-season action. Can they get on track Sunday?
In the end, the Vikings will probably outscore the Cowboys. That being said, turnovers can always be a team's downfall. If the Vikings avoid costly turnovers - especially throwing to Randy Moss in triple or more coverage - look for purple grins from seas to shining sea.
So Viking fans enjoy the spotlight tomorrow! I think the extra wait for football will be worth the wait.
P.S. Yes, this is a column I've been working on in my head since the game was first announced.