When my family moved from Minnesota to Cincinnati in 1988, several things in my personal sports world happened. My introduction to Cincinnati sports was watching the Bengals play in the Super Bowl, and two years after that, the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins won the World Series in back-to-back years -- the Reds and their improbable sweep over the Athletics and the Twins beating the Braves in one of the finest World Series' of all-time.
Yes. If there are primary and secondary teams (and most people have them), the Vikings and Twins are easily my seconds but by an obvious parsec (19.2 trillion miles for you non-astronomical fans) behind the Bengals and Reds. Don't worry. There is no lost loyalty here. Not bound to journalist ethics who are concerned about unemotionally telling a story, I'm actively rooting for the Bengals and not the team that was in my neighborhood as a child. The Bengals are mine (evident by running this site for almost eight years) and the Vikings are the helpless victims bracing for an onslaught of redemption after Cincinnati's disastrous Sunday Night loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
But the thing I've found interesting with Cincinnati's series against the Vikings is that the home team enjoys the warmest bed, lack of travel and familiarity. Well, that's always the case. But for some reason, moreso between these teams destined to battle on Sunday. The Bengals and Vikings have met each other 11 times in the regular season. The home team has won ten of those games with the lone exception being a Vikings 42-7 win over the Bengals in 1992. Recalling from childhood, the Twins were like that in the '87 and '91 World Series. A mediocre team that couldn't get out of their way in Atlanta and St. Louis, the Twins were undefeated in both series when playing inside the Thunderdome.
There has been some coincidence in this as well. For example, four the last five winners in this series were postseason bound while the losers weren't. Brett Favre's final breath of NFL success came in 2009 when the Vikings tallied a 12-4 record, including a 30-10 win over the Bengals in mid-December. The meeting before that, the Bengals defense intercepted Daunte Culpepper five times on their way to a 37-8 win during Cincinnati's 11-win season in 2005. And Minnesota's 24-3 win over the Bengals in 1998 led to a 15-1 season -- though an eventual loss in the NFC Championship game to the Atlanta Falcons.
Those elements have returned once again.
The Bengals are undefeated this year at home (6-0). They have won seven straight and haven't lost at Paul Brown Stadium since Dec. 9, 2012. When the Bengals host the Vikings this Sunday, they'll have gone 378 straight days without losing a home game.
Minnesota hasn't won a game on the road yet this season, amassing a 0-6-1 record outside of the Metrodome. When Sunday comes around, the Vikings will have gone 364 straight days since their last road win. And if you exclude games played indoors (they won in Houston, St. Louis and Detroit last year), they haven't beaten a team in an open air stadium since defeating the Redskins on Dec. 24, 2011.
And the irony of postseason very non-postseason? Obviously teams bound for the postseason are far more likely to beat those that are not. However, every three years that these teams meet, that's nearly always the case. The Vikings are out to play spoilers and the Bengals are holding onto the third seed and an AFC North Championship.
Home, sweet, home.