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Falcons - Vikings series history: Minnesota owns the edge but not the 1998 NFC Conference Championship Game

Despite being feel-good friends in hating the Saints and falling short, there are some dark undercurrents to this rivalry.

The Vikings beat the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener in Atlanta Sunday. -- Falcons tackle Shane Dronett puts pressure on Vikings quarterback Randall Cunningham, who still managed to toss the ball off successfully during this play in the first quarter

Ask a Minnesota Vikings fan which team they hate the most and they’ll likely say the Packers. Push for other teams that disgust them and they’ll probably dig out the Bears, Lions, and (of late) Saints. Ask them if they hate the Falcons and they’ll probably say no, but their eyes will also cloud over and they will appear to be looking beyond you, as if your question opened a portal in time and all they can see is the 1998 NFC Conference Championship Game.

Make no mistake: That’s the big moment from this particular rivalry. Minnesota is handily in the lead in the all-time series, owning a 19-11 advantage that includes a 30-24 Wild Card playoff victory back in 1983 over the Falcons. Annoyingly, Minnesota has won each of the last three times they played Atlanta, including that brutal 14-9 loss in December 2017 that further intensified criticism of Steve Sarkisian’s offense.

The 1998 Championship Game, though, was a special game between two phenomenal teams. The Vikings were 15-1 in the regular season and an absolute juggernaut all year long, while the Falcons were 14-2 and rode one of their most balanced squads ever to victory after victory. By now you know the game well enough to know that Morten Andersen’s big field goal was enough to propel the Falcons to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. Minnesota hasn’t been back since, with a crushing loss in the 2017 NFC Conference Championship Game marking the high water mark for that proud franchise since then. In contrast, Atlanta has been two three more Conference Championship Games and one more Super Bowl in that same span. As I like the Vikings and their fans, it gives me no pleasure to rehash this.

One more note: While the Vikings have won their last three against the Falcons and are currently favorites, Kirk Cousins is 0-3 all-time against Atlanta. Which streak will break on Sunday?