2010 Vikings Preview

After last season’s heartbreaking loss in the NFC title game I never had the motivation to properly wrap up last season. Continuing in the long storied tradition of my Scandinavian forefathers we’ll just pretend last season never happened and we’ll take those feelings of anger and crumple them up into a little ball and put it in our pocket.

Now that we’ve taken care of that, let’s look forward to the 2010 season. Last year I started my Vikings Preview with the ESPN Power Rankings that had 8 teams ahead of Minnesota. Per usual those rankings now look ridiculous a year later. However this year has the Vikings at number 3 (behind the Colts and the Saints). Last year’s number 3 was the Giants who didn’t even make the post-season. Let’s hope the geniuses over at ESPN are a little better this year.

Last year I summed up my opener with the open questions I had about the Vikings. It’s startling how very little has changed:

  • Will Favre play well? – an even bigger question this year considering after one preseason game Favre had a cup of “fluid and junk” drained from his ankle.
  • Will Favre even make it through 16 games? – I’d lay pretty good odds that this is the year that Favre’s streak ends. But will it be Sage or T-Jack coming in?
  • Will the Offensive Line step up in pass protection and run blocking with a new Center, suspect Right Guard, and rookie Right Tackle? – More or less the same question but with a twist: will McKinney actually play to his potential, will Sullivan recover in time for the start of the season? The O-line looks to be the weak link this year making the Vikings essentially the 2009 Packers. But they’re QB is a helluva lot younger.
  • Will the Williams Wall get suspended for 4 games during the season? – my guess is no. This won’t get settled until after Pat Williams retires, and Kevin will be past his prime. And even if they do, the Vikings backup front 4 is better than half of the starting D-line in the NFL.
  • Will Childress and Bevell actually open up the playbook a little bit for Favre and Harvin? – there was some opening last year, but now the question is will they open up the playbook for Joe Webb?
    Will Berrian actually get through a season without getting injured? – replace Berrian with Rice, and put down “no” as the answer. I don’t know who was giving Rice advice in the offseason but there is no excuse for a guy to have hip surgery in August when he could have had it in February.
  • Will Childress consummate his love with Naufahu Tahi? – out of all the tough decisions that the Vikings have to make this pre-season the one I am most interested in is if Tahi is cut in favor of D’Imperio.

Enough musing, let’s get to the games!

Week 1: Sep 9 – at New Orleans
This is why the NFL is the most dominant sport in America. In what other sport can you see an instant rematch of a huge title game? My hope for this game is that Pat Williams snaps Drew Brees’ ankle and doesn’t get flag for it. Actually, I’m quite concerned that the Saints will come out with the same game plan as last year and beat the crap out of Favre. The O-line is worse than last year and Favre is even slower. This doesn’t look good for the Vikes (why in the hell couldn’t the rematch be at Metrodome?). A 0-1 start for the Vikings isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Week 2: Sep 19 – vs. Miami
The Vikings have drawn the AFC East for their non-conference schedule this year. In years past that was an easy 3 wins (minus New England), but the AFC East is a different division now. Miami still has Chad Henne under center, which is why I give the nod to the Vikings. 1-1.

Week 3: Sep 26 – vs. Detroit
I think Detroit is going to surprise a lot of people this year and could win 6 games. However, this isn’t the year they break the steak of losing in the Metrodome. It’ll be a close game, but one the Vikings should win at home. 2-1

Week 4: BYE
I’m generally not a fan of having a Bye week so early in the season, but with several injuries affecting the Vikings (Sullivan and Rice being the big ones) an early Bye week gives a little more time for them to heal.

Week 5: Oct 11 – at New York Jets
A huge Monday night game after the Bye week. If you had only listened to the talk last year about the Jets you would have assumed they were 12-4 or 13-3. They were 9-7. I expect them to be even better this year, but this team isn’t Dallas bound for the Super Bowl quite yet. I’m going to go ahead and predict a Vikings win, because if they can’t win this game there isn’t much point in predicting anything else. Big test for them early in the season to see if this year’s team is for real. 3-1

Week 6: Oct 17 – vs. Dallas
Another rematch from last years’ playoffs where the Vikings mopped the Dome with the ‘Boys. Another tough game, but if I’m assuming the Vikings beat the Jets, I need to assume the Vikings beat the Cowboys. However, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to assume the Vikings lose one of these two games. But for now we’re sticking with 4-1.

Week 7: Oct 24 – at Green Bay
Yet another return to Lambeau for Favre. I don’t think it’ll play out as sweet as it did last year. The Vikings typically swap wins with the Packers and Bears. My optimism only goes so far. Record after 6 games: 4-2.

Week 8: Oct 31 – at New England
Halloween in Massachusetts. Early season snowstorm? Probably not. I have no idea what to expect from the Pats this year. Their probably not the best team in their own division anymore, and Tom Brady isn’t the same QB he once was. I think the Vikings win this game. The scheduling gods gave the Vikings the Jets and Pats on the road, and Miami and Buffalo at home, but I think they are up to the challenge. 5-2.

Week 9: Nov 7 – vs. Arizona
Arizona is not as good as ESPN thinks (15 on the power rankings). If they had to bring in Derek Anderson to challenge Leinart, then they are in a world of hurt. This should be a 28-10 win. 6-2.

Week 10: Nov 14 – at Chicago
As difficult as the first half of the Vikings schedule is, at least the scheduling gods cut them a little break in the second half. Chicago in November is far better than December. It also helps that Chicago is terrible. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions win more games this year. I wonder what the over/under is in Vegas for the number of interceptions that Cutler will throw this year. 25? 30? After 9 games: 7-2.

Week 11: Nov 21 – vs. Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers plays much like his predecessor in the Metrodome, running for his life, throwing interception, and finding himself flat on his back. They key difference is that Favre was able to pull some games out. Key stat: in 2 games in the Metrodome Rodgers has been sacked 12 times. Expect that to be 16 after this year. 8-2.

Week 12: Nov 28 – at Washington
The Vikings passed on 4 more years of McNabb for 2 of Brett Favre. Only time will tell if that was the right move. At any rate, in another case of a QB moving to a division rival McNabb is now a Redskin and is the best player on a mediocre team. With nothing else to say about this game I’ll recount my favorite Washington Redskins story. The year was 1998, what would turn out to be a magical year for the Vikings. Week 7, beautiful October day in Minnesota. After tailgating prior to the game I am walking up the outside ramps past a small group of Native Americans who are silently protesting the name of the team from Washington. Sitting amongst the group of 6 or 7 of them is a small woman who looks like she has to be 115 years old. She’s holding a small sign that reads: “Welcome Washington Cocksuckers”. 9-2.

Week 13: Dec 5 – vs. Buffalo
As much as Chelle would like to see Buffalo win this game, it’s not in the cards. Trent Edwards is back again as the Bills QB, and even if he improves over previous years the rest of the team around him has gotten worse. 10-2

Week 14: Dec 13 – vs. New York Giants
For the third year in a row the Vikings play the Giants at home late in the season (the last two years the Vikings have closed the season with the Giants). In fact, since the 1998 season the Vikings have played the Giants every year except for 2006; going 6-4 against them during that time. Last year’s shellacking (44-7) almost made up for 41-donut. I would expect the Vikings at home to be able to take care of the Giants once again. 11-2

Week 15: Dec 20 – vs. Chicago
Assuming Cutler is still the QB in Chicago by this point in the year, perhaps the final score of this game will be 35-24. Otherwise expect 35-3. 12-2

Week 16: Dec 28 – at Philly
Late season, outdoor game. Expect Favre to throw a couple of picks. Besides I’ve been way too optimistic so far. 12-3

Week 17: Jan 3 – at Detroit
If the Vikings are lucky enough to be 12-3 coming into this game I would think we’d see plenty of starters on the bench. Even so, our backups could probably beat Detroit, even on the road. 13-3

Last year I predicted 11-5 and the Vikings ended up 12-4. This year I’ve settled on 13-3, but it’ll probably 12-4. The Vikings offense has regressed from last year. The offensive line is a mess, Sydney Rice will be out for half the season, Chester Taylor is gone, Favre is a year old and has an ankle operating around 10%. However, our defense is improved and should be top notch in the rushing *and* passing games. I figure a lot fewer 35-28 games and a few more 24-17 games.

Final thoughts: Same story as last year. It’s too early to book your plane tickets to Dallas. The question marks are there, plus the Packers should be much improved this year (and since they were 11-5 last year that’s a tough call). The Vikings play a hard first half schedule and face a key stretch of Jets, Dallas, Green Bay, New England (3 of 4 on the road) that will decide their season. If they can win 3 of those 4 I see them returning to the NFC Championship. If they only win 1, it’s feasible they miss the playoffs.

Regardless, this will mark the last season of Brett Favre (you heard it here first!). What will the Vikings do with their QB position? Also, will Adrian Peterson re-establish himself as the top RB in the NFL… or will he fumble it away .

All the power rankings and my guesses won’t amount to much five months from now. How does that saying go… that’s why they play the games?

Skol Vikings!