2011 Vikings Preview

\”I expected so much more… yet I didn\’t…\”

That\’s how I feel about the 2010 Minnesota Vikings. So before we preview the 2011 campaign let\’s recap 2010.

I had predicted a 12 or 13 win season, but with a *lot* of caveats:

1) Offensive line is a mess – Check!
I was right that the O-line was a mess with injuries and subpar play (toodaloo Mt. McKinney… it\’s been fun!). Quite possibly the biggest contributor to a 6-10 season. I nailed this one with my proposed question: \”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.\” This year\’s version has less talent overall, but is currently healthy.

2) Sidney Rice will be out for half the season – Meh
When he returned Rice was less than spectacular, but still good. He\’s now gone to Seattle where I expect him to slightly outperform the last WR the Seahawks stole from the Vikings (Nate Burleson). Good luck with T-Jack and Charlie Whitehurst Sid!

3) Chester Taylor is gone – Check!
3rd and long was disastrous for the Vikings last year, no more so than the first 3rd down they faced against the Bills on December 5th. Farve was knocked from the game and essentially from his career. It remains to be seen if Peterson or Gerhart can be effective on 3rd and long.

4) Favre is a year old and has an ankle operating around 10% – Check!
Even before getting creamed Favre was ineffective. The offensive line had him hobbling for his life and he didn\’t have Rice to bail him out of throwing jump balls. It was a recipe for disaster.

5) Our defense is improved and should be top notch in the rushing *and* passing games – Wrong!
Well, not totally wrong, but a ranking of 9th and 10th (respectively) isn\’t all that bad (the Packers were 18th and 5th).

6) Regarding a tough early stretch of games: If they can win 3 of those 4 [Jets, Dallas, Green Bay, New England] I see them returning to the NFC Championship. If they only win 1, it’s feasible they miss the playoffs. – Check!
Nailed that one. The Vikings were only able to beat what turned out to be a terrible Cowboy team. They missed the playoffs and finished last in the division for the first time since 1990 (when the Packers, Bucs, Lions, and Vikings all finished 6-10).

After a brilliant 2009 effort there was bound to be letdown in 2010, but even with the huge question marks, I didn\’t foresee it being this bad. We knew that Green Bay would be better, but I don\’t think anyone who doesn\’t drink paint thinner regularly thought they\’d win a super bowl. But such is life… better them than the Patriots.

\”It\’s over Johnny… IT\’S OVER!\” – Col. Trautman

But enough of the past… A lot has changed with the Vikings from this time last year. If you need a rundown, check espn.com. Long story short: New QBs (I would have preferred we had McNabb 3 years ago, not now) (Ponder… ? Hmmm…), new coach (fair thee well Chili… fair thee well), and a lot of departures (bye bye Sidney).

But what does that mean for the Vikings? It means they are a team that has to try the most difficult trick in all of sports. Rebuild on the fly while staying competitive and relevant. Not an easy task. And one I don\’t believe they\’ll be able to pull off this year. It\’s going to take a lot of surprises and career years (I\’m looking at you Jared Allen) for them to be above .500.

For purposes of this preview we\’ll assume McNabb performs around average, Percy Harvin takes a step forward, Adrian Peterson plays as well as last year, the offensive line takes a step back, and the defense stays steady at slightly above average. (Wow, if that doesn\’t get you excited for a year of Vikings football, I don\’t know what will!)

Let\’s look at the games:

Week 1: Sep 11 – at San Diego
San Diego is a notorious slow starter, and they have something called Ryan Matthews at RB, but they still have Rivers and Jackson. It\’s possible the Vikings steal this one, but on the road, first game with the new players. Don\’t bet on it. But bet on a close game. 0-1

Week 2: Sep 18 – vs. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay <Denny Green> is a good young team. They are susceptible to the run, but even at home I don\’t see the Vikings getting it done. Vikes lose a close one. 0-2

Week 3: Sep 26 – vs. Detroit
I don\’t care that people say Detroit is better this year (although they are already riddled with injuries). They haven\’t won at Metrodome in over a decade, that ain\’t changing. 1-2

Week 4: Oct 2 – at Kansas City
Another young team on the way up. KC had the best rushing attack in 2010. The Williams Wall will still be suspended. Expect the Henderson brothers to have 40 tackles combined. KC wins another tight game. 1-3

Week 5: Oct 9 – vs. Arizona
Kevin Kolb is an upgrade at QB. Fitzgerald may be the best WR in the game right now. But a terrible team on defense got even worse during the offseason. Vikings win this game at home, on the road, in Detroit, or at TCF Stadium. 2-3

Week 6: Oct 16 – at Chicago
I dislike Chicago. Post Ditka there has been nothing to like there (except Dave Wannestedt\’s mustache). Their O-line is a mess (\”settle down\” <Mike Tice>), but their running defense will still be strong. The only good news for the Vikings is that they play in Chicago before the snow flies (fingers crossed). However, on the road, I see the Vikings losing yet another close game. 2-4

Week 7: Oct 23 – vs. Green Bay
If the Vikings end up going 1-15 this season, as long as this is the one win, it\’ll be a successful season. Sadly the Packers should only be better than they were last year (which honestly wasn\’t very good until late in the season. Classic case of a team peaking at the right time.). I expect a better home showing than last year’s 31-3 debacle, but a loss nonetheless. 2-5

Week 8: Oct 30 – at Carolina
Cam Newton? Really? Maybe someday, but not this year. A road win for the Vikes! 3-5

Week 9: BYE
A good time for a Bye week. Last year having it in week 4 did not do the Vikings any favors.

Week 10: Nov 14 – at Green Bay
Historically the Vikings and Packers have split games, but the overall series now sits at 48-51-1 (courtesy of last year\’s sweep by the Packers). I really want to say the Vikings steal a game, but I just don\’t see that happening. Dark days for Vikings fans. With any luck the Packers will enter another dormant 25 year period like they did between the late 60s and early 90s. 3-6

Week 11: Nov 2 – vs. Oakland
Oakland’s strong ground game will get overshadowed by Adrian Peterson rushing for 175 yards and 3 TDs in this game. Vikings get their first laughter of the year (yeah, I think the Carolina game will be less than a 10 point win). 4-6

Week 12: Nov 27 – at Atlanta
The best team not from Philly in the NFC this year. Vikings don\’t stand much of a chance in the Georgia Dome, or Metrodome. 4-7

Week 13: Dec 5 – vs. Denver
Is this Tim Tebow\’s year? No. He can\’t even beat Brady Quinn for the backup spot behind Orton. And you thought the Vikings QB situation was scary. The only good thing I can say about the Broncos is that they dumped Josh McDaniels. On the great tree of NFL coaches, the Belichick branch is shriveled and brown. Oh… Vikings win this game. 5-7

Week 14: Dec 11 – at Detroit
No way the Vikings split with Detroit again. Last year it was the last game of a disappointing season, the game didn\’t matter (outside of the fact that it meant the Vikings technically finished last in the division for the first time since 1990). This game won\’t matter much this year either, but it isn\’t that final letdown game either; and with the NFC, the Vikings will probably be in the wild card race even at 5-7. Vikes win. 6-7

Week 15: Dec 18 – vs. New Orleans
If the Vikings went 2-14 this year, with one of those wins being against the Packers, I would want this to be the other win. One personal foul, and one bad Favre INT way from a trip to the super bowl, where the Colts proved to be beatable. I don\’t think I can forgive N\’awlins. Even with their bourbon street and drive up daiquiri bars. Sadly, the Vikings lose to the Saints for the third year in a row. 6-8

Week 16: Dec 24 – at Washington
Projected starter John Beck hasn\’t played a down since 2007 with Miami. He may speak fluent Portuguese, but he has no business starting for an NFL team. Looks like Shanahan is all in on the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. 7-8

Week 17: Jan 1 – vs. Chicago
It\’s doubtful, but the Vikings could be in the wild card hunt going into the final week of the season, especially if they pick up another game and are 8-7 going into this game. It\’ll really depend on the NFC South (very possible both wild card teams come from that division). *IF* the Vikings are in the hunt, it\’s also likely the Bears are right there with them. Big game, at home, a possible playoff berth (or pride), on the line. I predict Mike Singeltary chloroforms EJ Henderson before the game and puts on his uniform to get a shot at his old team. Show Urlacher what a real monster of the midway looks like. After all the negativity I\’m going positive and picking the Vikes to win on a last second Longwell field goal. 8-8

Final thoughts: Last year I was wildly optimistic and went with 13-3… a long way from the 6-10 they ended at (for all the reason chronicled above). I think 8-8 is a very reasonable expectation. The Vikings have a decent 4th place schedule, and a QB with a one year contract with everything to prove. They still have the best RB in football and an electric WR in Percy Harvin. It\’ll be a rebuilding year for the Vikings, but they\’ll be competitive and with some good luck they could actually make the playoffs. One word advice to Vikings faithful. Don\’t write the Vikings off early in the season. If they can enter December with 4 or 5 wins, there is still a shot at a successful season. And if not, let\’s just hope the Packers don\’t repeat.

Skol Vikings!







One response to “2011 Vikings Preview”

  1. MarkVH Avatar

    Excellent analysis as usual wadE. I think you’re spot on for this year. Go Vikings, let’s go!

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