Well fans, next Sunday out in Cleveland the wraps come off the ‘09 Vikings and we will get a good idea of what we’ve got this year. The effectiveness of the soon to be 40 year-old Brett Favre will be key, of course. Will his arm be the same as in his glory years? It held up fine with the Jets until he hurt it. Whether it has fully healed and 100% we won’t know until he faces the Cheese on Monday night, September 27. Of course there is the good chance that it will be healthy, but over-the-hill. Watch to see how many INT’s he throws. He has many on his record, but in the past they have come when he is trying to come from behind or carry an inferior team. The Vikes should have a good and well-rounded offense so that if he turns the ball over, it will likely be that he can no longer throw with the old authority, or has lost a vital step.
Of course, there is also the possibility that he won’t get very good protection. Other teams are going to throw a heavy load of novelty blitzes at the Vikes, who have not picked them up well in recent years, and there are two new starters on the offensive line. How well will the new guys, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt, fend off the pass rush, and will they be effective in run blocking so that the pressure won’t be on Favre to carry the offense? For that matter, how effective an offense has Brad Childress designed, and will the play-calling be more Bill Walsh then Woody Hayes? I admire the team that Childress has assembled, but still have reservations about his field generalship. He now has talent on offense to be used like a rapier rather than a bludgeon.
This is his year to go deep into the playoffs, or somewhere else, almost certainly not as a head coach. The Cheeseheads have a fine young QB in Aaron Rodgers, the Bears should be tough with the addition of Jay Cutler, and who knows about the Lions under a fresh regime, with a shiny new young QB? This year it appears that a good many of the Vikes’ tough matchups will be within the division, rather than elsewhere.
But I like what I see in this team. For once, the Vikes played well in exhibition after the regulars left the field, which speaks well of the team’s depth. Their starting defensive line and linebackers are a strength, with good backups to keep everyone fresh, or to step in when the first ranks go down with the inevitable injuries. It is a good sign that Marcus McCauley was let go. He is a still young third round pick with potential; the coaches thought well of the new crop of defensive backs, or they would have hung on to McCauley for another year.
If Cedric Griffin steps up his coverage a notch, Antoine Winfield plays at his usual level, and a reliable nickel back emerges, the Purple could be one of the top three of four defenses in the league this year. Let us at least hope that they won’t routinely give up the third and long in front of the cornerbacks or over the middle.
Next Sunday, if the Browns play anything like they did last year, the Purple should win convincingly in Cleveland, and that will be a good sign. However, if a predictable offense struggles while incurring lots of penalties, and the defense fails to regularly get off the field on third down, and the supposedly revamped special teams give back hard-won points whenever they take the field, it will probably be a tough year to watch the Purple.