Well fans, in four short days Santa Claus arrives for Viking fans, albeit three hours and fifteen minutes late, but by about 7 p.m. we will have a substantial idea of what is under the tree for us this season.
For the first time in many years, the Vikes are favorites, in most people's book, to win the Central division title. This, frankly, worries me. The Purple, like Joe Namath in panty hose, have never worn high expectations well, starting that Super Bowl Sunday so many years ago against the Chiefs.
At least in preseason, however, the Vikes have looked like the real deal. Daunte Culpepper has silenced his critics (so far) by picking his targets judiciously and avoiding turnovers. The first team offense has rarely failed to score, and hardly even had a chance to roll out the rushing attack. Now, thanks to dithering by the NFL, it appears that Onterrio Smith will be able to play in the opener against Dallas, and regardless his status week two, Michael Bennett should be back.
With Culpepper's continuing improvement, added depth at tailback in the form of Mewelde Moore, a pass-catching tight end, Jermaine Wiggins, and new depth along the offensive line, it appears the Vikes offense should easily rank as one of the top five in the NFL, maybe first or second. The only cause for concern is the right side, where Dave Dixon is once again a year older, and Mike Rosenthal coming back from a year when quality defensive ends tended to run around, or knock him over.
Watch this unit Sunday against the Cowboy's defense, which will play at least respectably under Bill Parcells. If they score easily, our expectations will have fallen on fertile ground. If they sputter, we may need to replant.
On the defensive side of the ball, similar confidence may exist in some quarters, but is not so well warranted. Kenny Mixon won't be there for two games, and Kenechi Udeze is, despite all the hype, still a rookie. The linebacking corps features another rookie, Dontarrious Thomas, the second year man E.J. Henderson in the all-important middle, and Chris Claiborne, whose collapse last year was, in my opinion, the key to the Vikings overall collapse.
There is a lot of athletic talent there, but untested, and liable to make mistakes and panic. Mike Tice and his new defensive coordinator, Ted Cottrell, will have their hands full. It doesn't help that, suddenly, what seemed like exceptional depth in the secondary has gone a glimmering, or should I say gimping.
So those planning a Super Bowl trip had best beware. The greatest team on paper is just a few twisted knees, a couple hamstring booboos, a puff or two of smoke, and one more little drink away from a wreck in the ditch.
It's gonna be another great season!