You probably know what the focus of this article will be, right?
If you guessed “Brett Favre” then congratulations to you, dear reader. You are correct.
The Favre saga has dominated national newsprint and held NFL betting attention for months. And since signing with the Purple & Gold, the Favre headlines have only intensified. Now, the Vikings are a must-see team. Their exhibition games are watched with the greatest of scrutiny; the muddled situation at backup and third-string QB has the other 31 teams waiting to see what Minnesota will do personnel-wise. In short, they’ve become the NFL’s most compelling and, at the same time, critiqued team. Will that hurt them as they look to improve on last year’s 10-6 season?
Key Departures: C Matt Birk, LB Vinny Ciurciu, QB Gus Frerotte, RB Maurice Hicks, OT Marcus Johnson, SS Darren Sharper.
Key Acquisitions: Free Agents – WR-KR Glenn Holt, CB Karl Paymah, QB Sage Rosenfels, QB Brett Favre. Draft – WR-RB Percy Harvin (1st)
The addition of Favre makes a once one-dimensional offense a real treat to watch. Rookie Percy Harvin – the former Florida Gators burner – already has a package developed for his unique athleticism; in a preseason game against Houston, Harvin took a direct snap while Favre split out wide and threw a crackback block. It looked crazy, having a 39-year-old QB throwing his body around, but that’s the kind of stuff you can expect from Minnesota this season. Favre’s ability to improvise teamed with the backfield talent of Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor and Harvin could be nightmarish for opposing defenses. Also, look for hulking TE Visanthe Shiancoe to emerge as a real force in the passing game. As we know with Favre, his TEs always become favored targets (think Mark Chmura, Bubba Franks and, last year in New York, Dustin Keller) and Schiancoe has shown an ability to haul in Favre’s laser throws. Sixty catches is not out of the realm of possibility.
Defensively, the Vikings are much the same as last season. The proud tradition of stellar defensive line play is alive and well with the Williams boys – Pat and Kevin – manning the middle of the 4-3; rush end Jared Allen is one of the best sack-masters in the business while the “other” guy, Ray Edwards, quietly had 55 tackles and five sacks a season ago. The secondary will miss veteran Darren Sharper and his leadership at the safety position; Madieu Williams is slated to replace Sharper in that leadership role, but he must stay healthy, something that hasn’t always been easy for the 27-year-old. All told, the unit should be amongst the league’s best, especially against the run, where linebackers E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway and Ben Leber are three of the most dogged tacklers around. It’s safe to say a plethora of NFL bets will be placed on the Vikings this season.
Notable 2009 Games: Take a guess. Ever since Favre signed with Minnesota in mid-August, everybody has been drooling with anticipation over his return to Lambeau Field. It’ll happen on November 1st when Minnesota travels to Green Bay; that should be one of the most emotional football games in recent memory. Prior to that, though, the Vikings and Packers will lock horns in a tantalizing Week 4 Monday Night affair (October 5th) – it should also be noted that the Vikes get the Bears on Monday Night Football on December 28th as well. As we’ve mentioned, the Vikings are a team to watch this year, and national television audiences will have plenty of opportunities to do so.
2009 Outlook: With Favre in the mix, it’s clearly a boom-or-bust season; expectations are raised and that means another 10-6 season won’t be good enough. On paper, the talent is there for 12 to 13 wins and a division championship – but with all that talent and expectation comes a lot more pressure. Still, there is no way this team should miss the postseason.