The realistic expectations for the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 will not change much whether or not the team signs Brett Favre.
Of course, the drama that seems to surround Favre on a daily basis—especially since he is being courted officially by the Vikings—would suggest to some that the addition of the future Hall of Famer will up the ante for Minnesota.
That couldn't be further from the truth.
After an NFC North Division championship last year, followers of Minnesota's most popular professional sports franchise are expecting a long playoff run in 2009, no matter who's under center. The pickup of Sage Rosenfels in the offseason adds depth to the quarterback position, with Tarvaris Jackson penciled in as the starter.
If Favre ends up signing with Minnesota—which is expected—that would change things drastically at the quarterback position, but shouldn't change expectations. Favre is not what he was in the 1990s, when he won a Super Bowl and took home three consecutive MVP trophies, but he could be better than what the Vikings currently have. That remains to be seen.
What is clear is that the Vikings have enough talent at other positions to warrant at least a 10- or 11-win season. Adrian Peterson is the most explosive player in the game today at the running back position, and the Vikings should have one of the top defenses in the NFL again.
Although Kevin and Pat Williams may still miss games due to the infamous StarCaps scandal of 2008, Minnesota will have one of the top defensive lines in the NFC for all or most of the season. Jared Allen is a terror off the edge from his defensive end position and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson will return this season after missing most of 2008 because of a foot injury.
Yes, Darren Sharper is gone from Minnesota's secondary, but the Vikings will retain Antoine Windfield and Cedric Griffin—who got better and better as the '08 season went on at the cornerback position—and Tyrell Johnson looks to be ready to fill in for Sharper at free safety.
With all the attention paid to the Minnesota quarterback position this offseason, it's easy to forget about the free-agent departure of center Matt Birk to Baltimore. Although Birk was aging a bit for his position, he had manned the center spot for the Vikings for a decade and was the last link to Minnesota's 15-1 season in 1998.
The Minnesota front office decided to let Birk go because Notre Dame product John Sullivan appeared ready to take over the center spot, but Sullivan is young and green, and it remains to be seen how he will react at such an important position.
In the backfield, Peterson is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,760 yards and stayed healthy for most of the year (something that has been an issue for him in the past). Add Chester Taylor and 2009 first-round pick Percy Harvin to the mix on an offense that also features Bernard Berrian as a deep threat, and you have an offense that should click no matter who is taking snaps.
If Favre does decide to come to Winter Park, all eyes will be on Minnesota throughout the NFL season, and the Vikings will be a trendy pick to at least reach the NFC Title Game. If it's Jackson or Rosenfels, those expectations shouldn't change much. The window is open now for these Vikings, and Brad Childress and Co. will need to strike while the iron is hot.