The champion of the “Black and Blue” division for 2008 was the Minnesota Vikings. A year of, “Guess Who'll Be Our Quarterback This Week” was helped by a key win against the Giants as it clinched the division for the Vikings. Tarvaris Jackson did finish the season strong and led the team to a 10-6 season.
The running back duo is at the top of the league. Adrian Peterson is the best in the NFL with his power and underestimated speed. People wonder when he will just fall apart, but so far they have been disappointed on that score. The other half is Chester Taylor, who is the better blocker and receiver. He completes Peterson and a strong rushing attack.
What has plagued Minnesota since Moss left is now a strength for the Vikings. The receiving corps may actually be relied on this season as it could be the surprise of the league due to its depth. Bernard Berrian is still the No. 1 receiver and will have a better season because of the receiver on his other side, Percy Harvin.
The Vikings’ first round pick is very fast and has monstrous big play ability. Plus, Harvin can be moved around and can even play running back.
Bobby Wade is the team’s unofficial No. 1 as he has led the team in receptions the last two seasons. He will probably be bumped down to the No. 3 because of Harvin, but he will still be a reliable target.
If having these receivers were not enough, Sidney Rice showed flashes of big play ability as well, but he needs to do it on a more consistent basis if he does not want to get lost in a suddenly deep Viking corps.
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe came out of nowhere last season and was actually one of the most productive tight ends in the league. He did not do much with the Giants, and his first year with the Vikings did not yield much, but as the season moved on, the quarterbacks, mainly Jackson, started to rely on him and came through.
The obvious strength of the team and one of the best units in the NFL is the defense. The line is like no other. Jared Allen was crazed last season as he had his best season in three years.
Then there are the Williams boys who are a whole lot of beef. Seeing that their suspension won’t go into effect until midseason at the earliest, the dynamic bulk will be shutting down opposing backs once again.
The linebackers are not much to look at, but Chad Greenway is getting closer to being a dynamic linebacker. Henderson and Leber are not Pro Bowl-caliber players, but they do their part. With the huge line, their jobs are to basically catch the few people that make it past Williams Wall or Allen’s mighty grasp.
The secondary has been a reliable part of the defense, but it lost its general Darren Sharper. The Vikings were able to sign Winfield to rejoin Cedric Griffin at the cornerback position. It will be up to Winfield or Madieu Williams to be the successor to Sharper.
The quarterback position is arguably the most important position on a team, but it was a rollercoaster ride in 2008 for the Vikings.
Jackson started out as the starter, but a small injury and inconsistency gave Gus Frerotte the shot. He performed well, but it was not to last as Jackson would later regain the starting job and finished the season on a high note by throwing eight touchdowns with only one or two interceptions.
This season, Jackson will have to beat out Sage Rosenfels for the chance to work with a deep receiving corps.
The offensive line had its way with many defensive lines last season, thanks in part to Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson. Now Birk is gone and Hutchinson will have to be the anchor. Sullivan will have big shoes to fill as he replaces Birk at center.
The “Black and Blue” division will earn its name this year as the Bears, Packers, and even the Lions improved greatly during the offseason. The problem is the Vikings gained a talented receiver, but lost in other key positions, making it a toss-up for the division.
The ugliest part of the Vikings' offseason was the Brett Favre situation. This was the wrong move for Childress and the Vikings, as it revealed a couple things. First, the coaches have no faith in Jackson or Rosenfels, whom the team traded for in the offseason.
Instead of working with a young quarterback who finished the regular season on a high note, the Vikings vied for a retired quarterback who is the reason why the Jets did not make the playoffs last season.
The flip side to that coin is that the team does not have faith in its current personnel to get the job done. Everyone heard how players like Jared Allen were urging, almost to the point of pleading, Favre to join the team. How is a team supposed to win if they do not hold loyalty or have faith in each other and so clearly demonstrate that?
Adrian Peterson is the consensus No. 1 fantasy player, enough said.
Berrian is a No. 2 receiver as his quarterback situation is shaky and Harvin will see the ball a lot because of his big play ability.
Shiancoe is a No. 1 tight end if he can improve just a little more. If he can reach the 700 yard mark and score five-six touchdowns like last season, then he will be a good addition.
The Vikings defense gives up few yards, few points, and forces turnovers. It is a top three defense after the Steelers and maybe the Giants.
Kicker Ryan Longwell is accurate and the Vikings will get in scoring range often this season.
The sleeper is Harvin. Everyone knows of his ability, but he can have a year like the Eagles’ Jackson did last season.
Season Record Prediction
10-6, Second Place, "Black and Blue Division"