Last season, the Minnesota Vikings went 10-6 and won the NFC North division title, but were stomped on by the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.
This season, the team returns with high expectations. Nearly all of the starters are returning and the team has newly signed Brett Favre at quarterback. The team also added a couple of rookies, wide receiver Percy Harvin and offensive tackle Phil Loadholt, who are expected to contribute heavily.
The 2009 Minnesota Vikings have all the pieces in place to be a championship-caliber team, but there are still some things they have to accomplish this season to prevent disappointment.
There is extra excitement in Minnesota now that the team has signed Brett Favre. However, Favre has to prove to be effective this season for the Vikings. He started very strong last season with the New York Jets, but an injury caused his quality of play to decrease towards the end of the season.
During the off season, Favre had surgery to repair his shoulder and says the arm now feels fine. As long as the injury is behind him, Favre should be effective as the starter for the Vikings this year. He will be running an offense that he is familiar with and is stacked with players that will help make his job so much easier.
Running back Adrian Peterson is the best player in the NFL and will take a lot of pressure off the passing game. With defenses focusing on stopping Peterson, Favre will see a lot of single coverage in the passing attack and will be able to complete passes with ease.
As far as receivers, the Vikings have speedster Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and Harvin, the dynamic rookie who could outrun a cheetah.
This season, the Viking's offense should be more fun to watch than any other Vikings offenses in the past decade as long as they get strong play out of Favre.
Last season, the Vikings special teams were terrible. They gave up an NFL record seven special teams touchdowns over the course of the season. One main reason for that is they had lost their leading special teams tackler, Heath Farwell, during the first preseason game.
Farwell is returning this year and is ready to take over as the leader of the coverage teams. The team also brought in free agents Glenn Holt and Karl Paymah to contribute on special teams.
Both are currently fighting for roster spots right now, but if they don't make it, that just means the team has found someone who can play better on special teams. The Vikings could have easily won at least two more games last year had they played better special teams.
This year, they have to make sure they don't suffer the same fate.
Last season, the Vikings had the sixth overall defense in the NFL. They were No. 1 against the run, but still only 18th against the pass. If the team is going to have a successful season, they need to be better in pass coverage.
Both starting cornerbacks, Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield, received five-year contract extensions during the offseason and now they have to prove they are worth the money.
The team lost starting safety Darren Sharper to free agency, but second-year player Tyrell Johnson is ready to step up to fill Sharper's vacancy. Many believe that Sharper's play was beginning to decline due to age as the season went on last year.
The team will also be getting their defensive captain, linebacker EJ Henderson, back from injury last season. Henderson was placed on injured reserve last season after dislocating some toes during the fourth game of the season and the vikings never really found stability at the middle linebacker position since then.
The Vikings defense looks to be one of the top three in the league this year, but they have to prove they can defend against the pass.
The Vikings offensive line took a big hit this year with the loss of Pro Bowl center Matt Birk in free agency. Second-year center John Sullivan, who has never played one down in his NFL career, will be the starting center this year. Sullivan is very football smart and seems like he will fit in just fine.
The team will also have a new starting right tackle in rookie Phil Loadholt. Loadholt was drafted because Ryan Cook fell apart during last season and was replaced by Artis Hicks.
If Loadholt and Sullivan hold up this season the offensive line should be pretty solid with the rest of their starters: Steve Hutchinson, Bryant McKinnie, and Anthony Hererra.
Mark your calendars! The Vikings play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sept. 20. Being only in week two of the season, the Lions might still be looking for that elusive first win of the season after going 0-16 all of last season.
The Lions were terrible last season and had a full makeover during the off season. They have only beaten the Vikings twice this decade but it was scary to watch last season as the vikings won both games by scores of 12-10 and 20-16.
The 12-10 victory in Minnesota was won with a last-second field goal and the 20-16 victory at Detroit required a second-half comeback led by Tarvaris Jackson. If the Vikings want to have a successful season, they have to avoid humiliation by putting a beatdown on the Lions in week two.