This just in: The Minnesota Vikings will be very good this year and are on the short list of teams with a legitimate shot to win the Super Bowl.
While the proposition that the Vikings will be good this year is not a stretch given that their 10-6 record last year, the second statement likely has all but the heartiest of Viking fans laughing out loud.
However, this year no one is laughing at the idea that the Vikings will be playing for the Lombardi trophy. No doubt a few more fans jumped on the bandwagon tonight as the Vikings played well against the Houston Texans. While emotions must be kept in check while watching preseason football, the Vikings did many things right on offense against the Texans, suggesting a long playoff run is in the cards.
First, it starts with the top.
No, not Brett Favre.
We're talking about Brad Childress. While there were moments last year that coach Childress showed emotion on the sideline, Coach Chili looked too often like a man who was hoping that the game would end before something bad happened. Tonight, Childress was running up and down as if he were a little kid, or at least Pete Carroll at USC. I guess that is what happens to coaches when you have so many playmakers on your team—it is hard to contain your excitement.
Speaking of Favre, the league's Most Reviled Player looked sharp at the quarterback position. Most analysts and writers suggesting Favre is not the answer noted he couldn’t deliver for a Jets team last season with similiar, if not better personnel than the Vikings.
Favre may fail in Minnesota, but the suggestion that Favre’s situation with the Jets was similar to his present situation with the Vikings is ridiculous. The two-headed running tandem of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor is vastly superior to the Jets' running "attack," if you're generous enough to call it that.
While the numbers put up by the Jets' receivers were better than the Vikings last year, the talent of the Vikings receiving corps is better than the Jets. Now that we've added Percy Harvin, the edge clearly lies with the Vikings. Considerring the Vikings play the Lions twice and the Jets have to play the Patriots twice, Favre’s situation is clearly better in Minnesota.
Favre demonstrated he is ready to make the best of his situation with the Vikings. After enjoying watching Adrian Peterson scamper 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the very first series, Favre went to work slowly picking apart the Texans with screen passes and short passes over the middle. Favre's passes were coming out early and in front of the receiver, allowing for yards to be made after the catch.
During a play in the second series, Favre patiently went through his progression and, after side-stepping a defender attempting to make a sack, passed to Shiancoe over the middle for a first down. Favre later put a nice touch pass on the hands of rookie Percy Harvin in the end zone, which was unfortunately dropped.
Later in the half, Favre bought time in the pocket and found Harvin over the middle. Harvin broke two tackles and picked up eight yards after the catch, earning a hearty slap on his backside from the grey-bearded veteran.
Favre finished the first half with a screen pass to Chester Taylor. He didn’t panic, just waited until the defense was firmly on the hook before delivering the pass to Taylor in the flat. The play was nothing special, but it is a play that teams who are serious about playing in January execute on a consistent basis. Taylor made a nice move on the sideline and took it to the house.
The play underscores the difficulty of defending against the Vikings. Favre loves the screen pass and is happy to find the receiver in the flat—just ask Ahman Green. Hutchinson, a Pro Bowl lineman, can get out in front and create gaping holes.
Pick your poison. Anytime your defensive ends rush up the field, you'd better make sure it is not a screen to Peterson, Taylor, or Harvin or you might be bringing your offense on the field sooner than you would like.
Not everything worked well for the Vikings against the Texans. Bryant McKinnie is still collecting too much laundry with untimely false start and holding penalties. The special teams play on kick-offs still needs work. After Taylor’s touchdown, the Texans were one block away from returning the kickoff for a touchdown. The Texans capitalized on the miscue with a field goal before the end of the half.
Some of the play calling seemed puzzling. In the wildcat formation with Favre alone in the flat, Favre was asked to make a block for Harvin. Favre picked up a penalty for an illegal block leading with his surgically repaired shoulder. I’m not an offensive coordinator, but I don’t think that we will see that play with Favre again this season. If we don’t see that play and Favre stays healthy, the Vikings could well find themselves playing in January.