With all the hype surrounding the Vikings this off season, here are 10 predictions that could actually happen starting from mildest to boldest.
I will forewarn you. Some prior Vikings knowledge will probably be required to truly appreciate these predictions, but I've tried to give as much detail as possible as to where some of these ideas come from without being too long winded.
These are now set in stone. I can't take them back and I'm fully prepared for the backlash when (not if) I get some of them wrong.
Forget the Pro Bowl. It's a glorified popularity contest that is largely based on fan voting, of which Greenway will have a difficult time garnering even with impressive numbers. I'm calling Greenway to make the All-Pro team.
Check out his numbers from last year:
Total Tackles - 115
Solo Tackles - 86
Sacks - 5.5
Pass Defenses - 5
Forced Fumbles - 3
All of this in what amounts to his second full season in the league as he tore his ACL in the first preseason game of his rookie year. This guy made plays all over the field last year and, based on numbers, he deserved to go to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, since he plays for the Vikings and not the Cowboys or Giants, he didn't get that opportunity.
Now entering his unofficial 3rd season on the field, look for Greenway to continue to improve and put up some big numbers. It will be hard for him to get to the Pro Bowl playing for the Vikings. However, with more objective and knowledgeable people voting for the All-Pro team, look for Greenway to make that list which, in my opinion, is much more prestigious.
I want to make one thing clear. I'm not hatin' on Berrian here. I really like him, but I'm just feeling like it won't be his year and here's why.
Firstly, this hamstring injury is really bothersome. I'm not an NFL player, but I've had a grade 2 hamstring strain and it is a nagging injury that just never seems to heal. Remember what happened when Randy Moss pulled his hammy early in the 2004 season? He was never the same after that and ended up being traded that year.
I don't think it will be that ugly for Berrian, but for a guy whose best asset is his top end speed, I just don't see how he duplicates his league leading 20.1 yards per catch. Early indications are that Berrian is still not 100% and I would expect that either he misses some early games or he takes it easy for the first part of the season in an attempt to slowly get back to full speed.
In addition to the injury, it's very clear that the man throwing the ball to Berrian doesn't have the same deep throw that he's had throughout his career. With Brett Favre's 40 year old arm/shoulder, recently repaired torn biceps, and a yet-to-be repaired torn rotator cuff, I really don't see Favre tossing 60 yard bombs to Berrian in stride like Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Ferotte were able to do last year.
With both of these factors in mind, look for Berrian's yardage totals to drop off this year and likely the TD totals as well as he is not a red zone threat unless Favre finds him on a quick slant.
Despite his over-the-top playcalling sheet and self-proclaimed "kick-ass" offense, Brad Childress has never had one of his quarterbacks throw for 300 yards in a game.
There have been some really close calls. Gus Ferotte looked poised to get the job done last year in week 7 vs. the Bears when he was sitting with 306 with less than 2 minutes to go and the Vikings driving for a comeback victory. With 1:09 left, Ferotte was sacked by Tommie Harris for an 8 yard loss and finished with 298 passing yards for the game.
With Brett Favre at the helm, who sits second all-time with 55 career regular season 300 yard games, it stands to figure that this would be the year that Childress gets his 300 yard passer. However, Favre did not post one 300 yard game with Jets last year as the offense was driven mostly by the running game. Things will be much of the same this year. Favre's main responsibility will be handing the ball off, converting 3rd downs, and not throwing interceptions.
With all this considered, I'm going to say that Brad Childress' streak of 48 games without a 300 yard passer will be extended to 64, even with Brett Favre.
Brad Childress' offenses have improved their scoring every year going from 26th in the league in 2006 to 15th in 2007 and finishing 12th last year. When you consider the quarterbacks who ran the offense over those years, it's a testament to the effectiveness of the Vikings rushing attack.
With Matt Birk being the only key loss to the Vikings offense, and one big addition in Brett Favre, look for the improvement to continue with the Vikings in the top 10 this year.
With the first overall run defense for 3 consecutive years, the Vikings finally improved their pass defense last year to finish 6th in overall defense. This year, they'll be top 3.
With a healthy EJ Henderson, another year in the system for Jared Allen and Madieu Williams, emerging talents in Chad Greenway and Cedric Griffin, and Leslie Frazier returning for his 3rd year as coordinator, it will be a major disappointment if the Vikings don't finish as a top 3 defense in 2009.
Following the 2006 season, the Vikings signed Visanthe Shiancoe to ridiculous 5 year, $18 million dollar deal that was mocked around the league. At the time, Shiancoe had 35 career catches in 4 years and had never been more than a backup tight end. Shiancoe did nothing to dispell the mockery in his first season with the Vikings catching only 27 balls and 1 touchdown.
Shiancoe became more famous for his drops that his catches.
That all changed last year as Shiancoe proved Brad Childress right, finishing with nearly 600 yards and tying for 3rd among tight ends with 7 TDs.
This year, look for Shiancoe to take another step forward. I don't think anyone was more excited to see Brett Favre in purple than #81. Favre has always loved his tight ends, especially in the red zone and Visanthe knows it.
Look for 'Shank' to rake in 10+ TDs, leading all tight ends in that category this year.
Early on in both of their Vikings' careers, it's been easy to tell that Brett Favre feels comfortable throwing in Percy Harvin's direction.
His only completion in his Vikings debut went to Harvin and another one of Favre's 4 pass attempts was thrown in Percy's direction, but not completed. In week 3, with the Vikings pinned deep in their zone on third down, Favre found Harvin to move the chains.
We all know the story on rookie receivers with only 3 first round receivers since 2000 having caught over 60 balls. However, the past 3 drafts have produced at least one 60 catch rookie receiver (2008 - Eddie Royal and Desean Jackson, 2007 - Dwayne Bowe and 2006 - Marques Colston).
On top of that, the Vikings haven’t had a 60 catch receiver in Childress’ tenure, making it entirely possible that Harvin leads the team with less than 60 catches.
Percy Harvin has all the tools to be a key player in this offense. If he can stay on the field, he will lead the Vikings in catches.
Looking at the Vikings schedule, I'll make the following predictions:
at Cleveland - Win
at Detroit - Win
vs. San Francisco - Win
vs. Green Bay - Win
at St. Louis - Win
vs. Baltimore - Win
at. Pittsburgh - Loss
at Green Bay - Loss
vs. Detroit - Win
vs. Seattle - Win
vs. Chicago - Win
at Arizona - Win
vs. Cincinnati - Win
at. Chicago - Loss
at Carolina - Loss
vs. New York (N) - Win
As Peter King has recently pointed out, the NFC North could be the toughest division 1 through 3 with each of those teams having the potential to win 12 games. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that team will be the Vikings. I would expect the Vikings to split with both the Bears and Packers while beating Detroit twice within the division and the other two losses will be in Pittsburgh and in Carolina.
This has been a streaky team for the past few years (for both wins and losses) and I would look for a couple lengthy winning streaks again in 2009.
Even with teams perpetually stacking the box with 8 or 9 defenders, Peterson has still rushed for 5.6 and 4.5 yards per carry in his two first seasons respectively. Now with a legitimate threat under center in Brett Favre, teams will likely not be able to continually stack the box without being burned.
2,000 yards is no small feat. Only 5 times in the history of the NFL has this been done. However, if a running back is to achieve this mark, it's highly likely that he will need to do it in his first 5 years. Only Barry Sanders' 2,000 yard season took place after his 5th year in the league. Considering the short shelf life of premier running backs, if Peterson wants to reach his publicly stated goal of a 2,000 yard season sometime in his career, he'll need to do it sooner rather than later. This year might be his best chance with the future Hall of Famer handing the ball to him.
One final thought, this year is similar to Terrell Davis' 2,000 yard season in 1998 where a rapidly aging John Elway gave opposing defences enough of a scare to keep them honest. His main job was to hand the ball to Davis who took advantage of the 7 man box to scamper for over 2,000 yards.
This is the year. The Minnesota Vikings have done everything they possibly could to put themselves in Super Bowl contention this year. Looking back at the types of players the Vikings have added since Brad Childress has taken over, it's easy to see that everyone from the coach to the owner had a plan for this team:
- Steve Hutchinson - Future Hall of Famer signed to biggest contract ever for an interior lineman at the time. First priority was to solidify offensive line.
- Ryan Longwell - One of the better clutch kickers in the NFL, Childress stole him from Brett Favre's Packers.
- Jared Allen - Perennial Pro Bowler signed to biggest contract ever for a defensive player at the time, plus gave up 3 draft picks to shore up pass rush.
- Madieu Williams - Underrated but impressive safety signed to 6 year, $33 million deal to solidify weakness at safety.
- Bernard Berrian - Six years, $42 million, $16 million guaranteed for real speed demon, but only a borderline #1 receiver, which is what he was brought in to be.
- Brett Favre - Soon-to-be-40-year-old QB on his last legs. Given $12 million to come back and lead this team to the Promised Land.
This list doesn't include draftees like Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin (big risk/reward pick) or re-signees like Bryant McKinnie and Antoine Winfield.
Clearly, with all of the spending from Zygi Wilf and the roster turnover from Brad Childress, there was a multi-year plan for this team and it has all culminated in 2009 with Brett Favre at the helm.
Anything can happen in a Super Bowl, but, win or lose, I'm going to say the Vikings will be there.