The pieces are in place for the Minnesota Vikings to have a season to remember. On both sides of the ball, the team is strong. Special team play while still somewhat of a question mark has even shown signs of improvement.
Viking fans are in store for a treat this season as several players and the team is poised to break records and play for the Lombardi trophy in Miami in 2010.
Visanthe Shiancoe will go to the Pro Bowl after a breakout season last year. He hauled in 42 receptions, 596 receiving yards, 13.4 yards per catch and seven touchdowns. He made several highlight reel catches and was very effective in the red zone and on third down.
An argument could be made that Shiancoe was worthy last year of the honor as he had more touchdowns and had a better yards per reception average than both of the NFC Pro Bowl selections, Chris Cooley (1, 10.1) and Jason Witten (4, 11.1). Shiancoe however had only roughly half of the catches of Cooley (83) and Witten (81).
Shiancoe’s receptions and total yards will likely double this year as Favre has historically enjoyed passing over the middle to his tight end.
Shiancoe will be going to his first Pro Bowl at the end of the year as Favre will find him often over the middle.
Favre will turn in his gun-slinging holster. I know you can’t teach an old wrangler new tricks, but Favre understands that there is no need to gamble when you have a talented defense. In the 1996 Super Bowl season, Favre enjoyed watching the "Minister of Defense" Reggie White work, so much that he threw for 39 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions by not gambling with his passes.
Expect Favre to experience déjà vu watching Jared Allen, the Williams wall and Antoine Winfield stifle opposing offenses. Favre will hedge his bets this season by using screen passes to Chester Taylor, middle screens to Percy Harvin and Bobby Wade and passes over the middle to Shiancoe.
Yes, Favre will throw long to Bernard Berrian and Harvin but don’t expect him to throw more than 40 passes or to have more than 10 passes in a game beyond 25 yards.
Adrian Peterson rushes for 2000 yards. Peterson has a look in his eye that suggests that his goal is not to be the best running back in the league, which he is, but he wants to be the best running back of all time. Peterson has publicly stated on several occasions that he wants to rush for 2,000 yards. This year, Peterson moves one step closer to being in the conversation that starts with Brown, Payton and Sanders.
In order to get to 2,000 yards, a running back has to be able to rush between 350 and 400 times. No problem, Peterson is a work horse that took the ball 363 times last year and came to camp looking for more carries.
A running back also needs to be able to average 5.5 yards or more per carry. Peterson is capable of attaining such an average as he averaged 5.6 yards per carry his first year when most defenses played the Vikings with less than eight men in the box on defense.
Last year Peterson’s average dropped to 4.8 yards per carry when he routinely faced defenses with eight men in the box designed to stop him and the Vikings running attack.
This year, Peterson will find more room to run as Favre keeps defenses honest. Peterson didn’t rush for more than 200 yards in a game last year. Peterson will find a way to rush for more than 200 yards in a game this year.
Jared Allen will have 20 Sacks this year. Allen had 14.5 sacks last year for the Vikings in his first season with the team. If Allen can get off to a quick start he will reach 20 sacks this year as the Vikings will likely be playing with the lead in most of their games this year. The Vikings schedule beginning with the Browns, Lions, and 49ers, has to have Allen licking his chops.
Detroit has provided Allen with another early gift by announcing that they will go with rookie Matthew Stafford. While Stafford is probably quicker on his feet than Duante Culpepper, Stafford will likely stay in the pocket too long and will not recognize blitzes soon enough to avoid being sacked.
Hopefully, Jared’s success will not lead to fans wanting to emulate him by wearing a mullet.
Vikings will win the NFC North.
The schedule is favorable for the Vikings to win the NFC North. The Bears and Packers are both improved and neither the team is going to concede the division to the Vikings. However, the Bears and Packers are not as deep as the Vikings on both sides of the ball.
The Vikings should finish the season either 12-4 or 11-5 depending on how well the special teams cover kickoffs and punts. Last year, the Vikings lost a couple of games by not being able to stay in their lanes and make tackles on kick coverage.
If the Vikings can secure home field advantage for the playoffs, the Vikings will have a chance to go to Miami to play for the Lombardi trophy.