How Good ARE the Minnesota Vikings?
Usually, when you are 10-2, you don't get asked that question.
It was one year ago today that the Arizona Cardinals clinched their first NFC West title, and the first time they had seen the playoffs since 1998.
At the time, I wrote an article called "How Good ARE The Arizona Cardinals?" In my article, I stated that they came from a weak division, had to rely too much on the pass, had an easy schedule, and needed more than a veteran QB to win a Super Bowl.
The Cardinals responded to my article by representing the NFC in Super Bowl XLIII.
Enter the 2009 Minnesota Vikings.
Almost a mirror image of last season's Cardinals, the Minnesota Vikings have most of the features that worried me about the Cardinals playoff chances last season. One main exception is that the Vikings have an elite running back in Adrian Peterson.
This season, the Vikings are coming from a particularly weak conference. The AFC is 97-91, while the NFC is 93-96. However, the NFC has three 10-loss teams already in Detroit, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay.
And that is who the Vikings have beat up on this season.
Besides two emotional wins against Green Bay (7-4), the Vikings have looked very shaky against legitimate teams this season.
They needed a last second miracle play to beat San Francisco (5-7) in Week Three, they needed a missed field goal to beat Baltimore (6-5) in Week Six, and their two losses have come to the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6) and the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals (8-4).
This year's Vikings are not what people expected to see at the beginning of the season. Many fans thought opponents would see a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson with a few passes thrown in to mix it up.
What they have seen is a fireworks display.
The once-dead Brett Favre has been resurrected, and is a top candidate for the league MVP. He has thrown 26 TDs and five interceptions this season and didn't throw a pick during the entire month of November.
Favre's durability, which has never been questioned during his career as he recently set the consecutive games record, has Vikings fans worried. Favre got off to an 8-3 start with the New York Jets last season before losing four of his last five games to miss the playoffs, mostly due to a partially torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.
Although Favre's resurgence has given the Vikings the veteran quarterback they have been looking for, you have to wonder how long he can hold up. Yes, Favre has started 283 consecutive games, but he is 40 years old now. He has been sacked 25 times, and taken hard hits many more times than that.
Favre has gotten big plays from his offense—Sidney Rice leads the NFC in receiving yards, Visanthe Shiancoe just set a franchise record for TD receptions by a tight end, Percy Harvin has become a legit deep-threat, and Bernard Berrian is slowly regaining his 2008 form.
Not to mention Adrian Peterson has 1,100-plus rushing yards and leads the league in rushing touchdowns.
There is no question that the offense will continue to roll. The Vikings are ranked second in points scored (29.9), fifth in total offense (382 ypg), ninth in passing (260 ypg), and 11th in rushing (123 ypg).
The Vikings defense is third in rushing yards allowed (84 ypg), but they just lost LB E.J. Henderson for the season due to a broken leg. The Vikings should be getting CB Antoine Winfield back from a toe injury to help offset Henderson's absence. Henderson leads the Vikings in tackles.
The Vikings are now two games behind the New Orleans Saints (12-0) for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints are among the leaders in every offensive statistical category, and many fans fear a 1998/2001 relapse will happen if the Vikings have to face New Orleans in the playoffs, especially if Favre begins to struggle down the stretch.
The Vikings look very good on paper. But it is not paper that wins titles. It is heart, leadership, talent, and experience.
And right now, the Minnesota Vikings have all of that.
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