In the NFL, the window for success is minimal and this may be the last time in a while that the Vikings have a legitimate shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. In their 50th year in the league, the Vikings risk a changing of the NFC North guard if they slow down at all from their 12-4 clip of last season. With a bevy of veterans and players entering their primes, it's now or never for the Purple.
Right now, there's a bit of a cloud hanging over Winter Park. The Favre fiasco finally resolved itself, but his faulty ankle is still waffling. Sidney Rice opted to not have surgery all offseason and finally had to acquiesce, making it a near certainty he will be gone for half of the year. Last season's Rookie of the Year, Percy Harvin, has been sidelined with intense and unpredictable migraines. The list goes on. Everyone has been talking about the potholes and speed bumps the Vikings have been experiencing, yet they forget to look up and see that they're still driving the pace car in the division.
They have the best defense in the division, leading the league in sacks last year and coming in a close second in run stopping. E.J. Henderson, who was having a Pro Bowl-type season before going down with a broken leg last year, is back and recorded seven tackles on ONE DRIVE last week, showing he's healthy and raring to go. Their quarterback is coming off arguably the best season of his career and can turn around and hand off to the best running back in the league. Yes, Mr. Johnson, that counts you, too.
In order to keep Ye Ol' Gunslinger healthy and take some pressure off a depleted receiving corps, Brad Childress should take a hint from my choice of images and run the ball. And then run the ball some more. Adrian Peterson should be the focal point of this offense. Spell him with the bruising Toby Gerhart or the shifty Albert Young and then put him right back in to punish opposing defenses. Sure, it won't be as flashy as last year's aerial circus, but it will keep #4 healthy, keep opposing offenses off the field, and, oh yeah, put the ball in the hands of a man who scored 18 TD's last year.
The division is the Vikings' to lose. If they can repeat their success against the Packers and get healthy, they are still a top three team in the NFL and a force to be reckoned with. The Green & Gold are nipping at their heels so even a slight hiccup could mean Wild Card at best, missing the playoffs at worst.
Note: In such a tight divisional race little things matter! One or two missed field goals could decide first place in the North. Ryan Longwell could end up being the MVP or scapegoat for the Vikes. Just you wait and see...