The Vikings' defense has been stout so far in the 2010 campaign.
I've contended all along that the Vikings in general—and Brett Favre specifically—have not played that much differently in their first three games this year compared to their first three games in 2009.
They even lost back-to-back games last year in the 15th and 16th weeks—and because of that, there's no reason to panic.
Sure the Vikings have lost half as many games already as they did in 2009 and sure, their schedule is a lot tougher this year.
Here's my attempt to analyze the data for the first three games of 2009 vs. 2010 to convince myself I'm right.
Chad Greenway and the Minnesota Defense is looking as good as ever in 2010.
So far in 2010 the Vikings defense has picked up pretty much where it left off in 2009 and is actually looking to be improved.
Comparing the first three games of 2009 to 2010, Minnesota has allowed almost six points less per game with a 12.7 average. This is currently tied for second lowest in the NFL.
There were concerns when starting cornerback Cedric Griffin was unable to open the season and his replacement, second-round pick Chris Cook, also went down with an injury.
Surely having to open the season against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints would mean the defense would suffer.
Surprising this was not so. The pass defense has only allowed 12 yards more per game this year (196 yards per game in 2010 vs. 184 in 2009).
With the return of Griffin and Cook to the lineup, this unit should only get better.
The Vikings run defense remains tough in 2010 with an 87.3-yard average per game compared to 92.0 over the first three games in 2009.
About the only stat the Minnesota defense is lagging from last year is quarterback sacks. Last year after three games they had eight sacks (compared to only four so far) but when you're coming into the season with the most sacks in the league from the previous year, I suspect offensive coordinators are scheming for it.
In 2009 Brett Favre did not only have a great year but it was the best, statistically speaking, in his career.
To expect anything close to it this year would be inane.
Just like in 2009, Favre has started slowly.
No one should be surprised since he missed most of training camp and that his receiving corps has been decimated. Pro Bowler Sidney Rice has not been on the field yet, Percy Harvin has been plagued with migraines and other nagging injuries, and Bernard Berrian has been a huge disappointment.
Comparing his statistics over the first three games for 2009 and 2010, they are surprising very close.
In 2010 he is averaging 20 completions, 32.3 attempts, and 199 yards per game. After three games in 2009 he averaged 20.3 completions, 31.3 attempts, and 188.7 yards.
The biggest difference has been the touchdowns and interceptions.
Last year through three games he had five touchdowns with only one interception. This year it's reversed, with two touchdowns and six interceptions.
Part of that could be who he is throwing to; part of it is Favre being the gunslinger.
Interestingly in the Vikings' 12 wins Favre averaged 30.8 attempts, compared to 40.5 in the four losses. This tells me that if the Vikings rely too much on Favre to throw the ball, the results may not be favorable.
While Favre's statistics have been fairly close to last year, with the noted exceptions for touchdowns and interceptions, Adrian Peterson has played like the best back in the NFL this season.
In the first three games this year he has averaged 23.3 rushing attempts and 130.7 yards. Both are an increase over the first three games in 2009, when he averaged 19.7 rushes and 119.0 yards per game.
He currently ranks second in the league with 392 rushing yards, only 14 yards behind Arian Foster of the Houston Texans.
With the departure of Chester Taylor to the Chicago Bears, Peterson's role in the passing game figures to increase. So far he is on pace to catch twice as many passes as last year. In three games he has 13 receptions for 85 yards, compared to seven for 56 yards in 2009.
He is only one touchdown behind the pace of last year, when he led the league with 18 touchdowns.
The biggest difference may be the fact he has not fumbled the ball yet this year.
Minnesota needs to rely more on Peterson and less on Favre until the receiving corps gets up to speed and on the same page with Favre.
The Saints and Vikings finished first and second in the NFC last season.
Going into the 2010 season everyone knew the Vikings' schedule would be a lot tougher than in 2009.
That's what happens when you are one game away from the Super Bowl.
The records of the Vikings' first three opponents in 2009 was a combined 11-37 from the 2008 season. The Detroit Lions were 0-16 in 2008 and only slightly better at 2-14 in 2009.
Compare that to the combined records for the first three opponents in 2010: 22-26. Granted it is still less than .500, but that includes the New Orleans Saints, who had the best record in the NFC last year at 13-3.
The first three games in 2009 could arguably be said to be the easiest three games in the Vikings' schedule.
Looking at the 2010 schedule, the closest the Vikings get to anything as weak as that stretch appears to be in Weeks 12 through 14 when they face the Redskins, Bills, and Giants, who were a combined 18-30 in 2009.
How the Vikings perform over the next three games—at the Jets, hosting the Cowboys, and at Green Bay—will indicate strongly to the direction of this team.
With Sidney Rice sidelined with hip surgery, many are looking for Percy Harvin to pick up some of the slack.
The problem is The AP 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is most effective when lined up in the slot or in the backfield, not out wide where Rice plays.
As soon as the Vikings can find a couple of wide receivers to command some attention from the defense, Harvin will be able to make an impact on offense—not that his numbers indicate any difference from last year.
Harvin has been slowed with migraines during training camp and with a sore hip over the past couple of weeks.
He has yet to play like he did in 2009, or so it would seem.
Harvin's stats from the first three games last year are not that different from this year.
His 12 receptions is the same as last year, while his yardage is only down by 22 yards and only one touchdown reception behind last season. His three carries for the year are only two fewer than last year.
The biggest difference is in kickoff returns.
With the defense allowing fewer points, there have been only six returns so far this year. His average is down from 35.8 to 21.0 yards per return.
If you take away his 101-yard return for a touchdown against San Francisco, his average in the first three games drops to 25.7, which is a little closer to his average this year.
Look for Harvin's impact to continue to increase over the next few weeks—barring any relapse from migraines.
It's still early in the 2010 season and even though every game has so much more significance than in any other professional sports league, the Vikings still have their destiny in their hands.
Even though the Chicago Bears are 3-0, the Vikings' main competition for the NFC North is still the Green Bay Packers.
All they have to do is sweep the Packers like last season to defend their divisional title.
We'll learn soon enough how this season shapes up when they travel to Lambeau Field on October 24th.