Alright, enough is enough!
The CBA debacle is now nothing more than a cringing memory—especially for us fantasy football writers—and the free agency market's torrent of movement has settled into a nice calm stream which means it's football time!
Camp is open, preseason is right around the corner and it's time to dig in and talk about the Vikings schedule.
Today, I want to take a game-by-game preview at each contest and simply see what could be on the table—no predictions, just a small analysis on what's to come.
Are you ready for some football?
Minnesota’s first game of the season has the Vikings on the road at San Diego, which is a crucial way to begin the season.
The Vikings were horrible on the road last year, and must improve upon a dismal 2-6 record if they are to set a positive accord to follow this season.
One key aspect of the game will feature the once-vaunted Vikings secondary pitted against the once-vaunted Chargers passing game.
The Vikings are coming off of a 2010 campaign where their secondary dealt with injury after injury and poor play, while the Chargers passing department took a small hit due to the free agency market.
Still, this Chargers team is as dangerous as they come, so defeating San Diego would start the season off on the right foot.
The Buccaneers also felt the sting of free agency on the defensive side of the ball, but the surprisingly good offense that carried this team in 2010 looks to only get better this season.
For the Vikings, nothing is more important than winning your home opener, especially against a conference foe like Tampa Bay.
Not to mention, a 2-0 start heading into a showdown with Detroit wouldn’t be all that bad either.
The Vikings are 5-1 against the Lions over the past three years, but that is precisely the type of stat that can be very misleading.
Brett Favre, who was a Lion slayer, was at the helm for the majority of that time, and the Lions themselves weren’t the same team that they appear to be now.
Remember, both of these teams finished 6-10 last year, but it was the Lions who were on the upswing with Minnesota on the downswing.
The Lions finally get QB Matthew Stafford at 100 percent health and already boast a potent offense of their own that will challenge these Vikings corners. And the Vikings will also have to deal with an improved Lions’ defense that bolstered their biggest weakness—linebackers.
Again, this is another early point in the season where the Vikings need to make a stand and send a message that they are still above Detroit in the divisional hierarchy.
After enjoying two games on their own turf, the Vikings head back West to square off against the newly designed Kansas City Chiefs.
The history between Minnesota and Kansas City runs deep, and this year’s matchup has a few highlights that are sure to impress.
The Chiefs will enter this game with an improved offensive attack—or so they hope—with the addition of possession receiver Steve Breaston (Arizona) and star draft pick Jonathan Baldwin.
But with everything the Chiefs will be able to throw at Minnesota, they will still have to figure a way to stop the torrent of blitz packages that the Vikings inevitably will counter with, particularly up front where the Chiefs are the weakest.
If the Vikings can set the tone early with an aggressive pass rush, the Chiefs will have worlds of issues moving the ball and winning this game.
At this point in the season, the Vikings could be looking for one or two games that could be momentum changers depending on what happens, and their matchup against the Redbirds could be a golden opportunity.
The Cardinals already boast a young and talented secondary built with speed, and a veteran proven front seven that offers the majority of power.
But the Vikings' anticipated balanced attack is designed perfectly to exploit the various holes in a defense that lives on speed and power, and the Vikings could have a golden opportunity to clip the Cardinals' wings before they ever take flight.
The marquee match ups here will be newly acquired Kevin Kolb against the Vikings front four, and of course, Larry Fitzgerald against the Vikings repaired secondary.
Golden opportunity game No. 2!
Lets, for the sake of argument, say that the Vikings were looking for those two momentum-changing contests. Well, if Arizona was the first, then Chicago is certainly the second.
The Bears have a newly tooled offense with the addition of Roy Williams who will play opposite of deep threat Johnny Knox, and slot receiver Earl Bennett who will be more in the mix; the Vikings will deploy ex-Chicago Bear WR Devin Aromashodu, the electrifying Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson to counter.
The Bears were a difficult team to beat last year losing only three games at home and two on the road, and are expected to be even better than their division-winning 11-5 record from last year.
If the Vikings want to put their mark on the 2011 season, and keep themselves competitive in the division, this game should prove to be a marquee matchup leading into the mother of all chances….
…a showdown with the Super Bowl champs, and heated division rivals, Green Bay.
If the Vikings find themselves on a positive roll entering this matchup, the contest could be a full-on brawl from the moment the kick-off whistle is blown.
Those who are familiar with me know there isn’t any other matchup I love more than these two teams.
Every contest is as exciting and grueling as the next.
But it is that Packers defense—albeit changed—that always finds a way to give the Vikings a bit of trouble.
Still, if the Vikings beat both the Bears and Packers with one game removed from the bye, the momentum felt in the Vikings locker room could be electric.
What makes this game so pivotal? I mean the Panthers aren’t expected to make a lot of noise this year, right?
Well, as mentioned in the last slide, if the Vikings come fresh off of a win in Chicago, and a win at home against the reigning Super Bowl champs, this contest could fast become the last bit of fodder the Vikings would require to reflect upon as they head toward the bye week.
If you analyze the schedule closely, the Vikings have a huge opportunity to not only set the tone for their season through the first eight games, but shed a lot of doubt into the minds of the disbelievers that this team can’t contend.
It is the type of momentum the Vikings will need to deal with an equally difficult second leg of the 2011 season, as you are about to see.
OK, so starting off with the Packers AGAIN isn’t exactly what any team would want to do, which is another reason why the first matchup holds as much value as it did.
But just like the start of the season, coming out of the bye swinging and fueled by a possible huge upswing, presents the slim chance of a sweep on the Packers home turf.
Not an easy thing to do at all.
I admit, taking two from the vaunted Green Bay Packers will be as easy as stopping a rhino with a 4x4 sheet of plywood, but just imagine what that would do for this team if it were actually pulled off?
The Oakland Raiders are expected to roll into town improved offensively from a year ago.
But the Vikings defense matches up well against this Raiders team, even with the powerful ground assault Oakland deploys.
For Donovan McNabb fans, the memory of the total meltdown McNabb had the last time he faced Oakland should still be fresh in their memories, which will be the forward focus in this one.
This is one of those wildcard-type contests in which each team could be in a really good spot, or fighting for their playoff lives, but if the latter is the case, the Vikings should be able to keep the Raiders under wraps, and exploit a much weaker secondary than last year.
Bill Musgrave returns to Atlanta to face his former team, and at this point, the Vikings will either have a true grip on his system, or a continuing work-in-progress situation.
Either way, this game will be one of the toughest match ups on the Vikings schedule.
The Falcons are viewed as a Super Bowl ready team, and have actually improved on offense and defense, which is a scary thought.
But the falcons also know all-too-well what Musgrave does offensively which could work against the Vikings.
Don’t, however, rule out the possibility of the Vikings whipping up something special to counter Atlanta’s familiarity with Musgrave’s Modus Operandi.
A home game against a Denver team that is sort of in re-build mode should be a relatively easy contest for Minnesota to manage, so long as, the Vikings stay on their toes.
The Broncos ground game isn’t what it once was, but the passing game presents quite a bit of trouble.
This is also a contest that should feature the Broncos’ top draft pick Tim Tebow which will be exciting to watch, but could spell disaster for the young QB as he faces a relentless Vikings' pass rush that is sure to give Tebow—or Orton—a world of trouble.
The Vikings, on the other hand, should be able to let Adrian Peterson out of the cage early and run all over the Broncos’ suspect secondary defense.
The last matchup with the Detroit Lions kicks off a crucial four-game finale for the Minnesota Vikings that will also feature contests against New Orleans, a showdown with McNabb’s former team Washington and a season finale against re-match against da Bears!
But it is the game against Detroit that Minnesota will have to set the tone, if they are to close the season strong, despite where they are record wise.
If the Vikings find themselves out of contention, we could see a lot of rest for players who were coming OFF of injury this season, and we could even see a few starts from Christian Ponder if he isn’t already under the hood by this time.
But if the Vikings have a fighting chance to make it to the postseason, you can bet there will be no stopping them from trying for the sweep.
No matter if the Vikings are playoff bound or not, Minnesota's fanbase will be looking for a little redemption in this matchup.
Not to mention a few players may also be looking for a little salvation in this one as well.
But the Saints may also have their hands full with a more competitive NFC South, and could even be fighting for a Wild Card spot at this point in the season.
The Vikings could also be in the same boat, but if not, what better of a way to play the spoiler role than to leave New Orleans’ post season run in ruination and defeat the team that knocked you out of the Super Bowl run by a single play.
At this point in the season, the storyline shifts heavily in another direction with McNabb squaring off against his former team; the Washington Redskins.
McNabb is obviously no stranger to this as he faced the Eagles almost immediately after going to Washington, but this contest shouldn't be as high profile as that game.
Still, whenever a veteran player faces his former team it is always exciting, and makes for a great contest.
If the Vikings are out of contention, defeat New Orleans and play the spoiler, and perhaps even beat Green Bay once, this game will act as a breather for Vikings fans before one final walk around the May Pole.
Here’s the deal. We will look at this from two perspectives: The Vikings facing postseason elimination, and the Vikings playing one final act as the spoiler.
At this point even Vikings' fans may admit that the possibility of the Vikings still being in the running is bleak at best, but certainly not out of the question.
But the Bears could enter this contest with the division won, or fighting for a playoff spot themselves.
Now, if the Bears won outright, there should be little resistance from Chicago with a lot of players ultimately getting some rest.
But if they are fighting for a playoff spot as well, this will be the war of all wars.
Two teams with veteran quarterbacks leading the way. Two teams with vastly different approaches offensively; each one being as dangerous as the next. Two teams that have defenses that are as dangerous as they come—it doesn’t get any better than this.
But the Vikings could also find themselves, one final time, playing the role as a spoiler—against divisional rival Chicago no less.
OK, so it can get better.
Either way, the end to the 2011 Vikings season has vast similarities to its origin: end the game—and in this case the season—on a positive note in an effort to offer a brighter horizon for the future.
Thanks for reading everyone, and be sure to visit check out my Fantasy Football rankings for all you fantasy fans out there.