Sunday, 2 September 2007

NFL Week: Why the Vikings will be better than people think

All of this week I will be focusing on the NFL and giving my previews and picks, since the season starts Thursday (with what should be a fantastic game).

But first, let me talk about my favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, and why I think they will be a lot better than anyone expects. As in, competing for a Wildcard spot good.

First, the defense. It should be really good, and that starts everything. Last year it was historically good against the run, and mediocre against the pass for a couple of reasons. One, they had no pass rush. The D-Line simply did not get pressure on the QB. This year, Ray Edwards will be starting right away, and he has the potential for double-digit sacks. He's explosive, fast, and quick off the edge. Also contributing on the Line is Brian Robison and Erasmus James, both of which were not here last year (Robison is a rookie, James was hurt). Leslie Frazier also really likes to blitz, which will add pressure because the LBs are pretty quick.

Another problem was Fred Smoot, who is now departed. He was really bad last year. Cedric Griffin will be starting, and rookie Marcus McCauley is looking really good as a nickelback. I think they will be better at getting to the passer, which could turn this in a top 5-10 defense in the NFL.

Offensively, there are concerns, but there is talent.

Things all start with the running game, which is good. The O-Line should be improved with a year to gel... the McKinnie-Hutchinson-Birk part of the Line could be the best LT-LG-C combo in the League, at least on paper. From the RB standpoint, there is a lot of talent. Chester Taylor had over 1200 yards last year (as well as being dependable receiver), and he won't even be the most talented RB in Minnesota. That would be Adrian Peterson, my pick for the Rookie of the Year.

That just means that QB Tarvaris Jackson needs to keep defenses honest, and I really think he can do that. He's very unproven, which is why the Vikings are being rated so low (and it's hard to argue with people who say he is raw), but he has improved immensely. It was only preseason, but he was making good, quick reads. He has a strong arm, and has the mobility to make plays with his feet. There will definitely be ups-and-downs (in no small part because the WR corps is inexperienced and unproven), but I love his talent.

With the defense and running game, Tarvaris Jackson needs only to be average to make this a competitive football team. I really think he can do that. I think the Vikings will be a very tough team to play, and will be in the hunt for the Wilcard.

Am I delusional? Do I have a reason to be so optimistic? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Vikings' chances this season.