Many Minnesota Vikings fans might consider last year a “magical” season. The old man came out of retirement and played his best season statistically, the team went 12-4 and nearly made the Super Bowl, and there were plenty of great memories made along the way. But I would describe last season in one word: failure. We had a Super Bowl caliber team, and we didn’t win the championship. We paid the quarterback 12 million dollars to be the difference between a division title and a league title, but in the end he choked when we needed him to “manage the game” rather than be the hero.
So now it’s a whole new season, and a lot of fans (probably the same ones that called last year “magical”) are thinking that the team will just pick up where it left off from last season, but I don’t see it quite the same. Until the NFC Championship Game, everything seemed to go according to plan last year. The chances of things going that well for us this season were pretty slim, and so of course, things have already started to go wrong. Sidney Rice is out for at least half of the season, and I get the feeling he’ll miss around 10 games. Percy’s migraines certainly aren’t going away, Cedric Griffen isn’t back yet, Sullivan is hurt, Chester Taylor is gone, etc. etc. etc. Combine that with a much tougher schedule and everyone else in our division seems to have improved, and in my opinion, we’re headed to a 9-7 season. Let’s take a look at the schedule, game by game.
Week 1: @New Orleans, Week 2: vs. Miami, Week 3: vs. Detroit, Week 4: Bye, Week 5: @New York Jets
I’m not saying it’s a lock, but I have a hard time seeing us going down into the Superdome and steal a victory right after the Saints hang their Super Bowl banner from the rafters and the fans are as rabid and loud as ever. I expect the Vikings to get the win at home against the Lions in Week 3, but Weeks 2 and 5 are games that I think we would have won easily last year, but are going to have trouble with in 2010. I think it’s possible that we get both W’s, since we actually have a long week to prepare for the Dolphins and 2 weeks for the Jets, but I predict a split. I’ll say we beat New York and drop one at home to Miami.
1st Quarter: 2-2
Week 6: vs. Dallas, Week 7: @Green Bay, Week 8: @New England, Week 9: vs. Arizona
I think Dallas will be tough, but I still say we get both wins at home. But in Green Bay, I think the Packers get a little revenge for the sweep we gave them last year, and Rodgers is most likely going to light us up. (You don’t know how much that hurts to type.) And I also think Belicheck is going to take Childress behind the wood shed and the coaching matchup will be enough to make the difference.
2nd Quarter: 2-2, 4-4 overall
Week 10: @Chicago, Week 11: vs. Green Bay, Week 12: @Washington, Week 13: vs. Buffalo
I say we split the season series with the Pukers, and get the easy win at home against Buffalo, but Vikings fans know what Julius Peppers and Donovan McNabb have done to this team in the past. (Mount McKinnie will be “the Matador” once again), and I think we drop those two games.
3rd Quarter: 2-2, 6-6 overall
Week 14: vs. Giants, Week 15: vs. Chicago, Week 16: @Philadelphia, Week 17: @Detroit
I think that it’s quite possible that we win all 4 of these games, especially since Rice should be back and this could be where we finally get into a groove, but I still say we drop one on the road since we have not been a good road team under Brad Childress, and it would be just like the Vikings to lose in Philly when I could see us needing that win badly to clinch a Wild Card berth.
4th Quarter: 3-1, 9-7 overall. Vikes get 6th and final playoff spot.
Real quick, I’m going to make my picks for divisions and playoffs throughout the league:
AFC East: New England, AFC North: Baltimore, AFC South: Indianapolis, AFC West: San Diego, Wild Cards: Miami, Pittsburgh
NFC East: Dallas, NFC North: Green Bay, NFC South: New Orleans, NFC West: San Francisco, Wild Cards: Atlanta, Minnesota
Wild Card Weekend: Pittsburgh over New England, Miami over San Diego, Minnesota over Dallas, San Francisco over Atlanta
Divisional Round: Pittsburgh over Indianapolis, Baltimore over Miami, Minnesota over Green Bay, New Orleans over San Francisco
Conference Championships: Baltimore over Pittsburgh, Minnesota over New Orleans
Super Bowl: Minnesota over Baltimore
Wait!? I thought you were down on the Vikings, and now you’re picking them to win the Super Bowl? Unfortunately I made the mistake of picking the Vikings to beat the Ravens to win it all shortly after last year’s Super Bowl, and I’m going to stick by it, even though I had made the pick hoping that Favre would retire. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I think somewhere in the beginning of our schedule, Favre is finally going to go down with a career ending injury, and T-Jack will come in to lead the Vikings with the old approach of running the football, and playing tough defense. That’s what will lead to a 5-3 second half to the season and eventually the playoff run. Or at least that’s what I can hope for.
Thanks for putting up with pessimism turned into extreme optimism, but that’s the only thing I can cling to to make this season worth watching for me.