And Here We Go...
We all saw last night how good the Packers are going to be - putting up 3 touchdowns in the 1st quarter against the Saints was no mean feat. If possible, Aaron Rodgers looks even better than last year. The Pack came out right from the start looking to prove they deserve the title of "defending Super Bowl champions", and in my eyes, they did. They've lost virtually none of their roster from last year, and everyone who was hurt last year is healthy now. They are going to be tough to beat all year.
Now to the Vikings: their first game is this Sunday in San Diego against the Chargers. It was hard to tell how good - or how bad - the Vikings are going to be this year just by what I saw in the four preseason games. There were no OTA's, not much of a training camp, and of course probably every team in the league played it conservative as far as defensive packages, offensive schemes, etc. I think the offense is going to be efficient if not spectacular. I think Donovan McNabb is the perfect choice to run this offense - he's got the experience in running this type of offense, and he has enough mobility and smarts to be able to make plays if he needs to run outside the pocket or throw on the run. He may not be flashy, but I think he'll be efficient. Backups Christian Ponder and Joe Webb each has own skills to bring to the table, but hopefully McNabb will remain healthy enough to start all season long.
Adrian Peterson looks like he could have a MONSTER year this year. The way he ran against the Cowboys, he looked like he could have broken one of his patented runs to the outside at any time. He looks to be in incredible shape, and looks more explosive off the line than ever. Backups Toby Gerhart (who looks like he's adjusted to the speed of the game very well in the offseason) and Lorenzo Booker are capable enough to give Adrian Peterson plenty of help in carrying the load.
The receiving corps for the Vikings could definitely be an issue. Having Bernard Berrian as your number 1 guy, after the last two seasons he's had, leaves something to be desired. We all know what Percy Harvin can do, of course, but beyond those two, and Devin Aromashudo, there are some unanswered questions. Veterans Michael Jenkins and Greg Camarillo should help, but how much remains to be seen.
At TE, with Visanthe Shiancoe coming off his injury that kept him out of action for the entire preseason, and having rookie Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings are a little more set. Veteran Jim Kleinsasser will be his usual steady presence, still laying solid blocks and catching an occasional pass.
OL will be a bright spot this season, I think. There was a lot of apprehension when the Vikings cut Bryant McKinnie and his sorry butt, But Charles Johnson has filled in nicely, and I think the team has decent depth there. They seemed to play rather well and cohesively in preseason, so we'll see.
On the defensive line, the Vikings have a nice mix of experience and youth, but they WILL be missing Kevin Williams for the first two games because of suspension, so Brian Robison, LeTroy Guion and Everson Griffen will be called upon to play a fairly significant roles.
At LB, the Vikings are awfully thin, what with losing Ben Leber in the offseason, The starters are Chad Greenway, EJ Henderson and his brother Erin Henderson, with Kenny Onatolu, rookie Larry Dean and Xavier Adibi backing them up.
In the secondary, more question marks. Starters are going to be Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin (coming off two consecutive season-ending knee injuries), Jamarca Sanford (who might be splitting playing time with Tyrell Johnson) and Husain Abdullah. Backups who may see a decent amount of playing time are Chris Cook, Marcus Sherels, Asher Allen and Mistral Raymond.
On special teams, the Vikings are pretty solid. P Chris Kluwe, K Ryan Longwell, long snapper Cullen Loeffler are all back. Percy Harvin and Marcus Sherels are slated to be the KR and PR, respectively.
Now for a prediction on the San Diego game: SD are notoriously slow starters, and the Vikings are going to surprise some people. SD QB Philip Rivers could have a field day against the Vikings' secondary. AP will have a great first game, and I look for this to be a high-scoring affair.
Final score: Vikings 31, Chargers 28