2011 Minnesota Vikings Season Preview

Posted: September 7, 2011 by vongrapenstein in NFL, Purple Pride

2010 was not a year to remember for the Vikings, just like that iceberg was not good for the Titanic.

Brett Favre came crashing to earth like Icarus, Randy Moss went on a bridge-burning bender, Jared Allen and Kevin Williams couldn’t hold the defense together, Sidney Rice decided to take most of the year off after postponing a surgery, and Adrian Peterson appeared on Entourage. It was a disappointing season to say the least.

Though Brad Childress and his inferiority complex were finally fired. Every cloud has a silver lining.

2011 is a different year and the Vikings are a different team, however. Donovan McNabb replaces Favre, Leslie Frazier replaces Childress, Percy Harvin is the unquestioned number one receiver, and Adrian Peterson is Adrian Peterson. That part isn’t different, actually.

How will the Minnesota Vikings’ 2011 season go? Let’s take a look.

Over/Under Wins: 7 (bodog.com)

OFFENSE:

At quarterback, the 34-year-old McNabb is coming off the worst season of his career, but anything would have been better than what Favre, Tarvaris Jackson, and Joe Webb gave Minnesota last year (the Vikings threw the most interceptions in the NFL in 2010). In contrast, McNabb is usually very good at avoiding interceptions with a 2.2 interception percentage in his career, the second-best in league history. While he has never been known for his accuracy, McNabb should find success in new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s short-passing attack. McNabb won’t be asked to win games by himself for the Vikings, which is good because he doesn’t have that in him anymore. But he should be a good game-managing caretaker.

Adrian Peterson is not a mortal being. Moving on.

McNabb’s receivers feature some bright, young talent in Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph. Harvin’s frequent migraines are supposedly a thing of the past and the third-year receiver seems primed to excel in the offense’s new west coast system. Meanwhile, second-round pick Rudolph impressed essentially everyone during the preseason. Visanthe Shiancoe is still the starting tight end, but Rudolph figures to see plenty of time on the field. Shiancoe, Bernard Berrian, and Michael Jenkins give McNabb several veteran receivers as well, and a bond between Berrian and McNabb seemed to grow during the preseason. The Vikings passing game should have some fine moments this season, even if they will probably be few and far between.

On the offensive line, Charles Johnson comes over from Indianapolis to replace fat, lazy Bryant McKinnie. While Johnson might not be as physically gifted as most starting left tackles, anybody that Peyton Manning has trusted should be considered a good NFL starter. Next to him, Steve Hutchinson appears to be injury-free and back to his road-grading self. Then things start to fall apart. Center John Sullivan has never appeared to be a starting-caliber player. Anthony Herrera would make a fine backup at right guard, but is a substandard starter. Phil Loadholt had a disappointing sophomore campaign, but he contains the size and talent to improve.

But when the deal goes down, the Vikings offense will firmly be in the middle of the road and entirely dependent on the magic of Adrian Peterson. As long as Peterson gets his 1,300-plus yards and ten-plus touchdowns, which will keep defenses off McNabb’s back and create open-space for Harvin, Minnesota should have an above-average offense.

It won’t be world-beating, but it won’t be the anemic mess it was last season.

DEFENSE:

The Vikings defense line is no longer the envy of the league. Pat Williams finally played like his age and is currently unemployed. Ray Edwards left for Atlanta. Kevin Williams will be suspended for the first two games of the season for something that happened two years ago and was also showing signs of decline last season. There is some young talent along the line in Brian Robison, Everson Griffin, and Christian Ballard. Jared Allen will continue to play big in meaningless moments and shrink in the meaningful ones.

The linebacking corps is considered the strength of the defense by some. Chad Greenway is unspectacular but still one of the better all-around outside linebackers in football. EJ Henderson is a warrior, but injuries and time have worn down his athleticism.  The other outside linebacker position will be filled by Erin Henderson, E.J.’s little brother. Nepotism is the only explanation for that. The Vikings are going to try Everson Griffin at outside linebacker, but the defensive end will surely have trouble in pass coverage.

Minnesota’s secondary is full of question marks and easily the weakest unit on the Vikings, as it has been for years. Antoine Winfield is the only dependable player on the backline of defense, but 34-year-old cornerbacks are a rare species in the NFL. How long can he continue to play at his level? On the other side, Cedric Griffin has torn the ACL in his knees the past two seasons, and he wasn’t quick to begin with. Young corners Chris Cook, Marcus Sherels, Brandon Burton, and Asher Allen round out the rotation. While the four are inexperienced, they provide varying degrees of speed, tackling, and coverage – those degrees range from “awful” to “Ok, I guess.”

The safeties are a mess. Husain Abdullah is the best one they have. Moving on.

Minnesota will need the defensive line to become the pressuring, menacing force they were two years ago for the defense to be just average. Even if the defensive line does dominate, the secondary is so gravely abhorrent that opposing quarterbacks shouldn’t have much trouble picking them apart. Unless someone unexpectedly steps up (be it Ballard, Burton, Cook, or Jamarca Sanford), or Allen or Williams become a one-man wrecking crew, there simply isn’t enough talent.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

Ryan Longwell is accurate. Chris Kluwe doesn’t screw up that much. Percy Harvin or Lorenzo Booker can break a return occasionally. Marcus Sherels is the punt returner, I guess.

OVERVIEW:

The Vikings schedule isn’t the horror film it was last season, but there are some games on it that scream “Loss.” Such as week one’s slate with San Diego.  Or the two games with Green Bay, or the two games against Atlanta and New Orleans.  But that’s about it.

While Detroit looks improved, that should be a split. Same with Chicago, who should regress to the mean this season. Minnesota might be favored in their games against Washington, Oakland, Denver, and Carolina.  Their last three games (Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Arizona) could see the Vikings as slight favorites or underdogs, but they aren’t unwinnable.

So let’s say the Vikings split the four games against Detroit and Chicago; two wins. Then they steal just one win out of the five games that seem like lost causes; three wins. Say they go three and one in the games they will probably be favorites; six wins. Then just one win in the three toss-up games; seven wins to end the season and giving them a push on the over/under.

Vegas is smarter than everyone.

So, can the Vikings exceed that rough draft of a season? Leslie Frazier did an adequate job last year while going 3-3 in his six games with a skeleton of a team. McNabb has never had a running back like Adrian. The defensive line has the ability to change games, as does Percy Harvin. Despite the glaring weaknesses, Minnesota still has the talent needed to win.

And after a season when the team got absolutely no breaks, Minnesota is due for some help from the football Gods.

Screw it. Let’s say eight wins and the over.

What a season! Pop the champagne!

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