Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 Vikings v. 2009 Vikings: what breaks won't be the same?

I've turned what was going to be an extended comment from below into a new post.

Here are the positives from 2009 that we cannot count on for 2010.

1. Schedule. The Vikes got to play the lousy NFC West, going 3-1. They played two AFC playoff teams, but got them both at home (winning both). On the proverbial paper, the 2010 schedule looks a lot tougher. A first round bye in the competitive NFC will be tougher to come by.

2. Holding off a good Packer team twice. The Packers were 11-5: the Vikes weren't that much better than them. In both games, the Vikes got big leads with a great passing game and dominant pass rush. In both games, the Packers came back and made a game of it when they went to all-throw mode and so the Viking pass rush couldn't succeed for three straight downs every time. The Vikings also got the Packers in the first half of the season, when they were still struggling awfully in pass protection, and Rodgers was holding the ball way too long. They and he got better in the second half. I don't expect a Packer sweep again.

3. Bears stinking. They got us at Soldier Field (as always), but stunk in the Dome game and weren't a division contender. Will Cutler suck that bad again? And nemesis Julius Peppers playing us twice? That's a nightmare. The good thing is that a better Bears team also means better competition for the Packers.

4. Favre's career year. Last year he had a career low in INTs (excluding his four attempt rookie season), career best completion percentage, and his first career 100 rating. It's possible that, playing with his experience and these teammates, that is now the player he is. But I'd expect at least modest regression, plus we'd be counting on him playing that well at 41. 41!

5. No outdoor playoff games. Will we be that lucky again? It's possible, but no guarantee. The Vikings still struggle on grass, especially defensively, where the pass rush seems significantly less dominant.

6. Postponed suspensions for Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Actually, we can probably count on that lucky break again in 2010, but it was a lucky break in 2009 that is worth including here.

Now, here are some of the negatives from 2009 that perhaps the Vikings can improve on or avoid (here's where the pessimism comes in: above is a list of things that mostly, reasonably and analytically speaking, I would expect not to break our way again. Below is a list of things I hope for, but also can't count on).

1. Injury luck. I don't know if the Vikings had worse injury luck than is typical, or compared to other teams. But we lost Antoine Winfield for a big stretch, E.J. Henderson for the end of season and playoffs, Pat Williams for a key late-season game (a loss), Bernard Berrian had sub-par health all season, etc. But will it be better in 2010? Already Henderson and Cedric Griffin are coming back from brutal injuries, Sidney Rice has a hip issue, a lot of key players are a bit old, etc. I don't know that the injury situation will improve.

2. Run blocking. The offensive line did a much better job in pass protection last season than I imagined, but the run blocking was not nearly what it had been in 2007 and 2008. If that becomes a greater focus, then Adrian Peterson might perform more like he did in 2007 and 2008. But the personnel is the same: the improvement needs to come in execution, playcalling, focus, player improvement, etc.

3. Defensive interceptions. The Vikes have a terrific pass rush, yet the defense had very few INTs last season. I think it's something of a fluke, and the Vikings will have more picks this season.


  1. Anonymous6:32 AM

    Rice's injury concerns me. Otherwise, I'm supremely confident. It's a long season but I do think week 1 will signal where the team is headed.


  2. I've been thinking for months that this year is going to end up similar to 1999 – as long as Favre returns.

    A lot of people are going to have high hopes for the Vikings and pick them as Super Bowl contenders, but they'll finish 10-6 and earn a Wild Card playoff spot but not really play like Super Bowl contenders.

    Then again, with this schedule (and what looks like a slightly improved NFC North), a 10-6 record would be more impressive than last year's 12-4 record.

    I don't know, I often underestimate my team and expect the worst.

  3. I, too, get a '99 feel for this team. I hope, though, for a playoff run like the '05 Steelers or '06 Colts: both teams were #1 seeds the year before, lost in the playoffs, and had to win four playoff games to win the title.

  4. Anonymous4:16 PM

    Interceptions are always fluky. Remember 2003, when Corey Chavous and Brian Russell combined for something like 17 interceptions? If there's good coverage on the play, it probably won't get throw into that area. Interceptions are typically the result of a tipped pass or an errant throw from the QB, not great pass defense on your part. Sometimes air-tight coverage will result in an INT, but usually the ball simply won't get thrown if a receiver is covered that well.

    How's this for a crazy thought; the Vikings' decline in the running game was a blessing in disguise. The running game's decline forced the Vikings to throw the ball more, which resulted in more points scored. Points ultimately come out of the passing game, so relying on the passing game (and the passing game being successful) resulted in more points. We ran great from 2006-2008, but we never scored many points, and that's because you throw to score.

  5. Anonymous4:22 PM

    What makes everyone so confident that the Packers are the next great team? I won't disrespect their offense, where Rodgers leads a great passing game. But tell what exactly I'm supposed to be scared of with their defense. They have one pass rusher in Clay Matthews, and they have aging corners with no youth in sight (Tramon Williams? Please). Let's not forget that the last time we saw the Packers, they allowed 45 points defensively to Arizona. Arizona had a great offense, but that's terrible in any context. The Packers have a great passing game, no doubt about it. But I feel like if you can slow down Clay Matthews, you can move the ball on them.

    Defensively, the Packers rely on the refs as much as any team in the league. If the refs call a tight game, their corners can't play. But if Woodson and Harris (or Williams) are allowed to be physical all across the field, then all of a sudden it's hard to move the ball on them. In other words, if the refs are calling illegal contact the Packers can't play defense. If illegal contact is allowed, you don't have much of a chance.