Blogging The Boys: Both the Cowboys and Vikings were preseason favorites in the NFC who have had very bad starts. In general, what's gone wrong for the Vikings this season?
Daily Norseman: It's the offense, and specifically the passing game. Adrian Peterson has been running effectively this year, but for whatever reason their is no consistency when Brett Favre drops back. Protection has been okay, but he has almost as many interceptions after four games than he did all of last year. Sidney Rice's injury has really hurt, as Rice was Favre's security blanket last year. Bernard Berrian had to move up to a #1, which he isn't, Percy Harvin had to move out of the slot to the #2 role, and there was no real good option at #3. With the Moss trade, that finally started to change last week, but the offense was still horrid for almost three quarters. Play calling and gameplanning has been mystifying as well. The Vikings run when the defense expects them to run, and passes when they expect them to pass. The low point was the first three quarters of the Jets game last week, and I think the players and the coaches had a Come to Jesus meeting. In the fourth quarter the Vikings opened it up and almost won. The defense has been championship caliber, for the most part, and special teams has been effective. It's time for an offfense loaded with talent to start playing like it.
BTB: OK, it's Favre this and Favre that all week. He's going to play, right? And how much of an issue is his injury? What about all the off-the-field stuff, do you think it's affecting him or the team?
DN: I would be stunned...STUNNED...if Favre doesn't play. As to the severity of it, I think it's an issue. Part of the reason the offense was bad for three quarters on Monday was because Favre made some terrible throws that he usually completes. The last incomplete pass to Harvin right before the pick-6 (another terrible throw) was an easy throw, and if he makes that I think Percy Harvin is still running. There was no one near him. But as a Vikings fan, you have to ask yourself who's better--Favre with tendinitis, or a healthy Tarvaris Jackson? For me, the obvious answer is Favre. As to the off the field stuff, it has to. Everyone talks about how well Favre responds when he's in emotional turmoil, (Dad's death, playing against Green Bay, etc.) but he had his family solidly in his corner providing him all the support he needed to get through it. If there's even a shred of truth to the Jenn Sterger stuff, I think that emotional state is completely different, and I doubt Deanna Favre is 100% supportive.
BTB: Randy Moss, a Viking again. What are your expectations?
DN: The offense from 2009, and a deep playoff run that has to start Sunday, or it might be too late. Moss is a true #1, Berrian (or apparently Greg Lewis) can move back to the #2 role, Harvin slides back into the slot. Moss opens stuff up for Harvin and TE Visanthe Shiancoe in the middle and underneath, and for Adrian Peterson running the ball, like we FINALLY started to see last week. It's tough to put into words how good it is to have Moss back in Minnesota, and if the Vikings are still in contention when Sidney Rice comes back, this offense will be lethal.
BTB: How does the Cedric Griffin injury affect the defense?
DN: It's a brutal loss for the Vikings. If you remember, Griffin tore his left ACL in the NFC Championship game last season, and worked really hard to get back to playing at a hiogh level. He looked very good until he tore his right ACL on Monday, and the Vikings have depth issues at CB. Right now, it looks like either Asher Allen or Lito Sheppard will start in Griffin's place. However, rookie CB Chris Cook, a tall (6'2") prototypical cover-2 CB, is coming back from a torn meniscus, and he could play. If that's the case, I feel a lot better about the CB situation, because Cook had earned the starting CB job opposite Antoine Winfield coming out of training camp, as Griffin was still unable to play. In limited action this season, Chris Cook has played really well. But if it's Allen or Sheppard that get the nod, it should be a favorable matchup for Dallas.
BTB: What's the gameplan on both sides of the ball for the Vikings to get a win on Sunday?
DN: The blueprint from the divisional playoff game in January. On offense, I think Minnesota is going to throw the ball early to set up a ball control running offense later. I would expect Minnesota to loosen up the Dallas defense and get Moss involved early. The Mall of America Field is going to be insane to see Moss, and if he scores early, look out. If they can get Dallas back on their heels, expect a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson and short to medium range stuff underneath. Defensively, I like Minnesota's chances to take away the run and make Dallas one dimensional, forcing Dallas to pass, which Dallas seems to prefer to do anyway. It seems like Dallas has abandoned the run when it wasn't successful early, and hopefully that will be the case Sunday. In January, Minnesota harassed and pressured Tony Romo all day, and if they can do that again, I like their chances. Dallas' offensive line is struggling, and Minnesota should be able to take advantage of some personnel matchups. I would also expect some safety help with the linebackers on Jason WItten, and a fair amount of double coverage to whoever Sheppard and/or Allen is assigned to.
Thanks to Daily Norseman.