So, Minnesota, you've kept quiet this off-season.
Any developments to update us on?
Any player movement?
Hey - who is your quarterback, anyway?
It's absolutely impossible to talk about the Vikings without centering the discussion on Brett Favre. As well-rounded a team as they are, he has the power to single-handedly derail them.
The Vikings - and Favre - played a pretty crisp 2009 season - until the NFC Championship Game. They turned the ball over five times in that game (including 2 interceptions by Favre), and still came within an overtime field goal of the Super Bowl.
The Vikings, even without Favre the past few years, have consistently been better than I expect. But what I expect this year is a season-long version of that NFC Championship Game. In other words, Favre will throw more than the 7 interceptions he threw all of last year. The Vikings will be more inconsistent. They may not get 12 wins again (though that's what my prediction ends up at). It just seemed like everything went right for them a year ago - it's really hard for that to happen one year in the NFL, let alone in back-to-back seasons.
All that said, now that Favre is in the fold, the biggest difference between this team and last year is the loss of Chester Taylor. That's not enough to totally change the team's performance.
I think the Vikings will win their division. I think they have a playoff win in them. But all that can change with an injury to Favre, or if something happens to make him even a bit sloppier than he was a year ago. Like, maybe, to make him play the way he did two years ago, when he came up just short of the post-season as the quarterback of the New York Jets.
Brett Favre can do great things for a team. But he can also kill you. And if it's not through his on-field performance this year, the Vikings will find out just how costly Favre can be when they move beyond him. They passed up on longer-term quarterback solutions this off-season hoping that Favre would come back. That may pay off in 2010. But without a Super Bowl win this year, the team may be hamstrung at the quarterback position for years to come.
2010 Prediction: 12-4, 1st Place in NFC North (Win division on divisional record tiebreak)