It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Minnesota Vikings.
A lot of things look peachy for the Vikings, and there's every reason to believe that they'll contend for a Super Bowl in 2009. There are two stretches of the Vikings season, however, about which I'm concerned.
To start with, the first four games of the season in which Pat Williams(notes) and Kevin will probably be occupying sideline space because of the Starcaps suspensions. The first four opponents are relatively weak, but if the Vikings get off to a slow start, even 2-2, the schedule gets tougher from there, and you don't want to start in a hole in a division race that figures to be pretty tight.
Yes, I think Brett Favre is going to be a Viking when the 2009 season rolls around. If there wasn't still an itch to play, he'd have said so. The itch is there, and, like a seven-year-old with poison ivy, he won't be able to keep himself from scratching it. I feel pretty confident about this.
Matt Birk's departure has me concerned, too. His leaving Minnesota was one of those transactions that didn't make a lot noise at the time, but just might get some attention before the year is over. Yes, Birk was getting a little older, and it might not have made financial sense for the Vikings to hold onto him, but he leaves a gaping hole in the middle of an offensive line that was great in 2008.
His likely replacement is John Sullivan(notes), a former sixth-round pick who's never started a game before. Even if Sullivan exceeds all expectations, he's still a step down from Birk, a smart veteran leader who captained that line for a long time. For a team that's going to be leaning on their running game, that's a significant loss.
Still, we're talking about a team that won their division last year, returns most of the key cogs, probably (in one way or another) upgraded their quarterback position, and may have added a difference-maker in Percy Harvin. Things are way better than the picture I've painted here. But the Vikings are in the Super Bowl conversation now, and when you're at that level, the deficiencies get magnified.
Progress: There's a lot of pressure on Brad Childress in 2009. When you've got arguably the league's best running back, and arguably the league's best run defense, the expectations, rightfully, could not be any higher. If the offense comes up short in any way, Childress is going to have to answer a lot of questions about why he didn't get it fixed. I'd say the offseason is incomplete, because I think there's still that one big transaction coming. That's not the only concern the Vikings have, though.
Plus/Minus 0 games. 10-6 last year, 10-6 this year.