Assuming Brett Favre is up for playing a 20th NFL season—and we all know he is despite becoming an actual grandfather during the offseason—the Vikings should win a third consecutive NFC North title and compete for the home-field advantage necessary to reach Super Bowl 45.
Eight months after losing the NFC championship game in overtime at New Orleans, the Vikings head into the '10 season with virtually the same team and more experience than the one that could've beaten the Saints in January if not for an uncharacteristic five turnovers. The Vikings moped over the loss for months but appear to have moved on.
"You can't let it bother you for that long," defensive end Jared Allen said. "New year, new tournament."
Offense: All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson has been picked at consistently for his ball security, or lack thereof. But even with this one significant flaw, he's still a great running back who uses speed, power and attitude to take more real estate than he gives away in fumbles. He'll also need to be a better pass protector since he'll no longer have steady Chester Taylor as the third-down back. Taylor's departure in free agency was the only substantial blow to the Vikings' offseason.
The Vikings tried to sign LaDainian Tomlinson, but lost out to the Jets, causing them to draft Toby Gerhart, promote little-known Albert Young from the practice squad and switch receiver/return man Darius Reynaud back to running back. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who has a compact frame and thick lower body, also figures to get more carries in '10.
Defense: Age, injury and performance are equal concerns in the secondary. Cornerback Antoine Winfield is excellent, but he missed seven starts last season because of a broken foot and turns 33 on Thursday. Corner Cedric Griffin tore his ACL in the NFC championship game, and his availability for the start of the season is questionable. The team signed Lito Sheppard as insurance.
Two promising young players to watch are cornerback Asher Allen and safety Jamarca Sanford, the team's third- and seventh-round picks in '09.
Jasper Brinkley, MLB. Brinkley finished '09 as the starter and will stay there until veteran E.J. Henderson recovers from a broken left femur. Brinkley (6-2, 252) was a sturdy, instinctive run-stopper even as a rookie fifth-round draft pick last season. He was overwhelmed by the deep-middle zone coverage responsibilities in the Tampa 2 but will be better after four starts in '09 and another year of offseason preparation. Henderson could start the season on PUP and might not return to full strength until late this season.
"Jasper has really improved. We have no qualms with Jasper being our starting linebacker, if that's the case. He's really improved, and the more snaps he gets the better he's going to get. He's been everything we've hoped for knowing the possibility that E.J. could be injured. That's why (Brinkley) was drafted, and he's been great." — defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier
"You know what, their offensive line is not that good. They're way overrated. It's unbelievable. If they didn't have Brett Favre, the number of times he gets them out of trouble is amazing. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, it's a joke that he made the Pro Bowl. A joke. ...
"They have excellent speed at receiver. They have good balance at tight end—Visanthe Shiancoe can make big plays down the field, and Jimmy Kleinsasser isn't what he used to be but still gives you a good day's work. Jeff Dugan is solid. ... Adrian Peterson is a little bit feast or famine. I think it will hurt them that they lost Chester Taylor because that was an excellent 1-2 punch. ...
"Defensively, they're solid. They do a good job stopping the run, and they get after the quarterback. Ray Edwards is a good player; Jared Allen is an excellent pass rusher. But Kevin Williams, he's the best guy they have up front. At linebacker, I don't know what's going to happen with E.J. Henderson and his injury. Chad Greenway is a playmaker. ...
Assuming Favre returns, the Vikings again look to contend for the Super Bowl this season. Without him, scratch any hopes of a February flight to Dallas.
Barring significant injuries, anything short of the Super Bowl with Favre on board would be a failure for a team built to win now. The defensive line won't always be this dominant. Peterson's style lends itself to the possibility of a short career. And Favre can't play forever — at least that's the thought.
QB: Brett Favre; Tarvaris Jackson
FB: Naufahu Tahi; Jeff Dugan
RB: Adrian Peterson; Toby Gerhart
WR: Bernard Berrian; Percy Harvin; Sidney Rice; Greg Lewis
TE: Visanthe Shiancoe; Jim Kleinsasser
LT: Bryant McKinnie; Ryan Cook
LG: Steve Hutchinson; Chris DeGeare
C: John Sullivan; Jon Cooper
RG: Anthony Herrera; Chris DeGeare
RT: Phil Loadholt; Ryan Cook
DE: Ray Edwards; Brian Robison
DT: Pat Williams; Fred Evans; Kevin Williams; Jimmy Kennedy
DE: Jared Allen; Everson Griffen
SLB: Chad Greenway; Heath Farwell
MLB: Jasper Brinkley; Ben Leber
WLB: Ben Leber; Heath Farwell
CB: Antoine Winfield; Chris Cook; Lito Sheppard; Benny Sapp
SS: Tyrell Johnson; Jamarca Sanford
FS: Madieu Williams; Husain Abdullah
K: Ryan Longwell
P: Chris Kluwe
KR: Percy Harvin
PR: Darius Reynaud
LS: Cullen Loeffler
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
One thing to know: Namath still has faith in Sanchez
Hall of Fame Jets QB Joe Namath recently spoke out against the Jets’ decision to waste a draft pick on a QB. Namath cites the Jets’ plethora of other areas of need, and believes Mark Sanchez can get the job done this year.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.