Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Probable Playoff Team: Minnesota Vikings

Before beginning this, I have to throw out this article by DJ Gallo of ESPN. He goes through a few of the funnier player rankings in Madden 07 (which will probably hit my house this weekend). My personal favorites?

Todd Pinkston's 35 strength rating. Apparently Madden remembers him being a massive wuss as much as I do. Still, that's gotta hurt as an NFL player. I'm sure they all know their Madden ratings, and Pinky's got some explaining to do...

Eli Manning's 89 accuracy rating. Riiiiiiight.

Anyways, on to Minnesota. Now, I'm sure the first thing through a few fans' minds will be the following: "Gavin, you just got done with the Philadelphia Eagles in your last preview. Do you really believe the Vikings are better than the Eagles?"

This is why Power Rankings are inherently foolish. All these specific matchups are pretty ridiculous at the beginning. I would say the Eagles are a better team than the Vikings. If they played in Philly, I would say Philly +7, in Minnesota, the Vikings +3. That's why our ranking system is so much cooler (i.e. lazier). The Vikings do have a much better shot than the Eagles at reaching the postseason, because they don't have the atrocious schedule Philadelphia possesses. It's not fair, but it is the NFL.

Do I really think much of the Vikings? Nope. Especially not now after losing Koren Robinson (insert hearty chuckle here).

First, the good news offensively. The Vikings have a decent offensive line. The left side of Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk is pure quality. The right side is really mediocre in comparison. A lot depends on Birk and Hutchinson's health, because the depth is appalling. Even so, they have to be able to improve on last season's showing, where the Vikings were only beaten by the dreaded Cardinals to get the title of "worst offensive line in the NFL".

Power Success? 63% (17th). Stuffed? 28% (27th). These are not good numbers. It gets worse/better... Sack Percentage (how often a quarterback hits the turf when he drops back)? 9.8% (29th). So the Vikings couldn't run and they couldn't protect the quarterback. I can begin to see why they would toss absurd amounts of money to a guard. They didn't have Matt Birk, which did make a big difference. However, they did have Bryant McKinnie, so he might be a tad overrated. Overall, adding a guard, even if he's the best guard in the NFL, is not going to take Minnesota into the upper echelon of NFL O-lines, but they will be significantly better than the stats above.

The bad news (remember, that was supposed to be the good news) is that the Vikings have absolutely nobody who frightens you as a playmaker. Chester Taylor never was the starting back in Baltimore, even if he has "potential". Brad Johnson is... well... Brad Johnson. You pretty much know what you're going to get. Without Koren Robinson as well as the loss (to us) of Nate Burleson, the Vikings have very little depth at the WR position. Maybe last year's 1st round pick Troy Williamson can step up some, but I wouldn't be excited about any of the other starters, and am going to avoid all of them by the time fantasy football comes around (soon, thank heavens).

To go into a little more detail, Brad Johnson had a DPAR of 39.2, right in between Brett Favre and Marc Bulger at 16th in the league. He is, in every way, an average quarterback, and that's why he gets work. You know what you're going to get. Not a lot of picks, not a lot of big plays. He also makes Drew Bledsoe look mobile, if that's even possible, so that sack rate needs to improve this season or he's not lasting.

The first WR with a decent DPAR rating is Marcus Robinson, and he's down past Bobby Engram. Yippee. That's sure going to put a healthy does of fear into Chicago.

What about the defense? While the end results were poor last season (19th against both pass and rush on FO), there's a lot to like. Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are solid tackles, and they have 1st rounders flanking them, both of whom are young and have a lot of ability. Fred Smoot and Antoine Winfield are both quality corners, and perhaps with no legal problem hanging over his head Smoot will raise his quality of play.

The safeties are both too old, especially Darren Sharper, who peaked 10 years ago. Depending on him is a mistake. The linebacking corps is also pretty abysmal, and that's what will keep this defense from entering any kind of elite status.

Overall, the improvement in the offensive line will help, and there will be some improvement defensively. All that to say, the Vikings have a shot to reach the postseason, just not a big one. They will have to be consistent enough to overcome the Bears, but the schedule is favorable.

posted by Gavin @ 2:11 PM  0 comments

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