Coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship last year, and perhaps one play from reaching the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings were the favorites to win the NFC North this year as well as a Super Bowl pick by many NFL analysts — after quarterback Brett Favre decided to return to the team, that is.
Vikings fans shouldn’t be too quick to purchase plane tickets to Dallas for February’s Super Bowl just yet.
For starters, Favre had one of the best seasons of his career last year with 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. That should give encouragement to the Vikings, right? Well, he was also sacked 34 times, the most since 1999 and he took a heap of punishment in that NFC Championship game against the Saints, game film that many of the Vikings opponents surely will be watching this year.
Favre, who turns 41 in October, has continually surprised us throughout his career with new feats that have seemed impossible. But he would have to really outdo himself this year to put up numbers anywhere close to what he achieved last year, and frankly, I just don’t see that happening.
His supporting cast is going to be a little bit weaker, that’s for sure. After losing running back Chester Taylor — who was a safety valve for Favre and one of the best third-down backs and receivers out of the backfield in the league — the Vikings have now lost wide receiver Sidney Rice for about half the season after he underwent hip surgery. Rice blossomed last year with Favre as his quarterback and Rice’s combination of size and leaping ability gave Favre a big target to throw to.
Wide receiver Percy Harvin continues to battle migraine headaches, so bad that he vomited on the field and was taken to the hospital last week, according to chicagobreakingsports.com. The Vikings signed Javon Walker to try to help fill the void at wide receiver, but Walker is far from what he was when he was a teammate of Favre’s in Green Bay.
The Vikings defense still will be a force to be reckoned with, but they’re all a year older and not exactly improving as the seasons go on. Defensive tackles Pat Williams (who will be 38 in October) and Kevin Williams (30), cornerback Antoine Winfield (33), and linebacker E.J. Henderson (30) are all getting up there in age.
Aside from the Vikings troubles, both the Packers and Bears have improved in the off-season, making it all the more difficult for the Vikings to repeat as NFC North champions.
I’m thinking that at some point before the season is over, Favre may be wishing he had walked away from football this time.