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NFL Sneak Peak – The Minnesota Vikings

NFL Football Futures Betting – 2009 NFL PreSeason Analysis – Vikings Football Gambling

The Vikings began the season losing three of their first four games, then started to pick up steam in the NFC North. They won seven of their last nine games, going 4-2 in the division, and defeated three playoff teams.

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They won the division title, but lost in the playoffs to Philadelphia, opening up more questions about the quarterback position.

Will those questions get an answer before the season opener?

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Odds To Win NFC North

MINNESOTA VIKINGS +160
Chicago Bears +180
Green Bay Packers +200
Detroit Lions +1400

To Win Super Bowl: +1800
To Win NFC title: +800
To Reach Conference title game: +400
Over 9 wins -140
Under 9 wins +110

There is no NFL team that, as things stand prior to training camp, has as many critical questions surrounding it as the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s get to the most important one first.

Gus Frerotte had the quarterback job for most of the season, and his numbers (12 TD’s, 15 INT’s) were not going to get the Vikings anywhere. Tarvaris Jackson, who was drafted in the second round in 2006, finished the season rather strongly, completing 64% of his passes with eight touchdowns and only on interception in the last four games. Jackson’s shortcomings were exposed in the playoff game with the Eagles, however, as he was just 15-for-35 with an interception and a fumble. He is not the answer.

In the off-season, the Vikings released Frerotte and made a deal with Houston to acquire Sage Rosenfels, a quarterback who can rack up some numbers but is also interception-prone. Still, there was little doubt that going into training camp, it was going to be Rosenfels’ job to lose, else why would they have traded for him?

Then the availability of Brett Favre became an issue. Favre was granted his release by the New York Jets, with the assumption that he was going to retire. He had wanted to go to Minnesota last year, but the Packers were having none of it. This time around, the door was, and is, open. Brad Childress wants to sign Favre, which doesn’t show faith in his other quarterbacks but gives every indication of the sense of insecurity he has about his own job.

Favre, by the way, tossed 22 interceptions last year, which means he’s been picked off 84 times in the last four seasons. As of today, he has not said yes to Minnesota, which doesn’t mean anything as far as most of the Twin Cities press is concerned. Most of them consider it a fait accompli.

The QB, whoever it is, will be relieved by a great running game. Adrian Peterson maybe the best in the business, as evidenced by his 1760 yards last season. Chester Taylor adds plenty of backup- as well. The offensive line lost Matt Birk, but this is a tremendous group, and the Vikings are hoping that Phil Loadbolt, the second-round pick out of Oklahoma, can take over at right tackle.

The receivers aren’t the scariest, but they are better than a lot of people give them credit for. Bernard Berrian averaged 20 yards a reception last season (964 yards total) and Bobby Wade (53 catches) is a pretty good possession receiver. Percy Harvin is the speed-burner drafted in the first round. He can make plays, though he has a heel injury that is going to be long-lasting. Visanthe Shiancoe (42 receptions last season) has a chance to become an outstanding tight end.

It looks like the defensive tackles, Kevin and Pat Williams, are going to be able to play until a final decision is handed down from the courts regarding their suspension for taking a banned substance. They were suspended for four games, but it was blocked by a Hennepin County judge who said nothing can happen until the case reaches a final resolution. Whether all of this happens before the season opener is rather uncertain. The Vikings’ first four games are against Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco and Green Bay.

At normal strength, Minnesota is one of the league’s best at snuffing out the run, allowing just 3.3 yards a carry. They sacked the opposing quarterback 45 times as well, and new acquisition Jared Allen had 14.5 of those sacks. The secondary is still the main area of concern on this defense, and Darren Sharper shipped off to New Orleans as a free agent.

It is indeed hard to say what is going to happen with Favre, but my guess is that there will be more upside, although his mistakes will still cost this team games. Because they can control the line of scrimmage, on both offense and defense, this looms as the best team in the division, even as the Bears have acquired Jay Cutler to play quarterback. I’ll go with the Vikes to win the division (at +160 in the BetUS odds) and will lean to the over on the total wins (-140 at BetUS), but I would not look for them to reach the conference title game.

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