Hope eternal, or hope anew, the Vikings hit the bye week at 7-1, having won a big rivalry game at Lambeau to take control of the North Division. As we are given two weeks to rest for the upcoming second half of the season, we pause and reflect as to why we are who we are.
The first difference, and biggest, is Brett Favre. He has brought leadership and skill to the QB position. His numbers are solid. In the NFL he is 5th in pass completions (174), 5th in attempts (256) and 4th in percentage (68). His yardage total of 1,925 is 8th best, his yards per attempt at 7.52 is 10th overall. Favre is tied for first in TD passes with 16, and he has only been intercepted three times, while sacked eighteen. His passer rating (106) is 4th in the league.
Newest addition Percy Harvin has had a great impact with kick returns and receiving. Harvin has modest numbers in the offense with 8 rushes for 39 yards, and 28 receptions for 369 yards and three TDs. However, as a kick returner he rivals the best in the game. Harvin has outperformed Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns, considered by many to be the best in the NFL. Harvin has three less returns (31-28), for the same 860 yards, and has two TDs to Cribbs' one. Harvin is in the top three in the NFL in attempts, yards, average, and TDs. He is on pace for 2,536 total yards and ten TDs. Not bad for a skipped over first rounder.
The emergence of Sidney Rice, along with the red-zone efforts of Visanthe Shiancoe has boosted the passing game in 2009. Rice has 37 catches for 585 yards (6th in NFL). Shiancoe has 22 catches for 203 yards and 6 TDs (2nd). Rice seemingly hauls in everything thrown his way, unlike his predecessor Troy Williamson. Shiancoe appears to be faster and stronger than anyone expected to cover him. Rice is on pace to break 1,000 yards while Shiancoe is headed for double-digit scores.
The running game is Adrian Peterson, and he has not disappointed. He is regularly running by, around or over opposing tacklers, a human highlight reel on a game-by-game basis. Peterson is on pace to rush for 1,568 yards and 18 TDs. He averages 4.81 yards per attempt. Critics point to a reduction in numbers from 2008, but we in the know see the same guy. Maybe better. AP has 19 receptions for 189 yards this season, and is on pace for near 2,000 total yards.
The Vikings offense is 2nd in scoring to the Saints, albeit nine points behind. We are 10th in the league in yardage, 12th is rushing, 12th in passing. A balanced attack that scores better than it moves the ball.
Defensively, the Vikings are first in the league in sacks. That, combined with their overall 7th rating in rush yardage allowed (94.8 ypg) makes them strong. Only one team has allowed fewer rushing TDs. We are 23rd in the league in pass yards allowed, averaging 237.9 per game. The Achilles heel of the team is exactly that. Most realize that this will have to be addressed in order to go deep in the playoffs.
Finally, Brad Childress and the coaching staff have had a decent year. If you polled all Vikings' diehards, you might find more disagree, but no one can argue with 7-1 record and a sweep of the Packers. That is Bud Grant like. How much Childress contributes to drafts, free agents, and roster selection is unknown to me, but I would assume he has input. No one will argue with our last few drafts. No one will complain now about the arrival of Brett Favre. Sorry diehards, but that contract extension is looking as likely as a cold February in the Twin Cities.
Yes, we are a good football team this year. The pessimists have less and less ammunition each game. The critics, well they will never stop until the day we win the biggest, most unattainable prize. So far, in this season, we seem to have another solid chance. Hope eternal, for me.