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2006 Minnesota Vikings Preview

By Robert Ferringo of Doc's Sports Journal

A recent Forbes study indicated that the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area placed second on a list of America's Drunkest Cities. Looking back, we should have known that Koren Robinson didn't stand a chance.

The estranged receiver was cut by the Vikings last week. The move, a moral stance by the organization that gave us The Love Boat, was appropriate but it left Minnesota dangerously thin a wide receiver. Now, the team that just a few short years ago boasted the lethal Moss-Carter-Reed trifecta is now going to battle with Travis Taylor and Marcus Robinson. Ouch.

But the good news is that just five short years after their NFC Championship Game mauling at the hands of the rougher, tougher New York Giants, the Vikings organization has come to the realization that running the football and playing good defense wins in the National Football League. Not a moment too soon.

Minnesota went out and spent big bucks on Tony Richardson, Chester Taylor and Steve Hutchinson. With Steady Brad Johnson manning the controls, it's obvious that the Vikes are geared towards a more controlled, time-consuming attack. The dirty little secret of this team is that, at least on paper, they may have the defense to pull it off. If he can keep the strippers, booze and crazed North Dakotans away from his crew, new head coach Brad Childress has a chance to make some noise up North.

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Here's Doc's 2006 Minnesota Vikings Preview:

  • 2005 Record: 9-7 (6-2 home, 3-5 road)
  • 2005 Rankings: 25th offense (20th pass, 27th rush); 21st defense (22nd pass, 19th rush)
  • 2005 Against the Spread: 9-7 (6-2 home, 3-5 road); 5-11 vs. total (3-5 h, 2-6 r)
  • 2006 Odds: 70/1 to win SB, 15/1 to win NFC, 2.5 to win NFC North, 8.0 wins O/U
  • 2006 Strength of Schedule: 29th (.457 opp. win %)
  • Key stat: Since 2000, the Vikings are just 5-25 straight-up as a road underdogs. They are 14-16 ATS in those situations.
Returning starters: 12 (4 offense, 8 defense)
Key acquisitions: Steve Hutchinson, OG (from Seattle); Tony Richardson, FB (from K.C.); Chester Taylor, RB (from Baltimore); Tank Williams, S (from Tenn.); Artis Hicks, OG (from Philly); Ryan Longwell, K (from G.B.); Ben Leber, LB (from S.D.); Greg Blue, S (draft).
Key departures: Brian Williams, CB; Chad Greenway, LB (injury); Michael Bennett, RB; Nate Burleson, WR; Corey Chavous, S; Daunte Culpepper, QB; Sam Cowart, LB; Paul Edinger, K; Keith Newman, LB; Moe Williams.

Offense: The Vikings brought back the fewest offensive starters in the league. However, the guys they added are true professionals. It may take awhile to gel, but again, they're trying to shift to a grinding, pounding attack so the learning curve should be small. Their offensive line now averages a burly 320 pounds. I expect Minnesota to remain an under play, at least until those totals start hovering under 40 on a consistent basis. Troy Williamson needs to step up as a big-play guy to help the slower, older wideouts.

Defense: Minnesota is large at the point of attack and has a very talented, savvy veteran secondary. The problem is their linebackers suck. Leber is a plugger but E.J. Henderson hasn't proven he can handle the middle. New DC Mike Tomlin is attempting to institute a Tampa-2 system, and the Vikes first team has looked pretty solid in preseason. They gave up 81 points in four exhibitions last year, but have sacrificed just 33 in three games this summer.

X-factor: Matt Birk. The offensive line was a wreck without the former Pro Bowl center. Word around the campfire is that he is 100 percent, and anchoring a line that, with Hutch and Bryant McKinnie, could be dominating.

Outlook: It's like a friggin' broken record with this division. New coach. Coming off a couple disappointing years. Underachievers need to step up. Philosophical shift. Make-or-break year. Talent on paper. Need to be more consistent. I'm sorry, but that's all that's going down in the North. It's under construction. No one is really ready to challenge the Bears - not to say they won't or can't - but if there is a surprise team waiting to happen this season, it's probably not going to be Minnesota. After three straight nine-win seasons I don't know if, while learning two new systems, they're ready to take the next step.

Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at robert@docsports.com.

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