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2007 Season Previews
Minnesota Vikings (Last Year: 6-10)
Veteran Additions:
WR Bobby Wade, WR Todd Lowber, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, MLB Vinny Ciurciu, S Mike Doss.
Draft Picks:
QB Tyler Thigpen, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Sidney Rice, WR Aundrae Allison, WR Chandler Williams, DE Brian Robison, OLB Rufus Alexander, CB Marcus McCauley.
Major Subtractions:
QB Brad Johnson (DAL), FB Joey Goodspeed, WR Travis Taylor (OAK), TE Jermaine Wiggins (JAX), OT Mike Rosenthal (MIA), DT Ross Kolodziej, OLB Rod Davis, MLB Napoleon Harris (KC), CB Fred Smoot (WAS), KR Bethel Johnson (PHI).

Offense This Year: I think it's pretty safe to say that Minnesota's offense has yet to discover the second dimension. The Vikings are about as one-dimensional as you can possibly get. They definitely had that attribute in 2006, and I'm pretty confident they'll keep it this season.

I was thinking about listing the negatives first, but let's keep this preview glass half full. Minnesota has one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL. Chester Taylor gained 1,216 yards and six touchdowns last year. Taylor will now split his carries with Adrian Peterson, a dynamic prospect who was chosen seventh overall in April's draft. Peterson and Taylor could be close to unstoppable, thanks to an offensive line that is extremely potent on the left side. Tackle Bryant McKinnie, guard Steve Hutchinson and center Matt Birk are as good as it gets. I'm not a huge fan of the right side - guard Artis Hicks is very mediocre and right tackle Ryan Cook is entering his second season - but fullback Tony Richardson makes up for it. Richardson, despite his age (35), is one of the top run-blockers at his position in the entire league.

Unfortunately, we have to talk about the aerial attack now, which was atrocious at best in 2006. Brad Johnson led the team to a 6-8 record, thanks to 15 interceptions and only nine touchdowns. Tarvaris Jackson started the final two games of the season, but was a complete mess. Jackson was responsible for three picks and three fumbles in those contests. I know he was only a rookie, but he wasn't exactly highly touted coming out of Alabama State. The Vikings selected him in the second round, but he was seen as a fourth- or a fifth-round prospect by most experts. I could be wrong about Jackson. He could evolve into a solid quarterback. I really doubt that he will, but you never know.

Of course, it wasn't really Jackson's fault that he had no one to throw to. His top receivers were Travis Taylor (651 yards, 3 TDs), a mediocre player who was a bust for the Ravens, and Troy Williamson (455 yards, 0 TDs), a workout warrior who duped Minnesota into taking him with a top-10 pick a few years ago. Williamson drops more passes than any other wide out in the NFL.

Neither receiver will be in the starting lineup in 2007. Taylor's with the Raiders, while Williamson will be warming the bench, if he even makes the team. The Vikings signed Bobby Wade, whom they overpaid for. Wade's nothing more than a No. 3 in this league. Minnesota drafted Sidney Rice in the second round and Aundrae Allison in the fifth, so it remains to be seen how well they'll play. The good news is Rice is already listed as a starter on the depth chart. At tight end, Visanthe Shiancoe, another unproven commodity, will replace Jermaine Wiggins, who signed with the Jaguars.

Defense This Year: Remember when Minnesota started 4-2? Their defense looked impenetrable. No one could run on them, and no offense scored 20 points against the Vikings until the day before Halloween. The torrid commencement to the campaign reached its pinnacle with an inexplicable 31-13 victory at Seattle. Everyone was talking about the purple and gold defense that was so difficult to score on.

That quickly changed when the Patriots provided the league with a blueprint of how to beat Minneaota. New England embarrassed the Vikings, 31-7, by throwing on almost every single down. Tom Brady finished with 372 yards and four touchdowns, numbers that could have been a lot worse if the Patriots weren't on cruise control in the fourth quarter. The Vikings went on to finish the season with a 2-8 record, surrendering 23.2 points per game from that point on. Minnesota's secondary was responsible for 3,818 passing yards.

I'm not confident the Vikings have done enough to improve that aspect of their defense. They collected just 30 sacks in 2006, as no lineman registered more than 5.5 (Darrion Scott). I know Erasmus James only played two games, but he notched just three sacks in eight starts in 2005. There's no guarantee that his return will spark a morbid pass rush. Defensive end Kenechi Udeze has to be the player to step up. A former first-round pick, Udeze failed to record a single sack last season. I realize Udeze was coming off an injury he suffered in 2005, but he contributed nothing to the stop unit in terms of getting to the quarterback.

Like the defensive front, it appears as though the secondary won't be much better than it was a year ago. Antoine Winfield, who picked off four passes in 2006, remains the leader of the unit. Fred Smoot is gone, forcing second-year Cedric Griffin into the lineup on a full-time basis. Griffin started seven games as a rookie and looked pretty promising. The No. 3 corner will be Marcus McCauley, who was just drafted in the third round. While McCauley certainly has the talent to succeed in the NFL, people have questioned his work ethic. The cornerback position doesn't seem bad, so the Vikings' problem must stem from the safeties. Darren Sharper, who turns 32, is past his prime, while Dwight Smith just isn't that talented. Minnesota signed Mike Doss, who underachieved in Indianapolis.

Another player the Vikings will get back from injury is outside linebacker Chad Greenway, who got hurt in the preseason last year. Greenway will join Ben Leber and E.J. Henderson in what should be a solid and deep linebacking corps that helped the defense achieve the league's top ranking against the run. It's a pity they can't do much about the front four's inability to get to the quarterback.

Schedule and Intangibles: Minnesota is just 6-30 when playing outdoors the past five seasons. Remarkably, three of those victories came at Lambeau Field. ... Speaking of Lambeau, a big signing last year was former Packer Ryan Longwell. Talk about a disappointment. Longwell was just 4-of-8 from beyond 40 yards. Of course the Vikings should have expected this; Longwell was 13-of-20 past 30 yards in 2006. ... Bethel Johnson, who handled the kick-return duties, signed with the Eagles. Mewelde Moore, the punt returner, is still on the team. Minnesota scored and surrendered one special-teams touchdown. ... The Vikings begin their season against Atlanta, Detroit, Kansas City and Green Bay, so there's a shot they could start 2-2 or even 3-1. However, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Diego and Green Bay (on the road) all loom right after the bye. How does a 2-7 or 3-6 record sound after 10 weeks?

Additional Reading: Endless Banter coming soon.

Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

Divisional Rival History:
Chicago Bears: The home team has won nine of 10. The lone exception was a Bears 19-16 victory in 2006.
Detroit Lions: Domination. The Vikings have somehow won 15 of the past 16 meetings.
Green Bay Packers: If Favre can't win in domes, how did Green Bay sweep Minnesota last season? There has actually been a sweep in this series the past three years. The Packers did it in 2006 and 2004, and the Vikings managed to do so in 2005.

Fantasy Football:
Tarvaris Jackson: I'll be more than happy to eat crow if I'm wrong about Tarvaris Jackson. In the mean time, my projected stats speak for themselves.
Projected Stats: 1,900 passing yards. 9 passing TDs. 450 rushing yards. 5 rushing TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 224.

Adrian Peterson: Four words any fantasy player doesn't want to hear: Running back by committee. No one but Brad Childress knows how the number of carries will be split between Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson.
Projected Stats: 800 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 6 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 131.

Chester Taylor: Chester Taylor rushed for 1,216 yards last year. That number may be cut in half with Adrian Peterson on the roster.
Projected Stats: 700 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 109.

Visanthe Shiancoe: I know he was stuck behind Jeremy Shockey, but Visanthe Shiancoe has never registered more than 100 receiving yards in a single season.
Projected Stats: 250 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 31.

Bobby Wade: A mediocre receiver catching passes from a quarterback who can't throw. Hmmm...
Projected Stats: 550 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 73.

Sidney Rice: Expect Sidney Rice to do great things once there's a real quarterback in the backfield.
Projected Stats: 350 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 41.

Aundrae Allison: Just see what I wrote about Sidney Rice.
Projected Stats: 250 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected Fantasy Points: 31.

Ryan Longwell: Hasn't had a good season since 2004. Stay away.
Projected Stats: 21-26 FG (1-3 50+). 28 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 97.

Minnesota Defense: The Vikings don't get sacks or shutouts. No point in drafting their defense.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Bottom 10 Defense.

Analysis: There's a reason why quarterback is the most important position in football. Unless I'm completely wrong about Tarvaris Jackson, it looks like the Vikings will find out the hard way.

Projection: 3-13 (4th in the NFC North)

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