The Brett Favre era is officially over in Minnesota, but the Donovan McNabb era has begun. At this point, Vikings fans are praying that the Christian Ponder era isn’t far off.
The Vikings exemplify just how easy it is to fall from contender to bottom-feeder in this league. Only a year ago they were coming off an appearance in the conference championship game and considered to be a prime Super Bowl candidate. Now, without a whole lot of personnel changes, they’re expected to struggle in 2011.
In the NFL, a few tweaks can change the entire outlook of a team.
2010 in a nutshell: Favre has quite possibly his worst season as a pro and sees his consecutive starts streak come to an end as the Vikings struggle from start to finish. They wind up with a 6-10 record to land in last place in their division for the first time since 1984.
Three predictions for 2011:
1. Donovan McNabb and the passing game will struggle: McNabb knows the new offense, but the rest of his teammates are still trying to grasp it. He inherits a unit that is down a No. 1 receiver in Sidney Rice (signed with Seattle) and a starting left tackle in Bryant McKinnie (released earlier this month). McNabb is done. He was horrible for much of last season in Washington, and there’s no reason to believe things will be any better in Minneapolis. Christian Ponder might have been a better option from the get-go, but he doesn’t appear to be ready. Thanks for that, lockout.
2. Adrian Peterson will have his best season yet: That’s saying a lot, but I really think Peterson will have a big year in Bill Musgrave’s new offense. He’ll likely catch more passes, and his carries might shoot up if the passing game struggles. Peterson is 26, fully healthy and coming off a season in which he improved his averages while taking on a lesser load. He’ll be fresh this season, and it appears he’s fixed his fumble problem. Watch for a monster season from “All Day.”
3. The defense will take a step backward: The defense is basically the same from a schematic standpoint, but the absence of Ray Edwards might hurt. Edwards provided lots of pressure on the opposite side of Jared Allen and helped save a secondary that dealt with myriad problems in 2010. The Vikings had the league’s No. 8-ranked defense but registered just 31 sacks last year. Without Edwards, who recorded 16.5 sacks overs the last two seasons, the Vikes might have some serious problems getting to opposing quarterbacks.
The final word(s): It’s going to be a very long year. They’ll win five or six games and finish last in the NFC North.