Thursday, March 30, 2006

Purple Ponderings

On first glance the Vikings’ 2006 schedule looks very favorable. It is easy to get carried away in March and assume the Vikings will take care of business, but the strength of schedule is definitely squishy. Looking at the number and the Vikings have reason for optimism when viewing their schedule. One major difference from last year is the divisions they face. Last year they played the AFC North and NFC South, which were two of the NFL’s strongest divisions. This year they get the AFC East and NFC west. The two divisions each had 28 total wins, tied for worst in the league.

Playing the AFC East and NFC West is very soft; five of the eight games are versus teams very bad teams. The NFC North should again grant the Vikings four to five wins. That’s nine winnable games plus New England, Carolina and Chicago at home. Some of the highlights:

At Washington: One of the highlights is the Monday night opener on ESPN. Typically the first month of the season is for overreacting, but the Vikings will quickly find out what their running game looks like. The Redskins finished in the top ten in total defense the last two seasons, and still have every starter with the possible exception of Sean Taylor.

Vs Arizona: Playing the Cardinals for the first time since the 2003 season ending loss that knocked the Vikings from the playoffs. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is no longer on the team, but Paul Allen’s horrifying call is still fresh in many Vikings fans’ heads. This is also marks Dennis Green’s first regular season return to the Metrodome.

At Seattle: With their personal off-season spitting match, the Vikings-Seahawks game at Qwest Field is interesting. If both teams play to expectations, it could also be a very interesting NFC power struggle.

At Miami: Depending on Daunte Culpepper’s recovery, he faces his old team. On an improved Dolphins team it is just the kind of game to put the Vikings in danger. Of course Culpepper tends to press in this type of game, which means a cornucopia of turnovers.

Other Thoughts:
-Two weeks ago Brad Childress said he was finished talking about Daunte Culpepper. Yesterday he took another shot at Culpepper saying the quarterback made a mistake rehabbing in Florida. The divorce was ugly, but Childress needs to get past it. He is probably right on many of the issues with Daunte, but a head coach should act more professional The greater concern is the message it sends to his current players. What happens when someone holds out or breaks a team rule?

-While Kevin Burleson would fit well in the West Coast offense, the Vikings should let him go to Seattle. The contract is outrageous and they will end up with a 3rd round pick anyway. Burleson struggled with injuries and inconsistency last year, but will do well with Matt Hasselbach and Mike Holmgren’s offense.
-If the Vikings do receive the Seahawks’ draft pick it, they will hold five day one draft picks. With many of their immediate needs addressed through free agency, the Vikings can draft for depth and development. Linebacker, quarterback and offensive line are the largest needs for the first day of the draft.

-The NFL cracking down on end zone celebrations is ridiculous. Chad Johnson created interest and excitement each time he scored. When he scored in Detroit and didn’t celebrate, the disappointed Lions fans booed him. What more evidence does the competition committee need? NFL fans want entertainment. Using planted props like Terrell Owens and Joe Horn is overboard, but don’t stifle players like Johnson simply trying to have fun. If it's vulgar or excessively long in length, throw a flag, but if it's just entertainment let it go. If you want a rule how about the Dwayne Rudd Rule? Celebrating 2 yard losses or 8 yard gains warrants a five yard penalty. Another caveat: if the end zone celebration is poorly executed, it’s a five yard penalty on the PAT.’s dinosaur Gil Brandt is already preparing for the 2007 NFL Draft. Give it a rest. Brandt is one of the guys that loves his numbers and gives lame insight about how one gentleman A's 40 time was .3 seconds faster than hoodlum B.