We're less than 48 hours from kickoff up in Minnesota between the Dolphins and Vikings. And considering SB Nation has one of the best Vikings blogs on the net, it only makes sense to turn to the Daily Norseman for some insight into the Vikings.
I'd like to welcome in Eric Thompson from DN. Eric and I exchanged five questions earlier this week. If you head over to the Daily Norseman, you will see my responses to his Dolphin questions. Below are Eric's thoughts on the Vikings and this week's game.
Q: It seems like even though the Vikings were the dominant NFC North team last year and were a few turnovers away from representing the NFC in the Super Bowl, many in the media (myself included) have picked Green Bay not only to win the division but to reach the Super Bowl. Why do you think the Vikings been disrespected by many heading into 2010? And do you think the players have taken notice of this?
Good question. I think a big chunk of the media downplaying the Vikings probably has to do with Favre Fatigue. Everyone is sick of the annual runaround, and his health was a big concern going into the season. I'm convinced that Favre is some sort of human/cyborg hybrid (how else do you explain his durability?), so I'm not too worried about his health. However, you can't expect him to have the type of year he had last year, and I don't think most analysts expect it either.
But I think most of the "disrespect" has more to do with the great expectations for the Packers. Personally I think people are getting a little too excited about their preseason, but I'll be the first to admit that the Packers should be a force to be reckoned with in the NFC North. Their offense is going to put up a ton of points as long as their offensive line doesn't get Aaron Rodgers killed. Of course all of us at the Daily Norseman have noticed (and documented) the disrespect, and I'm sure the Viking players are using it as motivation at least to some degree.
Q: In the season opener last week, it was clear that Brett Favre was still shaking off the rust. I'm sure we probably won't see the real Favre for another couple of weeks as he essentially uses this early part of the season as his personal training camp. Does that bother Vikings fans? Do you ever stop and think that the team might have won last week, for example, if Brett actually participated in most of training camp?
There's no doubt that Favre and his receivers looked out of sync last Thursday. He looked pretty rusty and he missed some relatively easy throws. It definitely makes us wonder how many of those he completes if would have been there from the beginning. But it probably has more to do with the personnel he was playing with than his lack of playing time. The Vikes really missed Sidney Rice last week--without him as a deep threat, the Saints secondary was able to shrink the field and press receivers more. Even if Favre was in camp, he wouldn't have been able to get reps in with Percy Harvin thanks to his migraines. Forget the same page; Harvin and Favre weren't even reading the same book last week. Favre has been playing for roughly eleventy billion years--he doesn't need a full training camp to know the offense. But he does need receivers he can rely on, and it seemed like Visanthe Shiancoe was the only one he had in Week 1.
That said, of course it bugs the hell out of Vikings fans! We were all fairly certain he was coming back right at the end of training camp all along--we just wish the guy would admit it right away so the team could plan accordingly. (Wait a second, what am I saying? I blog about the Vikings and Favre single-handedly carried our site through the last two months of summer!)
Q: Obviously a hot topic in Miami this week has been having to face former Dolphin Greg Camarillo, who was very popular among Dolphin fans. We've already seen one former Dolphins receiver come back and light up the Dolphins on a seemingly regular basis (Wes Welker, of course). Needless to say, many Fin fans are paranoid that this might happen again. But Camarillo played sparingly against the Saints a week ago. Is he going to see more action as he learns the offense? And what kind of impression has Greg made with his new teammates and new fans?
Yeah, what is it with you guys giving away versatile slot receivers? We're definitely excited about the Greg Camarillo era, and I think he'll be used more and more as the season goes on. He was another big part of the unfamiliar personnel problem we had in New Orleans since he just recently joined the team. Greg looked good for the short time he was in there, and many commenters on our site were upset that he didn't get more playing time at the beginning of the game. Plus, he's probably telling the Vikings coaching staff all sorts of juicy secrets about the Dolphins as we speak! Can't hurt, right?
Q: I was very impressed with how Minnesota's defense played a week ago. Anytime you limit the Saints to just two scoring drives, you've done an excellent job. What was the secret, particularly in limiting New Orleans' passing attack, to their success? And how do you see the Vikings adjusting their defense to go up against a more physical "pound the rock" offense like Miami's rather than a more vertical offense like that of the Saints?
The defense undoubtedly exceeded expectations against the Saints, especially with a secondary that was paper-thin due to injuries. While I thought it was a solid performance, the Saints offense didn't quite look like the juggernaut they were last season either. Brees missed a couple open receivers that could have gone for big plays. And remember, they probably would have had four scoring drives if Garrett Hartley wasn't kicking with two hands firmly placed around his throat. I think the biggest factor of slowing the Saints down was simply having E.J. Henderson back on the field. The defense really struggled after he went down last season, especially on the road. Having Henderson shoring up the middle and covering short routes allowed our defense to drop more into coverage so we didn't get burned by the New Orleans aerial attack as much as most of us anticipated.
As for Miami's run-first attack, it should play right into the Vikings' strength. Minnesota has been one of the toughest teams in the league to run on for the past handful of years, and I don't see this year being any different. The Saints' ability to run out the clock with their rushing attack was a bit of a red flag last week, but I know Vikings fans are much more concerned with our beat up secondary than the ability of our front seven to stuff the run.
Q: Give me one player who Dolphin fans might not know about right now but will know very well by the end of the game on Sunday. And give us a quick prediction - who wins and why?
Well we have this new receiver...oh crap, you know him already. I could go a lot of directions here. I'll go with a guy that doesn't get many headlines in Minnesota yet week in and week out proves to be an integral part of our defense: linebacker Ben Leber. Our front four gets most of the pub, and everyone knows Henderson thanks to his gruesome injury and comeback. Antoine Winfield finally got the Pro Bowl respect he deserved last year. But Leber gives the defense a ton of flexibility, and he always seems to be around the ball. He doesn't have one area of his game that's completely outstanding, but he does everything very well. He always seems to get a big play--whether it's a batted pass, interception, crucial tackle, or forced fumble--at the right time.
My prediction: Vikings 27, Dolphins 17. The Vikes are extremely tough to beat in the Metrodome as our 9-0 home record proved last year. We're great against the run, and I don't think Chad Henne is ready for prime time just yet. The ten days of preparation are just what the doctor ordered to get our offense in order. And finally, because, like, Greg Camarillo is totally gonna give us the 411 about all those tricky formations the Fins run and stuff!
Here's to a fun and entertaining game with no injuries on Sunday. Can't wait!
A big thanks to Eric for his thoughts. And remember to head over to DN to see my responses to his questions.