Over at Sports Jabber (http://sportsjabber.net), I have a friend who enjoys being a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and he is also a host on the Sports Jabber Radio Show (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sports-jabber) I had to bring him into my blog for a few questions.
1. What do you see as the strengths/weaknesses of the Vikings and the Cowboys?
The Cowboys have weaknesses? ESPN has been telling me they’re unstoppable and you KNOW I trust ESPN….
Seriously, both of these teams are very very good. They also have a lot of similarities. The WR corps for both are staffed with a list of players who would not be on anyone’s “Who’s Who” of the NFL. The quarterbacks are both in the gunslinger mode but riding a string of success unparalleled in their careers to this point. The defenses sport excellent pass rushers.
If I had to pick one weakness for the Cowboys it would be their linebacker play. I don’t think the squad does well getting off blocks and making tackles in the running game. This has been largely hidden in the previous few games because the Redskins are just awful and the Eagles will not run the ball. Ever. Won’t do it. If the Vikings can get Peterson to the second level, they will control the game and the Cowboys will be in trouble.
For the Vikings, the biggest weakness is also on defense and involves the linebackers, but it’s in the passing game. I expect Jason Witten to have a pretty big game. There’s a rookie LB out there who’s going to draw the coverage assignments on him. And frankly, the safety play of the Vikings has been pretty suspect all year. This has been masked in most games because the Vikings have controlled the game on the offensive side of the ball and made the other teams one-dimensional.
Both teams are loaded with strengths. As mentioned, Romo and Favre are both having career years. Miles Austin and Sidney Rice are having breakout seasons. And don’t forget the running games. MBIII and Felix Jones are a great one-two punch but the Vikings are doing OK with a guy named Peterson – who led the league in TDs – and Chester Taylor.
All that said, this game will come down to offensive line play. If the Vikings can keep D-Ware and Spencer off of Favre without going “max protect” all game, that will go a long way toward winning the game. Likewise, if Gurode can keep Phat Pat Williams out of the backfield, the Cowboys chances of victory will increase greatly.
Should be a good one.
2. Has the focus on the team changed from Adrian Peterson to Brett Favre?
I don’t think so even though it looks that way sometimes during the games. You have to remember that the reason Favre is throwing as much as he is has a lot to do with the defense keying on Peterson. Also, a lot of the open receivers are due to the presence of All Day.
That being said, the Vikings are dangerous because they do the two things you have to do to win in the playoffs; they can run the ball and stop the run. This is still Peterson’s team. I think the fact that he had his best receiving year (40+) and scored 18 TDs is a big indicator of that.
3. Vikings have been in the playoffs without Brett Favre, they got him to get to the next level, Super Bowl. Would it be a failure if the Vikings don’t get there?
On some levels, obviously. To me, though, the biggest difference Favre has made to this team is the level of possibilities. Players on the team have also stated that.
With Tarvaris Jackson the furthest they could have made it would have been where they finished last year – one and done in the playoffs with a division championship. Even if they repeat that this year, they’ll go home knowing they could have beaten any of the teams left. Will they? That’s why they play the games, as the saying goes. So if the Vikings don’t make the Super Bowl I’ll be disappointed but not terribly upset. They had a great year; Favre had the year of his life.
At some point, though, only one team from the NFC can make it that far. The fact that they have as good or better of a chance than anyone else is big.
4. You going to the game on Sunday?
No. I was a season ticket owner for 10 years, but prefer to cower in my basement these days…. Actually, I had several offers to go to the game but I’m going to watch it with a few friends at my house or perhaps a local establishment. The noise in that place is going to be off the charts. If you’re going be sure to take earplugs.
5. What’s on the tailgate menu for Sunday?
We’re pretty simple tailgaters, really. I have a keg of Foster’s in the kegerator, so you can guarantee that. I’ll probably have some burgers, maybe a dog or two. If the Vikings manage to win, I’ll likely take a shot of the Tres Generaciones Anejo tequila I have; maybe two. After all, I don’t work Monday.
I do have a friend who excels at creative breakfast tailgating. Last time I was down at the lot with him he cooked pumpkin pancakes with an apple chutney topping. Absolutely outstanding!
I would like to thank Mark for graciously giving his time to answer a few questions for me.