2007 Review: The Vikings got off to miserable start but managed to finish the season 8-8, riding a five-game winning streak from mid-November to mid-December before dropping their last two contests and ultimately missing out on the playoffs. Minnesota ranked 13th in the NFL in total offense (first in rushing, 28th in passing) and 20th in total defense (first against the run, 32nd against the pass).
Offensively Speaking: The Vikings offense, which could have been in shambles last year without the emergence of Adrian Peterson as the Offensive Rookie of the Year, should be improved and more balanced this season. The continued progression of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who was 8-4 as a starter last year, should be aided by the addition of former Bear Bernard Berrian. Berrian is expected to be a more consistent deep threat than Troy Williamson, who struggled to catch the ball in wide-open, game-crucial situations. Berrian and big-bodied receiver Sidney Rice should take some pressure off of Jackson if defenses continue to stack the line to stop Peterson.
The biggest question mark on offense remains Jackson, but the front office and ownership have given him the surrounding talent to succeed.
Defensively Speaking: Likewise, the defense is expected to be markedly better as well, with the addition of last year's sacks leader, Jared Allen, filling the team's most obvious offseason need. The Vikings improved their sack production in 2007, but many of those came on blitzes while no one player had more than five. Allen's 15½ sacks from 2007 should be just what the defensive coordinator ordered.
WR Bernard Berrian
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
Replacing Dwight Smith with Madieu Williams at safety is also believed to make the team a bit more athletic in the defensive backfield and, therefore, more opportunistic with pressure-induced turnovers.
Outsider's Perspective: "The loss of Berrian could hurt the offense to some degree, but I don't see too many other free-agent losses that will adversely affect the Bears. The problem is that I don't see any veteran additions that will significantly help the team either, and the discontent and off-the-field troubles of several high-profile starters seems like it could be the unraveling of a veteran team – especially on defense.
"Offensively, I see much of their success dependant on Rex Grossman's progression, just as the Vikings are relying on Jackson, but I don't see the support in Chicago that I do in Minnesota." – Tim Yotter, VikingUpdate.com
2008 Preview: Peterson was almost unstoppable as a rookie and looks like a young Eric Dickerson, so imagine how good he can be if Jackson finds a way to hit Berrian deep down the field consistently. Allen could be better than ever now that he has Kevin Williams and Pat Williams occupying all those blockers on the interior, and the secondary has nowhere to go but up at this point. With all the uncertainty in Green Bay, having to replace eventual Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre with yet-to-make-a-start Aaron Rodgers, the Vikings will be considered the favorites in the NFC North by many prognosticators.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.