For those who have been in the locker room at Winter Park, on the sidelines during practice or in the postgame mosh pit that is the Vikings' Metrodome locker room, one thing seems pretty certain – Brett Favre is not 100 percent.
When he's on the field, until he gets hit, he looks the same old Brett. To his eternal credit, when Adrian Peterson ran 110 yards to score an 80-yard touchdown last Sunday against the Lions, Favre ran down after him to congratulate him on the accomplishment. He didn't cover the ground like a gazelle, but to the casual fan, it looked pretty normal. On the side, it hasn't been.
Favre is still walking with a limp and, following the Lions game, he got another injection of WD40 (or something like that) in his ailing left ankle. The projected demise of the Vikings is one of the buzz topics among the multitude of websites and fan-based social networks. The general consensus is "Sure, they beat Detroit. Who doesn't beat Detroit?" The thesis is sound. The Lions have sucked for so long and the Matt Millen stink lingers on the franchise years later. Given the Murderers Row of opponents coming after the bye – at the Jets, Dallas, at Green Bay, at New England – it can legitimately be argued that if the Vikings come out of that stretch at 3-4, that would be a positive thing.
Have the Vikings dug themselves a hole? No question. Is it insurmountable? Not if the Favre we saw last year returns following the bye. If you look at Favre's numbers in the first couple of games of 2009, they weren't world-beating – a lot of check-down passes and very little risk-taking. The Vikings won both games, but they were wins over Cleveland and Detroit – a pair of franchises where hope goes to die. The Saints and Dolphins were a different story.
The NFC North isn't going to be decided until the Vikings play the Bears and Packers twice. Had Green Bay beaten the Vikings once last year, the Packers would have been division champs. The Bears have a win in hand over Green Bay, but can they beat the Vikings? If No. 4's oil change takes, don't count the Vikings out. It's rare when teams of the Vikings' and Cowboys' caliber start a season 0-2. The reason the non-playoff stat is so fat (like 87 percent of 0-2 teams don't make the playoffs) is because most of them are dismal franchises lacking star power. The Vikings have that. But they will need their biggest star to shine his brightest in the next month. If he does, it's lock-and-load time. If he is the same limping old guy witnessed behind the scenes and the balky ankle doesn't respond, the dreams of 2010 could be in jeopardy. If you're a gambler, it's hard to be against Favre. But it seems like the line at the pay window is growing on the other end of the ledger.
A year ago, many predicted Favre would fail. He responded with the best statistical season of his career. After a rocky start, Favre is being blasted again. Will he respond the same way? He's always found a way to answer the bell for the next round, so don't count him out.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.