Could Vikes Approach 1998 Numbers?

The Vikings head into 2004 as the favorite on many observers' scorecards to win the NFC North. While most of the offseason moves were made to build up the team's defense in free agency and the draft, the Vikings have the offense that can do a lot of damage.

In 1998, the Vikings already had a solid offense heading into the season, but the addition of Randy Moss put the team over the top. By the time the season was done, the Vikings were 15-1 (their only negative a three-point loss to the Bucs in a game in which Tampa never punted or turned the ball over). In the process, the Vikings set the all-time NFL record for points in a season.

As the 2004 season approaches, several NFL experts are predicting similar results. A breakdown of the Vikings offense points to the distinct possibility that might happen.

At quarterback, Daunte Culpepper is entering his fifth season as a starter -- a time when most NFL quarterbacks blossom into the players they will end up being. With Brett Favre near the end of his road and the Lions and Bears both bringing along young QBs with little experience, a case could be made that Culpepper is the best QB in the division. Favre is a Hall of Famer, but his skills have begun to erode and he has become one-dimensional with a permanent thumb injury.

At running back, the Vikings are as loaded as they've ever been. Michael Bennett is healthy and ready to put together a couple of big-time seasons before he becomes a free agent. Moe Williams has proved to be a third-down and goal-line stud. Throw in two draft day steals in Onterrio Smith and Mewelde Moore and the Vikings may actually have too many quality backs lined up behind Culpepper.

The offensive line has two All Pro types in Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie, as well as solid players in Chris Liwienski, Dave Dixon and Mike Rosenthal. The team even has young players like Lewis Kelly and Nat Dorsey that they can groom for the future.

At wide receiver, Moss remains the most dangerous player at his position in the league. The addition of speedster Marcus Robinson could reduce the number of double teams, but the depth goes beyond them. Nate Burleson is expected to develop into a top possession receiver and Kelly Campbell has proved he can be a home run hitter when called upon.

Even the tight end position looks improved. Jim Kleinsasser came on late last year as one of Culpepper's go-to receivers and Jermaine Wiggins has the ability to stretch the field down the middle.

The Vikings have amassed as many weapons as they had in the glory days of 1998 and, whether they can duplicate those type of numbers is still to be seen, but they have put the pieces in place and it's understandable why expectations on offense are so high.

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