The top three teams in the NFL, according to the Las Vegas odds-makers, are the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles and then our Minnesota Vikings. Last weekend, New England lost to Cincinnati, 31-3. Philadelphia beat a good Baltimore Ravens team 26-17 while losing starting running back Correll Buckhalter for the season due to a knee injury, leaving the Eagles rather thin at running back.
These quick examples show how vulnerable teams can be week in and week out, but the way the Vikings' starters played against the Atlanta Falcons, you had the feeling the offense could score at will and the defense was going to have a rather easy shutout. At that level of play in the NFL, why not just give the Vikings the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and let's get on with it. However, every Super Bowl team gets many great breaks throughout their winning season, like scheduling, the ball bouncing their way to help the turnover ratio, favorable calls from the officials (of course), and then comes the most important factor of all — injuries, especially to key players and at positions where a team is very thin.
Good teams have durable regulars plus many above-average players throughout the depth chart. At this time, that is what the Vikings have, except at defensive back. The Vikings had a quick 17-0 lead midway through the second period when the Falcons' rookie backup quarterback, Matt Schaub, came in and completed 16 of 19 passes — almost an 85 percent completion rate — for 205 yards and three touchdowns. With Schaub having such success, the Vikings right now are looking on the waiver list for potentially qualified cornerbacks. With the depth at other positions, remember, there still are trade possibilities.
But staying healthy is obviously the most important factor. When all those other factors do enter into a successful season, it can turn good teams into Super Bowl teams. When fate breaks the other way, it can create an average record for a very talented roster. That's what happened to the 1972 Vikings, the team still considered the best in franchise history in the eyes of their all-time great trainer Fred Zamberletti, despite that team finishing with a 7-7 record. Everybody has their opinion, and my opinion is that if these 2004 Vikings stay healthy everything else will fall in line.
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