Conspiracy Theory?

The $40 million signing of Adrian Peterson raised a few eyebrows around the NFL. The bar was raised on salaries for running backs everywhere. But, the signing may be the key to the Vikings getting off to a solid start in 2007, which has some wondering if everything is coming up roses for the purple and gold.

Conspiracy theories are part of the fabric of American culture. Sunday's signing of Adrian Peterson could have the theorists in a tizzy.

The NFL keeps stats on everything. Among them is that, if a team starts the season 0-3, there is almost no hope of making the playoffs. It's been done. Twice. Since 1993, two teams (the Bills and the Lions) have made the playoffs with a season starting with three losses.

There were some that believed the Vikings could get off to such a start. The last time Vikings fans saw Michael Vick at the Metrodome, he was racing 50 yards at twice the speed of any defender for an overtime win. The Falcons are the Vikings' first opponent.

According to local myth, Jon Kitna has all but guaranteed 10 or more wins this year for the Lions. Surely the home opener would have to be a slam dunk. Apparently Kitna isn't aware that the Lions have lost 10 straight times to the Vikings – or that his six interceptions in two games against the Vikings may have contributed from that streak extending from eight to 10 in 2006. The Lions are the Vikings second opponent.

The Vikings next travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs – one of the toughest venues in the NFL. It's arguably the loudest open-air stadium in the league and a place opponents don't like going to under any circumstances … until Sunday.

This is where the conspiracy theory comes into play.

The Chiefs are currently embroiled in a contract dispute with Larry Johnson, who finds himself coming off a record-setting season in which he is scheduled to make $1.9 million this season. Why? Because he signed a contract before the last potential work stoppage and the economy has changed – big time.

While Peterson's deal won't meet the $40.5 million that is written into it, $17 million is guaranteed and more than $30 million can be achieved with ease, barring injury. Several benchmarks have been written into the deal, among them being if he tops 1,000 yards in a season. Do it twice and almost all of the contract is enforced.

Before Sunday, Johnson was holding out of training camp with the Chiefs looking for LaDainian Tomlinson money. Now he's holding out for Peterson money. While it could make next weekend's scrimmages with the Chiefs more exciting (memo to Childress: limit A.P.'s exposure to potential Chiefs' hits), it could make L.J. and his people dig in their heels even deeper. By the way, the Chiefs are the Vikings' third opponent of the regular season.

Conspiracy or not, do the math. Start 0-3 and you have almost no chance of making the playoffs. Start 3-0 and you're a 90 percent shot of being in the postseason. A month ago, if someone said the Vikings would be 3-0 to start the season, you would likely request Lindsay Lohan to drive the car at closing time. A month later, the stars have aligned that the Vikings will get Joey Harrington, the Lions and a Chiefs team with the potential of having Michael Bennett as their go-to back.

Conspiracy or not, it looks like 3-0 from here.


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