The waiting is over.
After more than eight months of waiting to get back on the field for a game that matters in the standings, the Vikings will return to action today when they meet the Falcons in the regular-season opener.
In a game that will be viewed by less than 8 percent of the country – a total that would have been considerably less had the local FOX affiliate not stepped up to buy tickets Friday - the Vikings-Falcons tilt won't have a lot of national significance. But for the fans of both teams, it will be huge.
Both the Vikings and Falcons come into the season with a lot of questions, especially at quarterback. For the Vikings, it will be the first season under Tarvaris Jackson's leadership, as well as the debuts of Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Bobby Wade, Sidney Rice and Tank Williams and the larger role being played by Cedric Griffin, Troy Williamson, Ray Edwards and Erasmus James.
The Falcons have already been written off by many skeptics who believe Michael Vick was the only reason they had won games in the past, but clearly this is a team that has faced more distractions than any other team in the league – facing the constant barrage of dog-fighting questions and, in their own way, paying a price for what Vick pled guilty to.
Both teams are in dire need of a win today as they try to put a positive spin on their 2007 seasons. For one team, that infusion of adrenaline will be provided. For the other, it could be the start of a long, disappointing season.
While there may not be a lot of people watching around the country, there is still as much riding on this game as any other opener around the league.
* On the injury front, there is a good chance that Robert Ferguson might miss the game today, which would leave the Vikings with just four wide receivers on the roster – two of them rookies.
* The Vikings continue to talk publicly that Adrian Peterson will be used as a change-of-pace back to starter Chester Taylor. While most in the media don't believe it – the money and game-breaking ability has most of us thinking Taylor will be the change-of-pace guy for A.P. sooner not later – the Vikings seem content to stick to their guns … for now anyway.
* The Falcons haven't had a winning season since advancing to the NFC Championship Game in 2004.
* The Vikings set team records last year on offense for fewest touchdown passes (13) and first downs (272).
* No team averaged more yards rushing (183.7) a game last year than the Falcons, while no team allowed fewer yards (61.6) a game than the Vikings in 2006.
* The Falcons have been a question mark for a lot of NFL analysts who believe new coach Bobby Petrino is going to bring the same wide open short pass offense to the NFL with him. While the Falcons have built the reputation of being a running team in recent years, even before the Michael Vick debacle, the plan was to air out the ball a lot more. The Falcons showed glimpses of that offense in the preseason, but regular season opponents are going to use game film from today's game as the benchmark for what to expect from the new-look Falcons this year.
* As has become something of a Brad Childress ritual, the Vikings went to a hotel as a team Saturday night despite being at home.
* Former Vikings CB Dovonte Edwards was the victim of the Michael Strahan holdout. Signed by the Giants Monday after being waived by the Vikings, when Strahan was activated yesterday somebody had to go to make room on the 53-man roster. That guy was Edwards.
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