NFC Opponents Seem to Weaken

While the Vikings didn't make any moves Monday, they may have improved against the last two NFC champions, who each suffered the loss of a former starter.

While things were quiet on the Vikings front Monday, their standing in the NFC took a significant jump anyway. It turned out that no news was good news for Minnesota, because bad news for some of the conference's top teams was what made headlines.

The Dallas Cowboys found star wide receiver Terrell Owens in a bit of hot water after T.O. failed to respond to a league call for him to take a random drug test. While the star receiver isn't going to be subject to a suspension for missing the call, he is now "in the system" – meaning he can be more tightly monitored.

The Chicago Bears took another step backward Monday. After having defensive standouts threatening to hold out and continuing problems at quarterback, the NFC champs from just two years ago took another hit when they released running back Cedric Benson. When the Bears dominated the NFC, they did so with the help of backfield tandem Benson and Thomas Jones. Jones was traded to the Jets prior to last season and with Benson gone, it looks as though rookie Matt Forte could be the frontrunner for the starting job.

The defending champion Giants lost Pro Bowl DE Michael Strahan, who announced his retirement via the Internet and informed the Giants brass via a text message. While Justin Tuck is a solid backup plan, there was no questioning Strahan's skill and ability, and the Giants will be a weaker team as a result.

Sometimes being anonymous is the best thing for a franchise. The Vikings weren't in the news Monday, but their standing among the top teams in the NFC could only be enhanced by the news that came out Monday. No news sometimes can be good news.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • Matt Birk's HIKE Foundation held its annual celebrity golf tournament Monday and raised $75,000, according to the Star Tribune. The HIKE Foundation raises money to help at-risk children in the Twin Cities area.

  • Former Viking Tank Williams spent part of his minicamp with the Patriots playing linebacker. While there is little chance of Williams actually playing linebacker, coach Bill Belichick loves players that can play different positions and Williams got rave reviews.

  • Things haven't been as promising for former Viking Napoleon Harris, who doesn't seem to be as excited about being a Kansas City Chief. Harris turned some heads in a different way at Chiefs minicamp. When asked if he's a happy employee, Harris said with a dead-serious tone, "I play for the Kansas City Chiefs" – a comment that wasn't very well received in the Kansas City media.

  • Houston quarterback Quinn Gray looked to have a pretty bright future this offseason. With the prospect of Sage Rosenfels being traded to the Vikings, Gray's position with the organization seemed strong. But, after a potential trade of Rosenfels to the Vikings fell through, Rosenfels remained with the Texans and Gray paid the price. On Monday, he was released.

  • A couple of more prediction precincts have been heard from. In its pro football preview magazine, The Sporting News picks the Vikings to finish 9-7, but that is projected to put them in third place in the NFC North. Athlon's predicts a similar record for the Vikings, but has it as being good enough for the Vikes to lock down a wild card playoff spot. Both publications pick the Packers to repeat as division champions.


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