Predictions varied in NFC North

Two media entities and the oddsmakers all have different opinions on the Vikings' chances to win the NFC North and/or win the Super Bowl. See what the different "experts" are saying when handicapping the NFC North.

Who is going to win the NFC North in 2009?

That is a question being posed throughout the league on the eve of the opener for most of the NFL's 32 teams Sunday. Interestingly, the answer to that question is different depending on who you ask.

In the Kickoff 2009 issue of Pro Football Weekly, all four team correspondents – beat writers for the four teams – pick the Vikings to win the division. All but the Bears correspondent pick the Packers to finish second and they all agree that the Lions will again finish last.

But the gang at USA Today sees thing very differently. Of the paper's nine-member NFL staff, only two pick the Vikings to win the division and four of them don't expect the Vikings to make the playoffs at all. For the record, five of them pick Green Bay to win the division and two pick Chicago as the NFC North champ.

Yet, directly next to their own predictions, the paper's oddsmaker, Danny Sheridan, lists the Vikings at 15:1 to win the Super Bowl. Only five teams have lower odds – New England (4:1), Pittsburgh (7:1), San Diego (7:1), Philadelphia (10:1) and the New York Giants (10:1). Both the Bears and Packers are at 28:1 and the Lions are an astronomical 1,000,000:1 longshots.

That assessment conflicts with what the boys in Las Vegas have to say about it. The Patriots, not the defending champion Steelers, are the favorites, garnering just 3:1 odds. The Vikings are down to 12:1 odds at the MGM Mirage sports book, after opening at 22:1 when the numbers first came out in late July. After Favre initially announced he would remain retired, the odds jumped to 30:1, but dropped sharply after he changed his mind. Clearly, Brett Favre's signing has made a big difference, but it isn't because of the "wise guy" business – most believe that the money the big-time gamblers put down was done before Favre signed when the odds were still high.

Surprisingly, the Bears have been the heavily bet team at the Mirage, dropping their odds all the way to 10:1 thanks to sheer volume.

So who are you going to believe? Las Vegas, the beat writers or America's newspaper? They all seem to say different things and the only thing they agree upon is that it won't be Detroit.


  • The first injury report of the regular season came out Friday. The Vikings have just three players listed. Linebacker Erin Henderson (calf) is listed as out for Sunday's game, while Bernard Berrian (hamstring) is listed as questionable and Jim Kleinsasser (hand) is listed as probable.

  • The Browns injury list is considerably deeper. Guard Rex Hadnot (knee) is listed as out, and running back Cedric Peerman (thigh) is listed as doubtful. Four players are listed as questionable – CB Eric Wright (knee), DT Shaun Rogers (foot), RB Jerome Harrison (knee) and LB David Bowens (knee) – and two players are listed as probable – TE Steve Heiden and LB Alex Hall (shoulder). Considering the way Browns coach Eric Mangini has hidden injuries in the past, expect to see both Rogers and Wright – arguably the two best Cleveland defensive players – to both play. Both practiced on a limited basis Friday. Only Hadnot and Peerman did not practice in some fashion Friday.

  • From the "Here We Go Again" Department comes this: The Patriots have put Tom Brady back on the injury report, listing him as probable with a right shoulder injury. For three years, Brady was always listed on the report as probable with the same phantom shoulder injury. The only week in the last four years that he wasn't on the list was the opening game last year, when he injured his knee and was lost for the season.

  • The Vikings may have a vested interest in the knee injury to Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu. His early prognosis is that he could miss three to six weeks, which is important to the Vikings, because they travel to Pittsburgh in Week 7 and wouldn't mind seeing the heavy-hitting Polamalu still sidelined at that time.

  • The Saints are wondering if the suspensions of defensive ends Will Smith and Charles Grant will be postponed because of the ruling in the case of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. That decision from Friday has banned the NFL from suspending them as the case gets sent to state court to address claims of violations of Minnesota's drugs in the workplace statutes. It isn't clear if Smith and Grant will be brought under that umbrella, because the motion claiming state issues was submitted in federal court only on behalf of the Williamses and not the two Saints players.

  • Billionaire Ed Roski and his Majestic Realty Co. cleared another hurdle in getting their stadium built Friday. A bill authored by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III and sponsored by 25 others will be presented to the California State Legislature for a vote to relax the California Environmental Quality Act to get around a lawsuit filed by Walnut, the neighboring city of the City of Industry, where Roski's new stadium is being proposed. The State Assembly passed the bill by a 55-17 vote late Thursday and the bill is now in the State Senate, where it was pulled off the floor before a vote. The senate asked Roski to try to settle the lawsuit with Walnut before a vote is taken. If passed, it will likely fast-track the stadium for construction, which would open the door to lure teams like the Vikings with the promise of the country's second-largest market and a new stadium waiting for a tenant.

  • Steelers head coach and former Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin is said to be in discussions for a contract extension. He is entering the third year of a five-year deal and already has a Super Bowl championship on his resume.

  • In a piece of sad injury report news, the Texans have listed safety Eugene Robinson as out for Sunday's game with the Jets. Robinson hasn't played since suffering a knee injury when Favre hit him with a crack-back block to the knees – which earned him both a penalty on the field and a $10,000 fine from the league.

  • Another reason for the NFL to seriously consider getting a new collective bargaining agreement done was evident Friday when the ratings for Thursday night's season opener were released. That game got a 12.8 rating and a 22 share – the highest ratings ever for a season-opening NFL game.

  • Former Viking Sean Salisbury has again got himself in hot water for sending photos of, for the sake of brevity, "Li'l Sean." Salisbury left ESPN as an analyst in 2008 and reports surfaced almost immediately that the reason was a photo taken by Salisbury of himself and showed to others at an ESPN-sponsored party. This week, Salisbury was fired from The Fan 105.3, a Dallas sports radio station for allegedly doing the same thing and sending it to a female promotions assistant.

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