Sunday slant: That's what a QB looks like

It's been so long since the Vikings have had a truly great quarterback really running an offense that fans may have forgotten how much difference it can make. Brett Favre is simply making a joke out of the other NFC North signal-callers, and when is the last time the Vikings could say that about one of their own? Plus more evidence of Detroit's drab days and several quick quotes and jabs.

Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but too much time away can make people simply forget. Maybe that's what happened with Vikings fans. Maybe they simply forgot how much difference a quarterback can make.

It's always been called the most important position on the field, but when the team you follow doesn't field a truly great quarterback in over a decade, it's hard to recall what a fine-tuned offense can look like.

It seems to me the last time the Vikings had a truly efficient decision-maker under center was in the mid-1990s, when another ageless wonder – Warren Moon – was leading the offense. I mean, truly leading an offense. Not simply lofting it up for Randy Moss to pull down a pass on a go route, like Daunte Culpepper succeeded at for a stretch in the early 2000s. Moon didn't have Moss' speed, separation and leaping ability to rely on. But Moon still passed for more than 4,200 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Vikings, when he with Cris Carter and Jake Reed.

When he was with Minnesota, Moon wasn't as old as Favre is now, but Moon made the Pro Bowl at age 40 when he was playing for the Seattle Seahawks in 1997.

All this is to say that the old men with super talent can more than make up for their age with their savvy.

Consider this about the NFC North quarterbacks: Just last year, the four quarterback situations with the NFC North teams were considered the poorest in the league on a divisional basis. This year, it was expected to be much better with Green Bay getting Aaron Rodgers in his second season as a starter, Chicago plucking Jay Cutler from Denver, and Detroit drafting Matthew Stafford first overall.

Favre came to the Vikings with a litany of NFL career records – and interceptions were among those. So far, Favre has thrown only three interceptions, easily on pace for a career low. The rest of the division's quarterbacks? Not so good.

Those that watched an awful Thursday night performance saw Cutler throw five interceptions against the San Francisco 49ers. It was ugly is as ugly does. By the end of the night, Cutler had more interceptions (17) than Favre does touchdowns (16). The old man will be honored with a Pro Bowl bid while the younger guy who was supposed to be the best QB in Chicago since Sid Luckman might have to start working on his tackling skills against defenders.

Stafford's struggles are understandable. He's a rookie. But maybe he was ahead of his time if he was trying to learn from Cutler. Stafford threw five interceptions last week as well. No doubt, the Vikings' defensive backs are hoping to increase their small total against him, just like linebacker Chad Greenway did in the first meeting in Detroit.

Rodgers' issues this year haven't been interceptions. He only has five this year, but it's hard to throw interceptions when you don't get rid of the football. The Vikings defense leads the NFL with 31 sacks, but Rodgers has taken 37 sacks. Come to think of it, those two go hand-in-hand since the Vikings had 14 sacks in two games against the Packers.

All of those statistics could turn around, but right now Favre is easily the best quarterback in the NFC North and one of the best in the league. He entered the season as the NFL's career passing leader in touchdowns (464), completions (5,720), attempts (9,280), yards (65,127) and victories as a starter (169). And interceptions (313).

Only that last statistics hasn't increased dramatically, and it has turned the Vikings from a preseason contender for the NFC North crown to a midseason shoo-in.

STATISTICS SLANTED

There is a reason the Lions are 1-7 and the Vikings are 7-1. A statistical comparison between the teams points out several big disparities.

  • The Vikings have a 244-133 advantage in total points scored, with the Vikings ranking second and the Lions 26th. The Vikings are averaging 30.5 points per game, the Lions are at 16.6.

  • The Vikings are averaging 235 net yards per game passing, the Lions 189.1. Minnesota has just three interceptions thrown by Brett Favre (second in the league), while the Lions have thrown 16 (last in the league).

  • The Vikings have a 60.6 red zone efficiency (eighth in the league) while the Lions are at 47.4 (24th).

  • On defense, the Vikings rank eighth in the league in total offensive points allowed (139) and the Lions are 31st with 223.

  • The Vikings are second in the league in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on only 34.8 percent of the opposition's trips inside the red zone. The Lions are 14th, giving up touchdowns 50 percent of the time.

  • Finally, the Vikings are seventh in turnover ratio at plus-5 and the Lions are 27th at minus-7.

    QUICK SLANTS

  • We mentioned the Vikings with 31 sacks on defense, but all that pressure hasn't translated into a lot of interceptions. Minnesota only has six interceptions through eight games.

    "You'd like to get more interceptions and hopefully in the second half (of the season) that will be the case," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "Seven fumbles, six interceptions. We'd like to average at least two turnovers a game and hopefully that will be the case going into the second half of the season."

  • No one can accuse Detroit's Calvin Johnson of filibustering during a conference call. His answers were short last week and it made it seem like he didn't have a lot of heartfelt support for coach or his quarterback.

    Asked if the team believes in what head coach Jim Schwartz is teaching, Johnson said, "He is running his squad. Yes, you got to feel that way."

    Asked if QB Matthew Stafford's confidence is still good, Johnson said, "You have to ask him that. I can't answer for him."

    OK, then. Thanks for calling.

  • There might still be time to register your suggestion of a nickname for the Vikings defensive line. FoxSports.com is seeking suggestions and could use your online submission during a telecast.
  • He can change teams, but you think much else changes for Brett Favre? If you saw his press conference after signing with the Vikings and watched video of him throwing to high school kids in Mississippi this summer, you may have noticed the same soiled red Nike hat being worn. So when Childress was asked if anything changes for Favre after the bye week, his response was somewhat amusing. "No. Same hat, same shorts, same t-shirt," he said.

    Maybe Favre's new home didn't come with a washing machine, despite him being a master of the spin cycle.

  • One big advantage for the Vikings today: kickoff returns. The Lions are 31st in the league in defending kickoffs. Opponents are averaging 28.3 yards per return against them, and Percy Harvin is averaging 30.7 yards per return, second in the league. The Vikings are first in the league in average start position following kickoffs, at the 34.9-yard line. Schwartz knows how dangerous Harvin can be.

    "We kept him in check in the first game we played, but he was maybe one tackle away from really busting a long one," Schwartz said. "He has that potential on any play. Any time you are a player in this league, particularly a kick or a punt returner, and teams choose not to punt to you or kick to you, it's a sign of respect; it's a sign of how explosive a player you are. Very few people in this league reach that kind of status. He's a rookie. He's reached that status quite a bit."

  • This is also the first time since Week 3 that the Vikings can make a decision on punter return Darius Reynaud's game-day status based on something other than his hamstring injury. Special teams coach Brian Murphy and Childress both admitted that Reynaud's hamstring is ready to be tested in game action. Now it's just a matter of him being able to contribute on offense if needed, especially if Bernard Berrian's hamstring keeps him out of action. Reynaud averaged 17.3 yards on seven returns before injury sidelined him. Jaymar Johnson has averaged 8.4 yards on 16 returns since then.

  • How strange is this possibility? With essentially a four-game lead on the Packers in the NFC North race (three games plus the head-to-head tiebreaker), Vikings fans might actually be cheering for the Packers to win this week. Why? Because they are playing the 6-2 Cowboys, who are just one game behind the Vikings in NFC playoff positioning. Go, Pack, Go?


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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