One of the things Vikings fans hung their hats on in the early portion of last season is that they were able to start the season against a slew of inexperienced quarterbacks. In the opener, they got the rarely-used Brady Quinn. That was followed by Matthew Stafford making his second start and shaky Alex Smith. The Vikings won all those games.
Next came Aaron Rodgers, a second-year starter, career bust Kyle Boller and second-year pro Joe Flacco. The Vikings won all those games. It helped them get out to a 6-0 start that put the Packers in the rear-view mirror early and allowed the Vikings to cruise to their second straight division title.
2010 is going to be a much different story, although the season will start in a similar fashion. Granted, they open with Drew Brees and the Saints, but he is followed by first-year full-time starter Chad Henne and second-year QBs Stafford and Mark Sanchez. The Vikings will have the QB edge in the final three of those four games and many believe the revenge factor will give them an edge in the opener.
After that, however, it gets ugly. Over the next seven games, the Vikings are scheduled to face Tony Romo, Rodgers, Tom Brady, Jay Cutler, Rodgers again and Donovan McNabb. The only potential unproven quarterback is when the Vikings play the Cardinals and, if not for Kurt Warner's retirement, you could have added him to that list.
December will ease up from that quarterback Murder's Row, as the Vikings close with Buffalo and its question marks and, despite facing Eli Manning and Cutler in the next two games, both will be at the Metrodome. They will end against first-year starter Kevin Kolb and Stafford.
When the Vikings struggled last year, more times than not it was against a team with a strong veteran quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers handed the Vikings their first loss, Kurt Warner dissected them in Arizona and Cutler had his best game as a Bear in an overtime win at Soldier Field. And you can't forget about Brees in the NFC Championship Game – as much as you might want to try.
The Vikings will play nine games this season against teams that have quarterbacks that have been selected to Pro Bowls. The Vikings defense will be hard-pressed to shut these guys down and, unlike last year, there won't be a string of inexperienced guys to throw to the wolves.
The Vikings remain the favorite in the NFC North and the schedule shouldn't change that too much. There are only two teams different on the Vikings schedule than on the Packers, Bears and Lions slate of games. All of them will find themselves in weekly duels with strong quarterbacks, which points to the need for Favre to come back for another year. If nothing else has been enough to cement his decision, two games against Rodgers and Cutler and matchups with the Jets, Brady, Romo, McNabb and Manning should be enough to keep the competitive juices flowing.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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