Because the national coverage and/or perception of the Vikings has been overwhelmingly positive over the course of the past few days. Don't worry. . .as we get closer to the start of the season and the media remembers who we open the season with, I'm sure the positive coverage will come to a screeching halt. But I'm sure as heck going to enjoy it while it lasts!
We'll start out with a little tidbit from the Sporting News, in which they gathered a consensus as to which team in the NFC has the best safeties. . .and you'll never believe what team came out on top:
1. Minnesota Vikings
Darren Sharper and Madieu Williams are strong playmakers. Williams adds sticky coverage skills. Michael Boulware provides experienced depth, and rookie Tyrell Johnson could get time in the nickel package.
Boy. . .for a guy that, according to "fans" from the other side of the border, has been washed up for. . .let's see. . .exactly three years, two months, and three days, ol' #42 sure seems to be getting along okay. I guess that Pro Bowl berth he earned last year wasn't just based on past merits after all.
The article also goes on to name Sharper as the best safety in the NFC. Note how none of the other NFC North teams can even crack the top half of the list. With the improved pass rush that we'll be seeing this season, it would be silly not to project another Pro Bowl berth for Sharper at this point.
The next bit of praise comes from Fox Sports' John Czarnecki, who sites five teams that he feels have made enough improvement to contend for the Super Bowl. . .and, boy howdy, you'll never guess who made this list, too!
By spending more than $70 million on new talent, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is telling Coach Brad Childress that his third season better include a playoff berth. Unless Tavaris Jackson doesn't improve a lick, the Vikings have the team to beat in the NFC North. If Jackson continues to make strides along with runner Adrian Peterson, Minnesota will be better equipped to control every game's tempo because their defensive pass rush should be the NFL's best. Yes, ex-Chief Jared Allen is that good, plus he's being teamed with Kevin and Pat Williams, already the game's best duo at defensive tackle.
The quarterback position has been upgraded with the arrival of veteran Gus Frerotte, who can win in a reserve role, and with USC rookie John David Booty who played on college's biggest stage with the Trojans. Ex-Bear Bernard Berrian gives Childress a bonafide deep threat opposite Sidney Rice. The defense is a lot more than Allen, too, because E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway are above-average linebackers and ex-Bengal safety Madieu Williams is a lot better player and more reliable than the departed Dwight Smith. With the retirement of Brett Favre, the Packers won't be favored to repeat as division champions. The Vikings have two big tests this season — home to Peyton Manning and the Colts and at Jacksonville in late November. If they win one of those, watch out!
That highlighted part of the first paragraph is the key there. See, Jackson doesn't have to turn into Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or anything like that. . .he simply needs to become more consistent. You really can't argue with the fact that he went 8-4 as a starter last year. . .and should have been 9-3 (screw you very much, Troy Williamson). . .and the fact that he was throwing to what might have been the worst WR corps in the NFL couldn't have helped his development, either. Don't tell me that he "didn't have anything to do with the victories," either. It's the NFL. . .every player on the team contributes to every victory, and every player on the team contributes to every loss.
But yes. . .quite frankly, the Vikings are the team to beat in the NFC North in 2008. If you have issues with my assessment. . .well, that's a you problem, not a me problem.
Speaking of young Mr. Jackson. . .no less an authority than former NFL MVP Rich Gannon says that he's expecting some pretty big things from the Vikings' QB in 2008:
"I'm excited. I got a chance to go out there a little bit, and I watched -- really, I wanted to look at Tarvaris and see where he has come in just the one short year -- and I got a chance to watch some film and sit down with [coach Brad] Childress and really look at him, and talk about him, and evaluate him," said Gannon.
"I think he's made great strides. I think he's a very athletic guy, very gifted, and the big thing for him this year is just consistency."
"He's got to play 16 games, he only finished 12 games a year ago, he needs to play 16 games," Gannon said. "He needs to be more efficient and more consistent. And if he can do those two things -- with the running game they have, the offensive line, they've upgraded their receivers, they're going to be better defensively -- there's no reason why that team cannot win the NFC North."
Yep. . .it's all about consistency for #7 this year. And, hopefully, having a more consistent WR corps with the addition of Bernard Berrian, the maturation of Sidney Rice, and the steadiness of Bobby Wade (particularly now that he's the real #3 guy and not a #3 masquerading as a #1) will be a big part of that.
I think it's kind of funny that there are so many "experts" out there that have made the determination that the Vikings should be looking to abandon Jackson after 14 career NFL starts because they've already drawn the conclusion that he isn't ready. How many QBs in NFL history have looked like garbage in their first 14 NFL starts? Now, if Jackson goes out THIS season and stinks up the joint, the team should start looking in another direction. . .and I'm sure they will be, because if Jackson is terrible in 2008, Brad Childress will be looking for a job.
The other funny thing as it relates to the NFC North is that so many of these same "experts" that declare Tarvaris Jackson to be useless are completely sold on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. So, apparently, a guy that goes 8-4 in his first full year as a starter while throwing to an awful receiving corps doesn't impress some people. . .but a guy who, in three NFL seasons, has as many trips to IR as he does TD passes while playing exclusively garbage time football is, somehow, the second coming.
Honestly, you couldn't make that up if you tried.
Like I said, folks. . .enjoy it while it lasts. I can't guarantee how much longer that will be or anything, but it's nice to see for a little bit, anyway.