Over the course of the past couple of weeks, the people at ESPN have been putting together what they call their "Ultimate Depth Chart" series, where they rank each team on offense and defense relative to their own division, and then finally the conference at the end of the week.
The website version can be found right here, and even though one person seems to almost sort of kind of nearly give the Vikings a little bit of credit, the television side of the house was not nearly as kind.
Merril Hoge: Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota has an amazing running game with the addition of Adrian Peterson to a backfield that already featured 1,000-yard rusher Chester Taylor. This team has the potential to have the best rushing attack in the league. Peterson is a special running back who will impact this league from his first game until his last.
Well, obviously we have the potential to be the best rushing attack in the league. It will certainly be the best in this division. . .seriously, have you seen the running back depth charts for the rest of the NFC North? I think the Hamburg Sea Devils have placed a couple of calls to Detroit and Green Bay to see if they're interested in trading for a RB.
As far as the passing offense. . .again, have you seen the other quarterbacks in this division? Based on that alone, I think our passing game can be alright. Heck, Detroit's quarterback may not survive his next drug test, for crying out loud.
On the television show, however, the rankings looked like this.
NFC North Defenses
#3 Green Bay
The TV side of the house did say that the Chicago offense was #1 "by default," so the gap between 1-4 on offense in this division really isn't all that large (as anyone that watched the NFC North last year could have already told you). Plus, it helps that Chicago traded away their best offensive player during the off-season.
The gap between our defense and the Bears' defense isn't nearly as great as people probably think it is, either. Hell, when you look at just the defenses, Minnesota actually gave up one fewer TD than the Bears did. . .and even when you figure in return touchdowns of various types, the Vikings only gave up 3 more TDs than the Bears did. I don't think we'll be seeing opposing teams with 8 return TDs of various types against the Purple this season. The Cowboys are the ones that have to worry about that sort of thing, since that's where Brad "Captain Worthless" Johnson signed this off-season.
In addition, on the Vikings' side, we'll be seeing the return of Erasmus James, the return/debut of Chad Greenway, and the subtraction of Fred Smoot (which is basically the same thing as an addition). On the Bears' side, we have Lance Briggs continuing to whine and complain and 2007 NFL Man of the Year candidate Tank Johnson deciding that he'd much rather continue to be stupid than play football, and I don't think it's entirely inconceivable that the Vikings catch the Bears on that front, too.
So, I'll just say what I've said all off-season to this point. Let everyone go ahead and keep doubting the Vikings. I think we'll be the ones having a good laugh by the end of the season.