Peter King, Sports Illustrated's best NFL writer, just picked the Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC Championship. We do not need this. It's like the kiss of death. Next thing you know, they'll be putting Daunte Culpepper on the cover of their NFL Preview edition, thus guaranteeing our massive QB a season-ending injury.
Well, at least he didn't pick them to win the Superbowl, so there's still hope. Oh sure, we here in Vikings Nation certainly think that the Vikes have a shot at the big game, especially in this era of parity, but with our long and glorious history of choking up the game when just on the verge of glory, we certainly don't want to be under the spotlight and microscope of national expectations.
Besides, it's far too early to judge any team based on only three factors: 1) Draft; 2) Free-agent signings; 3) Summer minicamps. I can say who I think is on either an up or down trajectory in each division, but I won't make the mistake of picking results or division order yet. It's just too soon.
NFC East: Trending Up—Dallas (Bill Parcells factor, Drew Bledsoe, vastly improved defense); Washington (Joe Gibbs 2.0 in second year). Trending Down—Philadelphia (T.O. mess, Superbowl hangover); NY Giants (Eli Manning still sucks, Tom Coughlin makes Simon Cowell look like Paula Abdul).
NFC North: Trending Up—Minnesota (new owner, new Moss-free attitude, improved defense); Detroit (break-out year for Mooch's offensive scheme). Trending Down—Green Bay (Brett Favre should have retired); Chicago (still no signs of any offense whatsoever).
NFC South: Trending Up—Atlanta (Mike Vick, Jim Mora Jr., building on last year's success); Tampa Bay (the return of Chucky); Carolina (defense still scary and impressive). Trending Down—New Orleans (rumors of leaving town are never good for a franchise).
NFC West: Trending Up—Arizona (Dennis Green's second year, the return of Kurt Warner, exciting young players). Trending Down—St. Louis (the NFL's worst head coach); Seattle (the NFL's most overrated head coach); San Francisco (the NFL's most inexperienced head coach).
I'll save my AFC comments for next week, once again in response to Peter King's early predictions, which he is promising for then. I respect King's opinions and think he's one of the smartest and most astute NFL writers around. For that matter, I also like SI's Don Banks and ESPN.com's John Clayton and Len Pasquerelli. I still, however, do not like Joe Theisman (but doesn't that go without saying?).
On one final note, for those of you who read my post, "An Open Letter to Reggie Fowler," one of my primary suggestions was to build a new open-air stadium to revive the miserable winter mystique of the old-school Vikings teams. Well, even though Fowler's bid fell through, new owner Zygmunt Wilf (good God, is that a great name or what?) has stated his intention to do just that—to take the Vikings back outside where they belong. Like all else, it's far to early to make any definitive statements about the Ziggy Era in Minnesota, but it couldn't have gotten off to a better start.