By Tim Keown (We oughta write this guy a collective letter)
The NFL regular season begins this week, and it looks as though my fixation on baseball and cleaning the garage made me miss something vitally important: the sudden rise of the Minnesota Vikings.
Everybody is excited about the Vikings. It seems every expert has picked the Vikings to win their division, and several -- including John Clayton, the potentate of pigskin -- have picked them to go the Super Bowl.
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Daunte Culpepper is pretty much a lock for MVP. Nate Burleson is ready to burst onto the national scene. Mike Tice won't have to sell those Super Bowl tickets this year.
Why? The Vikings were 8-8 last year and are working on a long run of second-half collapses, so they have that going for them. Their defense is better in that how-could-it-be-any-worse kind of way, so there's another plus.
It appears the Vikings are taking on the role of trendy pick, the team that everybody -- all at once -- decides is the best bet to hoist itself into the public consciousness. It runs like a virus through the minds of the football cognoscenti.
Kind of like what has been said about the Seahawks for the past few years.
Of course, this time everybody could be right. Remember, betting against Clayton is like betting against Earth's rotation. He knows more about the Saints' long snapper than anybody else knows about Tom Brady.
Still, in trying to make up for lost time on the Vikings front, I investigated their apparent improvement, and found that it has something to do with Alex Rodriguez and teams' getting better immediately after superstars go somewhere else. The Texas Rangers figure prominently in the discussion, so there you have it.
If you choose to blaze your own path, consider this: The Chicago Bears' offensive line is vastly improved this year.
Here is my take on the Vikings. When you look at all teams on paper, some look better than others. Culpepper is an excellent quarterback. They've got good receivers, good running backs and a nice line. Their defense seems improved. Howver, what you don't know is how is this team going to click on the field. Remember this, a great coach can take an average team and make them good. A bad coach can take a team loaded with talent and destroy them. I'm thinking this is who Mike Tice is. In the past three seasons his team has started out on fire and ended poorly. His claim to fame is that he beat a Packer team in the playoffs that once again wasn't ready to play. That's Mike Sherman's claim to fame too. He's a really good X's and O's coach but he can't motivate anyone. Tice says all the right things, but he can't coach and I believe that is going to be the biggest reason that the Vikes won't go to the SupeBowl.