Hard to believe it's gameday. On one hand it feels like it took forever to get here, and on the other hand it's hard to believe we're...oh, I said that already. Alrighty then. Movin' on.
Papa Dave facilitated an exchange between myself and yet another freakin' Dave in the blogosphere - David Erickson, publisher of the Minnesota Vikings Chat blog. I sent over five questions to answer, and he sent me five questions to answer. Amazing how that works, isn't it?
Make the jump to check out his very thorough and comprehensive answers. Great thanks to David for his time and output. Also, if you feel like it, go on over to David's site and check out my answers to his questions and add your own respectful and carefully considered ideas to their discussion. After sleeping on what I wrote, I have a few things to add to my answers, so I plan to visit and put them up there...
CSC: What kind of actual "game shape" do you think Brett Favre will be in Thursday night? He's had some rough preseason outings and that ankle needs to heal. Also, what other significant injuries do the Vikes have currently?
MVC: I think Favre's ankle will be fine. He's looked limited in his mobility for the brief time we've seen him play during this year's preseason but whether that's due to the ankle or age, who knows. Regardless, it hasn't been significant enough to prevent him from getting the job done. The only other question with Favre is his stamina; coming in as late as he did to camp, his conditioning might not be where it should.
Starting left cornerback Cedric Griffin is coming off an ACL injury he suffered in overtime of the NFC Championship game. He has recently begun to practice with the team after being removed from the PUP. Though it is possible, it's highly unlikely he'll play Thursday.
The Vikings rookie cornerback Chris Cook had progressed so far in camp that he'd won the staring left corner job to fill in for Griffin, only to suffer a torn meniscus which will force him to sit out a few games.Lito Sheppard will start on the left side in his place.
Backup defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy has not practiced for the past few weeks, so he's unlikely to play Thursday but the Vikings are deepest on the defensive line, so that should not be a factor.
On offense, the biggest injury is to wide receiver Sidney Rice, who is on the PUP, so he will miss at least the first six games of the season.
Starting center John Sullivan has not practiced all preseason due to a calf injury but has begun practicing this week. It would seem unlikely he'd start Thursday. The coaches don't seem to lack enough confidence in backup Jon Cooper, that they gave guard Anthony Herrera significant snaps at center during the preseason. If Herrera gets the nod over Cooper, then rookie Chris DeGeare would start at right guard in his place.
Rookie running back Toby Gerhart has been limited in practice due to a knee injury.
Finally, receiver Percy Harvin has battled migraines all offseason but seems to have them under control for the moment. They are, however, unpredictable and if they flare up on gameday, he could easily sit.
CSC: Are there any new faces on the Vikings roster (rookies, free agents, etc.) that we should look for to have a big impact in the game?
MVC: On defense, free agent pickup Lito Sheppard will start at left cornerback and second-year man Asher Allen will play nickle. I expect that Drew Brees and Saints to test them both.
On offense, the Vikings added former Miami Dolphins slot receiver Greg Camarillo via trade. He's sure handed, works the middle of the field, and has some quickness. He arrived late in camp but has already seemed to developed a chemistry with Favre. I expect him to be a big contributor this season as the Vikings version of Wes Welker.
Assuming he plays, rookie running back Toby Gerhart could make a significant impact as a sub for Adrian Peterson. Gerhart is a 230 lbs tailback with soft hands and quick feet. He looks like a lumbering fullback but his size is deceptive; he's fairly swift and he can deliver a pounding.
The most exciting rookie this season, though, has been third string quarterback Joe Webb. Though extremely raw as a quarterback and definitely a project, he is nevertheless an amazing athlete. He stands 6'3", weighs 220 lbs, and has 4.4 speed. Brett Favre has said they have got to find a way to use him, so it's plausible Webb could be used in a wildcat formation or two.
CSC: There has been much questioning by the mainstream media of Brad Childress's handling of the Favre situation, his perceived control of the team, and his game management skills. As you see it, what are the team and fan confidence levels in Brad Childress right now? Is there cause for concern?
MVC: This issue is much ado about very little. Getting Brett Favre to return may not have been pretty but it's what everyone wanted, coaches, team and fans alike. The team appears to be solidly behind their coach and quarterback and focused on a Super Bowl run. Childress has always caused some level of consternation among the fans but it has been due not to his handling of the Favre situation but rather his instance on Tarvaris Jackson as Favre's backup. Very few people have confidence in Tarvaris as a quarterback.
CSC: The Saints kick return coverage units have been abysmal lately. Who are your kick returners and how good are they?
MVC: Percy Harvin will return kicks this season and he is one of the best in the game. Last year, as a rookie, he averaged 27.5 yards on his returns, took two to the house (one for 101 yards), had 27 returns for more than 20 yards, and five returns for more than 40 yards.
The Vikings will try Bernard Berrian (who has some experience) and Greg Camarillo as punt returners.
CSC: What will be the most important matchup of the game and why?
MVC: I think the most important matchup will be Adrian Peterson and the Vikings offensive line versus the Saints run defense. I think the Vikings will want to run the ball early and often in order to protect Favre but also because they had a great deal of success running the ball during the NFC Championship game.
Adrian Peterson ran for 122 yards and scored three touchdowns during that game. He also fumbled the ball three times so this will be a good test to see if Peterson worked on his ball handling skills during the offseason.