Here’s hoping that some time off has helped me to rediscover the ability to write leads for this column. What am I saying? It’s a new season! Hope springs eternal! The slate is clean, the records are all even at 0-0 (well, except for Pittsburgh and Tennessee)!
The Browns are again rebooting the system with their fourth coaching regime in 11 seasons, and have cleaned house all the way through the front office as well. We’re led to believe that this is finally Brady Quinn’s team, but what exactly does that mean? We’re led to believe that the defense was “vanilla” in the pre-season, and without Shaun Rogers it is definitely not the defense we should see on Sunday with the Big Fella back in there. Will this new regime be able to make in-game adjustments? Will they put the best players on the field as opposed to the most loyal? Will Mangini revert to the patented Romeo blank stare if things go badly early? Without further ado…
The Browns Will Win If…
Craig: …they can win the battle with their defensive line. Shaun Rogers and company are the key to the rest of the defense and the Browns are going to need to find a way to stop the Vikings offense. (Duh, right?) Anyway, Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Percy Harvin and yes, Brett Favre are just a few of the pieces that will challenge the Browns’ defense all day.
Scott: …they win the turnover battle. The only way this team will be able to remain in games is by playing smart football. With Quinn under center, we should have less of a chance of witnessing the bombs into triple-coverage. That’s a start. Now if they can amass any sort of run game, holding on to the football is crucial taunt. The short slants to Edwards or Cribbs/Massaquoi? Keep the passes in front so we don’t have deflections off of shoulder pads. And on the other end, Brett Favre should be good for at least one interception. As bad as our receiving corps is, the Vikes aren’t any better. If we can somehow stay on top of the turnover count, we have a chance to win our first home opener since Lincoln.
DP: …they can stop the run in some form, get the defense off the field on third down, and string some first downs together on offense. I’ve been to two games in my memory against San Diego and Baltimore where LT and Jamal Lewis both cracked 200+, and they were both long days. If the Browns want to have any chance at winning this game, they’ll need to hold Adrian Peterson and Co. to a reasonable total. Here’s hoping that adding Shaun Rogers back to the middle of the D-line will help in that capacity. The Browns have to stiffen up and get off the field on third down on defense, which has always been their Achilles heel. Beyond that, the Quinn-led (supposedly) offense needs to string some first downs together—it doesn’t matter how, though it would be nice to see some manner of a successful running offense—to let the defense rest a bit. I honestly have no expectations for Sunday. That way they won’t disappoint me. I feel like the Browns have to play nearly perfectly to beat the Vikes.
Rick: …they win the turnover and big play tallies. We know the Vikings are going to run the ball, and they will have some success at it. IF they can limit big runs by Peterson, plus cause a few turnovers then they certainly will be in position to win. Special teams could play a huge role in the outcome of this one as well. I don’t see the Browns being able to drive the length of the field on Minny’s defense with any consistency, so they will need good returns. I wouldn’t predict a Browns win this week, but I would sure take one! Go Browns!
RockKing …they can keep Adrian Peterson under 80 yards rushing. It’s hard to pick just one thing that must happen in order for the Browns to win this game, but keeping AP under control seems to me to be the biggest task for the Browns to achieve if they want any hope of actually winning this game. If Peterson rushes for over 100 yards in this one, there’s no way I see the Browns winning this game, because I don’t believe the Browns’ offense will be able to score enough on the Vikings defense to overcome the time of possession loss that comes with having a 100 yard rusher. But if the Browns can make Brett Favre have to beat them, well, then there’s always a chance Favre will be rusty or will throw a bad interception or something along those lines.
TD …The moon and the stars are all aligned. The reality here is the Vikings are superior in pretty much every aspect of the game. Except one – the special teams. If the Browns somehow can pull this one off, it will be because Josh Cribbs returns either a kick or a punt for a TD, or another major special teams play (i.e. blocked punt) occurs. Defensively, Shaun Rogers has to plug the holes and help slow RB Adrian Peterson. Brett Favre’s arm doesn’t scare me one bit, but Peterson’s legs certainly do. On the offense side, QB Brady Quinn must limit his mistakes.
Denny … If the defense can muster anything. Regardless of Brit Farr’s ability to sling the rock and hilariously lead his buddies into giant puddles while wearing Wrangler jeans, the Vikings can run all over the field. Between AD and Percy Harvin the Browns defense will be tested by (speed + athleticism)^max. Getting any sort of containment on these two and forcing the Vikings to pass the ball will do a lot of Los Brownos. It’ll also help to have touchdowns by the Browns’ offense, and whatnot. I won’t use any math next week.
Now, for the other side of the coin. What do the fans of the Norsemen have to say as the Brett Favre Era begins officially? Chop blocks for everyone! Without further ado…
The Vikings Will Win If…
Speaking of Favre, Dan Zinski is from Ashland, Wisconsin. Destiny should’ve made him a Cheesehead but he had other ideas for himself, and chose the Vikings as his team. He is the lead blogger for the Fansided.com Sports Network’s Vikings site The Viking Age. He also writes Fansided’s Cubs blog Cubbies Crib, and contributes to the Fansided.com main page with his daily column Making it Look Easy. He can also be found on Twitter at http://twitter.com/acforever.
…the offensive line can give Brett Favre enough time to show off his veteran savvy and legendary playmaking skill. This is worrisome, as the pass blocking was not exactly solid in the preseason. Despite all the gushing by the national media, the Vikings’ O-line is not a top-drawer unit. Steve Hutchinson is of course a deserving Pro-Bowler, but beyond that, you have Bryant McKinnie whose pass blocking has never matched his run blocking, Anthony Herrera who is serviceable at best, and a pair of first-time starters in John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt. The Vikes had problems pass-protecting last season, which forced Brad Childress to use more two tight end sets than he would’ve liked. Having Brett Favre won’t do any good unless you’re able to occasionally spread things out with four receivers and let him pick defenses apart. If you’re going to roll with two tight ends and throw short all day, might as well let Sage Rosenfels play. Favre also won’t be any use if his old bones get battered into dust (or if he hurts himself trying to block safeties in the Wildcat).
As for the defense: If form holds, the Browns will not be able to run, but they will be able to make hay with the passing game over the middle. The Vikings’ whole gameplan is to take away the deep pass, keep everything in front of them, and tackle receivers before they’re able to get extra yards. This leads to infuriating 12 play drives made up almost entirely of five yard completions. Brady Quinn just needs to stay patient – there will be holes in the zones. If he looks for his tight ends, he has a chance to make things happen. Of course, he also has to avoid being eaten for lunch by Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, who are as unrelenting as any defensive linemen in the league. And watch those Antoine Winfield corner blitzes. Like I said before, no use even trying to run on this team. The combination of Williams Wall, sure-tackling linebackers and safeties who aren’t afraid to come up and pop people in the mouth makes this Viking run D as impenetrable as ever.
Adam Warwas is the editor of Vikings Gab.
…they polish the little things on offense and put pressure on the quarterback on defense. On offense the Vikings have struggled with penalties and converting third downs. These two things go hand-in-hand as all to often the Vikings find themselves in unmanageable third down situations because of a stupid penalty. I don’t think the Vikings will have to score a ton of points (it would help though) to beat the Browns. Managing their field position and avoiding the big mistakes on offense will continue to give Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre chances to make things happen. The Vikings defense should have no problem stopping this suspect running game, which means they could totally shut down the Browns offense by rattling Brady Quinn. The front seven need to be relentless for an entire four quarters in their pursuit of the young signal caller. In the end, the Vikings should be able to handle the Browns rather easily if they can avoid shooting themselves in the foot.
What does everyone else think?