Vikings Starting To Garner Respect

Daunte Culpepper

Predictions by the national media will be plentiful over the next few months as the annual football preview issues hit the newsstands. Pro Football Weekly has the Vikings picked first in the division and several players ranked among the top 20 at their positions.

For the past couple of years, it's been disappointing for Vikings fans to pick up the annual preseason football publications since they have consistently picked the Vikings to finish third or fourth in their division. While they've regularly remained on the Packers bandwagon (for good reason), someone always seems to have a jones for the Bears or Lions – leaving the Vikings as the odd-team out.

After a strong offseason, that may all be about to change. Pro Football Weekly's preseason preview is on newsstands and it has the Vikings winning the NFC with a 10-6 record, winning a tie-breaker over the Packers (also 10-6) and distancing the Bears (6-10) and the Lions (5-11).

Interestingly, PWF also ranks players by position and the results could be viewed by some Vikings fans as somewhat surprising. Daunte Culpepper was rated eighth among QBs behind guys like Tom Brady and Matt Hasselbeck and no running back was rated in the top 25. But beyond that, the news gets much better. Randy Moss was rated No. 2 among wide receivers, Jim Kleinsasser was No. 4 at tight end, Matt Birk was No. 4 at center, Chris Liwienski was No. 22 among guards and Bryant McKinnie was rated too low (No. 20) among offensive tackles.

On the defensive side of the ball, no defensive ends were listed among the top players, but both defensive tackles – Kevin Williams at No. 14 and Chris Hovan at No. 16 – were ranked. At inside linebacker, E.J. Henderson wasn't rated, but listed as a top veteran prospect. At OLB, Chris Claiborne was rated No. 22. To the surprise of some, both starting corners were rated – Antoine Winfield at No. 9 and Brian Williams at No. 20. At safety, Corey Chavous was rated No. 7, but Brian Russell didn't get a mention among the top 35 – leading the league in interceptions doesn't have the largesse that it used to.

The Vikings may have turned a corner. For years, the national publications have never been on their bandwagon, but maybe this is just the start of a change of heart for the purple. Let's hope their predictions are accurate – at least more accurate than when they predicted the team to stink as recently as 1998 and 2000.

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