Here we go, another start to the hottest game going — the NFL regular season. The New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday in the NFL Kickoff.
Four-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady wins his appeal in federal court over the NFL, vacating the four-game suspension by Commissioner Roger Goodell. This is a huge victory for Brady and the NFLPA, but Brady’s legacy has taken some blows over the last eight months despite the win.
This is my 37th season covering the NFL. The Vikings start the NFL season with a Monday Night date with the San Francisco 49ers. Head Coach Mike Zimmer, in year three, appears ready to lead the Vikings back to the playoffs.
With a spectacular new domed stadium on the horizon, ready next year, this will be the final year of Vikings football outside. Which is where the famed success and glory of the Purple People Eaters’ consistent dominance was established decades ago.
The Super Bowl years of Bud Grant, Alan Page, Fran Tarkenton, Carl Eller, Ron Yary, Mick Tinglehoff, Paul Krause and Chuck Foreman, all Hall of Famers except Foreman, who should be, all were dominant in the ’70s.
Dennis Green from 1992-2001 sparked the best decade of Vikings football since. You can’t forget going 16-2 in 1998, and eight times the Vikings were in the playoffs under Green, with Warren Moon, Daunte Culpepper, Brad Johnson, Robert Smith, Randy Moss, Cris Carter, John Randle, Chris Doleman and Korey Stringer.
Four times the Vikings have been in the playoffs since 2001 with just two playoff wins under Mike Tice and Brad Childress. The 2015 Vikings have been pushed and reminded by Zimmer that the time is now for the Vikings to emerge and reconnect to the legacy established by Grant and carried on by Green.
The talent is in place. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, in just his second season, can be special and is poised to lead. Adrian Peterson, the 2012 MVP, is back after the lost season of 2014. Can he return to form?
Mike Wallace, the burner receiver, can fly. Cordarrelle Patterson is so talented, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner has Super Bowl rings and can call a game with the best of them. Such talented players can dial up an explosive ball control offense.
Defensively, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith can hit and defend. Everson Griffen is talented and hungry off the edge. Can Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd shut down the inside?
Ultimately it always comes down to the players. From what I’ve seen, Zimmer has a plan and he’s working it. He has been demanding of his players producing. But the players have to want it and be willing to go get it.
The Division again is rock solid. Green Bay should have been in the Super Bowl last year and is very good, and so is Detroit. Both were playoff teams last year, and both believe they can be better. Chicago has John Fox, an excellent proven football coach.
There you have it — the past, the present and future. Here’s how I see it unfolding: Packers 12-4, Vikings 10-6, Detroit 9-7, Chicago 7-9.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.