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Opponent Preview 2009 – Week One: Cleveland Browns

Leading up to the beginning of the NFL Season, I’ll start looking at the Vikings upcoming opponents for the year, offering both a Good, Bad, and the Ugly scenario for each opponent. Consider it a level headed opponent preview done in an effort to not pump any sunshine to the Viking reader base and to hopefully prepare your expectations for reality. We start with Week One when the Vikings face the Cleveland Browns …

The Good: The Browns are a young team with loads of potential mired in a city that hasn’t been able to get out of its franchises own way. While currently in transition, one could argue that they have all of the major pieces in place for a successful team.

They have two relatively young quarterbacks on the roster that arguably have more potential than any QB currently with the Vikings, and a several young pieces to build around them. Notably at wide receiver they have Braylon Edwards in the fold and Joshua Cribbs as a Percy Harvin type play maker on offense and special teams. In 2009, they added further depth to their receiving position taking Ohio State stand out Brian Robiskie and Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.

They also have Joe Thomas anchoring the line and added touted rookie center Alex Mack to help out. Without a doubt, new Belichick prodigy Mangini will coach this team in a way much different then Romeo Crennel did, hopefully leading to franchise success.

The Bad: While having loads of potential on a team is a plus, facing a coaching change and perennial losing will take its toll. The Browns do have talent scattered around their team, but without aces at each position it’ll be easy for other NFL squads to take advantage of them.

And when looking at their roster it appears that they may have to rely on a lot of young talent early, which will inevitably lead to some rookie bumps in the road, both concerning production and comprehension of schemes. The Vikings benefit by facing the Browns early in the season where they will most likely still be adjusting to a new coaching scheme both offensively and through their switch to a 3-4 defense.

Also, whichever quarterback starts for the Browns will be rusty as both Quinn and Anderson were hurt last year and will be seeing their first real game action against the Vikings. Their offensive line won’t make their lives any easier as well as they face a top unit in the Vikings that will be starting a second year together. And the young receivers will have to face an aging and diversified defensive backfield, making points for the Browns seemingly hard to come by.

Offensively for the Vikes, it may not be much better. Traditionally, Childress coached teams haven’t fared too well against 3-4 defenses (Overlooking that remarkable, and fluky, Chargers game, obviously). Think about games against the 49ers, Steelers, and Ravens.

Part of the problem is that for the Vikings it is an unfamiliar defensive set, which has frequently caused confusion for Viking quarterbacks (*cough*Tarvaris Jackson*cough*). In addition, Adrian Peterson has struggled against some 3-4 fronts at times, most likely due to either the unfamiliarity of the scheme or the stacking of men in the box to confront him. Will this be the case with the Browns?

The Ugly: Probably not. Things could get, and should get, real ugly for the Browns in the first game of the season. There are a lot of factors that could come into play here. Will Brett Favre be throwing the ball? He’s familiar with 3-4 defenses, so there won’t be any confusion there. This will allow more room for Adrian Peterson to run wild as well. Will the Williams Wall be suspended?

Even so, there isn’t much of a running threat in Jamal Lewis anymore, or really anyone behind him, so the Browns Mangini lead offense, which likes to throw a lot anyway as evidenced by Brett Favre last year, shouldn’t hurt the Vikings on the ground too much. Even if the Vikings team on paper right now is the team that shows up they should have no trouble dismantling a team in transition like the Browns, especially when the Vikings have depth at many positions that the Browns lack.

Chalk this up as a Vikings win to open the season. Throwing numbers out, I’ll say 24-13 Vikings.

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