The Minnesota Vikings’ pre-season campaign start today against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, and while NFL exhibition games aren’t exactly the most reliably ways of gauging a team’s prospects for the forthcoming season (the teams’ first team likely won’t play beyond the first quarter) the start of the pre-season is still an exciting time of year. For the Vikings, meanwhile, tonight marks the official start of the post-Randy Moss era–which means that this is now, finally, Daunte Culpepper’s team. Earlier this morning I was reading a column by Patrick Reusse in the Star-Tribune and found an interesting statistic: at age twenty-seven, Culpepper has more total touchdowns (129 passing, 28 rushing) than the Great Cheese had at the same stage of his gloriously hyped career (147, nine). And people are worried about the effect Moss’ departure will have on Daunte Culpepper? As much as I denied it when he was still in purple (and as unquestionably talented as he is), Moss is a major distraction–and continues to be one in Oakland, where he announced his arrival by pulling up in a massive purple Hummer and then blocking the entrance to the camp. And as good as he was on the field, how many Super Bowls did Moss win while he was a Viking? If the New England Patriots can become a dynasty with Troy Brown, then you’ve got to figure a team doesn’t need a marquee receiver in order to compete.
At some point between now and the start of the season I’ll write an NFC North preview for y’all to vibe with (I’d do a league-wide preview, but won’t because a, I don’t have time right now, b, I don’t know the commitment to sit down and figure out how every team will finish in 2005, and c, it would probably cause at least three of you to never read this blog again). In the meantime, here’s how I see it finishing: Minnesota, Detroit, Green Bay, Chicago. I could be wrong; eventually, I’ll get around to justifying it.