Vikings an NFC power with Moss

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 9, 2010

I sure enough heard the Randy Moss to Minnesota rumblings on Tuesday afternoon, but I wrote it all off.

That particular transaction has been rumored since the early offseason, when Moss began making noise about “feeling underappreciated” (translation: Where’s my new deal?). But I thought it was the same as it ever was, fantasy league style speculation based on some random body language Moss gave off after a poor statistical performance.

But then the reports started rolling in. Fox Sports said it was close. Jay Glazer said a deal seemed imminent. Adam Schefter said it would be done by Wednesday afternoon.


No, Moss wasn’t tearing it up statistically. But was that a product of skill deterioration, or simply that teams have dared New England to beat them with Wes Welker and an assortment of underneath threats?

Moss certainly looked like he still had it in Week 2, when he made that spectacular one-handed stab for a touchdown against Darrelle Revis and the Jets.

But how strained must the relationship have been between Moss and the Patriots? A third round pick for a player who, even if he doesn’t deliver 90 catches, carries a giant target for opposing defensive coordinators on his chest? Maybe ‘the’ preeminent “coverage mangler” in the NFL?

This trade has far reaching effects.

1. Minnesota’s offense is back, and then some. Brett Favre and Randy Moss is a match made in heaven. Favre loved Sidney Rice, a big, athletic receiver he could trust to go up and make plays in coverage. Without him, he’s been lost.

Enter Moss, the one guy in the league who has always been ‘open,’ even with a defender stuck to him like sticky glue downfield. Moss will outrun you or outjump you, and the old man will give him ample chances to make plays. This will be ‘the’ most productive quarterback/receiver combo in the NFL in the final 13 weeks.

2. Adrian Peterson is about to blow up. Moss makes quarterbacks better, yes. But when you constantly have to guard against giving up the big fly, those running lanes open up. Peterson against umbrella coverage, Peterson running against fewer people in the box … it should be deadly. I’m convinced that last season some early season injuries caught up to him; with Favre playing as well as he did, vintage Peterson averages well over 5 a carry. We’re about to see that again.

3. Percy Harvin will become the new Wes Welker. The Minnesota playbook: A. Run Peterson. B. Deep to Moss. C. When B breaks down, “Go do your thing, Percy”.

4. The Vikings, along with New Orleans, are the NFC favorites. The Saints haven’t played their A game, but the injuries will heal and the weapons are still there. The rest of the NFC is extremely flawed. Atlanta is a rock solid team, but not truly elite in any area. Green Bay’s defense and running game are suspect. Chicago and New York are shoddy up front offensively, and Dallas always seems to lack intangibles. Minnesota’s defense has been even better than last season. It’s offense should follow now.

5. The Patriots will compete, but the Super Bowl door has been shut for 2011. It pains me to say it too, because the Pats were my AFC pick in the preseason. And they’ll continue to be good.

But here’s my issue with the deal: based on what we’ve seen this year, the Patriots’ defense has been highly questionable. Tom Brady’s offensive weapons – Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate – are probably better than anything he had pre-Moss. But the defense is not where it needs to be for “Tom Terrific” to win as a game-manager or anything close.

The Patriots don’t have an elite running game or defense to fall back on; like the Chargers of 2009, the Pats win based on the fact that their passing game is incredible. Remove Moss from the equation and I’m sure Welker, Hernandez, and Tate can continue to produce. But if its at a lesser clip, the team will struggle more, especially against tougher competition.

New England, to me, still wins 10 or 11 games. They’re too well coached and Brady is too good a centerpiece to fall apart. But I think you’re looking at a postseason exit in Round 1 or 2.