Now that the 2009 season is over for the Vikings and the Packers, it's a good time to take a look at the two-time defending NFC North champs going into next season. Ignore whether the Packers can become better for the moment, and focus on whether the Vikings have enough self-inflicted wounds for the Packers to overtake them in 2010?
It's "highly unlikely" QB Brett Favre will ever play again. Uh-huh. I'll believe it when the first regular season game of 2010 is played. Maybe not even then. I've expected the biggest offseason plot for the Vikings is not whether Favre will waffle on retirement (that was always a given), but whether the Vikings would get sick and tired of waiting for him to make up his mind. He signed a two-year contract, and Zigi Wilf expects him back in 2010. Will the Vikings come up with a Plan B or will they be left scrambling at the start of training camp? And, of course, Favre is skipping his umpteenth Pro Bowl in a row. At least the NFC can call on QB Tony Romo, unlike the AFC who is scrapping the bottom of the barrel and has invited QB David Garrard.
The Vikings might be losing NT Pat Williams to retirement? He would figuratively, and literally, be a huge loss for their defense. It's not impossible to find a quality defensive tackle, but everyone is looking for them and it's not guaranteed you can find one in the draft. The Packers drafted the best one available last year (DT B.J. Raji) and he's certainly no Pat Williams. Though the Bills were dumb enough to let Williams escape in free agency a few years ago, tackles like him generally don't hit the open market.
And they lost CB Cedric Griffin to an ACL tear during the championship game. He'll return next season, but it will be late next season, and the Vikings are going to have to plan for his replacement. If he comes back earlier, or is back to 100% by next December, then that's just gravy.
Overall: I'm sure the Vikings would rather be focused on improving their existing team than finding replacements for some of their best players. Assuming all three are out in 2010, they could focus on the defense and hope one of their in-house solutions can do the job at QB. Another round of mobile QB Tarvaris Jackson might not be a horrible plan given the porous state of the Vikings' O-Line, though I'd never worry about facing a Jackson-led opponent. The personnel losses would far from kill them, but it doesn't make them any better and gives them a lot to work on during the offseason.