As much fun as it is talking about the 49ers and all that that entails, it's easy to forget about our opponents until we get into the regular season. Due to that, in 2007 I thought it would be beneficial and interesting for all of us to develop a running feature I called "Know Thy Enemy." The general gist of it was to take a look at each 49ers opponent for the upcoming season one by one. As I said last year, half the equation for the 49ers success will be determined on the other side of the field.
ProfessorBigelow and I already did a rundown of the 2009 schedule but "Know Thy Enemy" allows us to take a more detailed offseason look at each opponent. The format is the same for each: Overview, Additions, Subtractions, 2009 Questions & Answers, and a quick look at the matchup versus the 49ers. Also, we'll just be looking at non-divisional opponents since there is plenty discussion going on with that.
The Vikings qualify as a very bizarre team as of late. One might compare them to the Super Bowl champion Ravens of a few years back, only more like Ravens-lite. The Vikings defense was beastly, to say the least, finishing 4th in total defense. The addition of Jared Allen certainly added a little something extra. Of course, on the other side of the ball, you have to wonder how awful the Vikings would have been without the man they call Purple Jesus. Adrian Peterson whipped together 1,760 yards rushing yards and the Vikings offense finished a robust 23rd in total offense. Either way, that defense carried the Vikings all the way to a division title and first round home defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.
One big name potential addition will be discussed in the 2009 Q&A portion of this post. In the meantime, given the offensive struggles, it wasn't too difficult to determine which side of the ball the Vikings would be addressing early in the draft. They did that and then some with the addition of Percy Harvin. While rookie wide receivers often struggle early on, Harvin brings the team a potential home run threat in the kick return game.
The Vikings did add a quarterback (not that guy...we'll discuss him down below). They traded for Sage Rosenfels, a backup to Matt Schaub down in Houston, and a guy who will likely be battling for a backup QB position alongisde the likes of Tavaris Jackson and John David Booty. I believe Gus Frerotte is still in the house, but it's surprisingly hard to clear that up.
The big loss is All-Pro center Matt Birk, who signed with the Ravens this offseason. The folks at DN seemed resigned to that fact early in free agency, but it still hurts to lose a quality center, even if he is getting up their in age. Another aging veteran, Darren Sharper bolted for New Orleans after a solid stop over in the great purple north. Other than the two aging veterans, the Vikings other losses were backups that they should easily replace.
2009 Questions and Answers
The biggest question is the one that appears to be absolutely consuming the folks at Daily Norseman. If you head over there, the sight is being overrun with Brett Favre stories. There's about a 90% chance of a Favre story at the top of the front page at any given moment. I have to say, as much as I'd like there to be big 49ers news, I'm perfectly content with little to no Brett Favre in my life. Of course, we could be looking at the second straight season of facing Brett Favre on a new team. Of course, being as this will be week 3 in Minnesota, we'll see if Favre has a fork sticking out of his back at that point.
Favre aside, I think the biggest question mark is how the Vikings will successfully replace Matt Birk, as well as how Phil Loadholt will handle some serious on the job training. The Vikings offensive line has some serious questions marks to be answered. And if they're rolling out an old man like Brett Favre at QB, they best find some answers ASAP. If they don't, even a possibly weak 49ers pass rush (TBD) could do some serious damage.
vs. San Francisco
Two years ago, in an otherwise ugly season, the 49ers shutdown Adrian Peterson, holding him to 3 yards on 14 carries. Of course, it didn't mean much in a 27-7 loss as Chester Taylor had 101 yards on 8 carries. However, I eagerly await the matchup this season to see how Patrick Willis, the 2007 Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Adrian Peterson, the 2007 Offensive Rookie of the Year, matchup. I realize the running game and rush defense entail more than those two, but it should still be interesting to see them do battle.
Back in our first schedule discussion post, ProfessorBigelow looked at this as a win while I looked at as a loss...and that was before the Brett Favre discussion. The 49ers will be in the midst of 3 divisional matchups in their first 4 games. The Vikings defense could certainly do a number on the 49ers, particularly if the offensive line isn't gelling at that point. And if the Vikings do add Favre, he usually doesn't fall apart until later in the season, just like the Vikings. Tough matchup as we said in the schedule discussion.