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Things I’ll be watching for today:

SIGNS

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No, not the absurd Mel Gibson movie; I’ll be watching for the signs fans have created demanding Brad Childress‘ head.

BRETT FAVRE
Brett Favre turned in his best performance of the season last week against the Patriots. He managed the offense effectively, rallied the team late, and, had he not been forced from the game, we might have had a chance in the final seconds.

Even his interception, as a lot of them have been this year, was not his fault, as Percy Harvin let a Patriots’ defender strip the ball from his arms for a pick.

Will Favre’s strong play continue into this week? Will he continue the smart decisions he made in New England? Will he manage the game as effectively?

Will the loss of Randy Moss cause him to readjust his approach to his offense?

BERNARD BERRIAN OR HANK BASKETT?
It’s no secret that Brett Favre hasn’t exactly trusted Bernard Berrian as a go-to receiver. The numbers speak for themselves.

So with no Randy Moss, with Sidney Rice in all likelihood still on the shelf, and with Percy Harvin hurting, who will be our deep threat. Yeah, I know, wise guy, we don’t have one; but that can’t prevent us from trying to take some deep shots.

The only question is who will they go to?

Berrian’s problem has been simply getting open so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baskett get some touches.

ADRIAN PETERSON
This is a no-brainer, given that the Vikings’ passing offense is likely to be extremely limited today and due to the fact that the Cardinals rank 29th in the league against the run.

So stack eight or nine in the box and let’s still see what you can do to stop Adrian Peterson. Despite the lack of a lot of long runs (one eighty-yarder excepted), Peterson may be having the best year yet of his career.

He’s fumbled once (on a botched handoff that credited to Brett Favre), he’s improved in his pass protection, and he’s improving as a receiver. Oh yeah, he also leads the league in rushing yards.

Considering how many touches Peterson is likely to see today, this could be one of those monster games for him.

TOBY GERHART
Toby Gerhart is steadily improving his overall game. Though he is still not always reading his block as well as he could (see last week when he ran up Phil Loadholt‘s back for no gain instead of following Nafahu Tahi for a sure five yards), his pass protection is improving and he’s demonstrating he’s a viable third-down back.

My buddy Rick observed that Gerhart looks like me might be somewhat of an oceanliner that takes a while to steer in another direction. Witness his 20 yard gain on third-and-10 in the fourth quarter on a short pass to the right from Favre.

With the Patriots’ safety playing 25 yards deep on the Moss cushion, Gerhart easily picked up the first down but once he broke through the initial tackle it     t     o      o     k          f     o     r     e     v     e     r for Gerhart to gather himself and resume downfield.

Still, Gerhart looks like our answer for third down and he’s proving to be a back who can gain yards when spelling Adrian Peterson.

CAN A BROTHER GET A SACK?
This is getting pathetic. Six sacks on the season and none during the past three games.

Jared Allen has been getting pressure recently but he’s at least got an excuse in that offenses typically double-team him–though, admittedly, that hasn’t entirely been the case this year.

Ray Edwards doesn’t have that luxury. Given that he doesn’t expect to be with the Vikings next year, you’d think Edwards would be motivated enough to build a highlight reel that will earn him a fat salary next year.

Hopefully, today the Vikings will break the sack dam. It would go a long way toward boosting the confidence of the front four.

SCORE EARLY, SCORE OFTEN
What the Vikings haven’t done this year, at all, is getting an early lead on opponents.

Getting up on opponents by a couple scores would make a world of difference to the Vikings struggling pass rush in particular and the defense in general. The Vikings’ D was meant to play with a lead.

LARRY FITZGERALD VS. WHOEVER
The best physical match up the Vikings have against the 6’3″, 218 lbs. receiver is the 6’2″, 210 lbs, rookie cornerback Chris Cook.

Cook, of course, has had his problems this year that extend beyond his injuries to his play. Though Larry Fitzgerald is among the NFL’s elite receivers (who would look awfully good in Purple…just sayin’), Cook does have Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson going for him this week.

Ideally, the Cardinals will want to get Fitzgerald matched up against the 5’9″ Asher Allen as much as possible.

BEANIE WELLS
Rookie running back Beanie Wells says he’ll play today despite suffering an adverse reaction to an injection that caused swelling in his knee.

Wells gained 50 yards on 16 carries last week during his first NFL start, which means there’s not a whole lot of tape for the Vikings defense to study, struggled against the run last week when it really mattered.

MADIEU WILLIAMS
Could he possibly get any worse than he was last week? We’ll see….

WILLIAMSONING THE BALL
…speaking of which, do the Vikings secretly have Troy Williamson on the payroll as a defensive backs coach? Cause it sure looks that way.

Does this team not teach its defensive backs how to catch with their hands rather than their arms and bodies?

We’ve seen Lito Sheppard, Asher Allen, Husain Abdullah and Madieu Williams totally Williamson the ball this season.

FAN BASE
It’s a ridiculous term: Fan Base.  What is a Fan Base? It doesn’t mean anything. It’s everywhere and it drives me nuts because I’m, like, an English Major.

You don’t need to refer to the fans as The Fan Base; they’re just fans.

Here’s another sports writing cliché you see all the time: When a player travels to his hometown to play an opponent, his trip is referred to as a “business trip.”

This week, Larry Fitzgerald is the subject but it really is just a template story for which you can use a global search and replace to change the name of the player and the teams involved and presto!, you’ve got an easy story for the next “business trip.”

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