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Final Power Ranking: 23
Preseason Power Ranking: 5
Biggest surprise: It was hard to imagine quarterback Brett Favre equaling the career year he produced in 2009. But it was just as difficult to anticipate him falling off the figurative cliff. Even before an onslaught of injuries began, Favre was playing as poorly as he had at any point in his career. In the first three games of the season, Favre threw two touchdown passes and committed seven turnovers. He had one shining moment, a career-high 446 yards against the Arizona Cardinals, but otherwise it was clear he tried to squeeze one year too many out of his body. The Vikings were left in an untenable situation. They put all of their hopes on his shoulders and had no viable alternative when it became clear he was cooked.
Biggest disappointment: Sidney Rice's unique skills as a downfield receiver were one of the primary reasons the Vikings pushed to the NFC Championship Game in 2009. But a hip injury suffered in that game followed Rice all the way to training camp, the first sign that the Vikings wouldn't carry the magic into 2010. It was never entirely clear why Rice avoided surgery until the end of August, but the bottom line is it robbed the Vikings' offense of a dynamic playmaker. It also set them on a gold chase that ultimately led to the disastrous acquisition of receiver Randy Moss. How much would have been different had Rice been healthy when training camp started? It hurts the head to wonder.
Biggest need: The Vikings haven't had a long-term plan at quarterback since Daunte Culpepper suffered a career-changing knee injury in October 2005. They tried with Tarvaris Jackson, but ultimately his slow development left them in an annual Band-Aid mode. While rookie Joe Webb displayed some promise late in the season, the Vikings need to make this position their highest priority of the offseason. Depending on who makes themselves available for the draft, the Vikings might have to acquire multiple quarterbacks -- one to start in 2011 and another to develop for future seasons.
Team MVP: The Vikings had 10 Pro Bowl players in 2009. Only two performed at the same level in 2010 -- tailback Adrian Peterson and cornerback Antoine Winfield. We'll tap Peterson for this honor after he rushed for 1,298 yards despite missing one full game and parts of two others because of injuries. He single-handedly accounted for the Week 3 victory over the Detroit Lions and, notably, lost only one fumble after an offseason of consternation about the issue.
Comeback player: While we have a moment, let's note that middle linebacker E.J. Henderson returned from a gruesome injury to start all 16 games this season. There were those who believed Henderson's career could be over when he fractured his femur in December 2009. At the very least, he wasn't expected to be ready to play until 2011. But Henderson was determined to be on the field for the first day of training camp, creating a new protocol for rehabilitating the injury. He unofficially finished with 106 tackles and a career-high three interceptions.