Behind Enemy Lines: Talking Minnesota-Carolina With a Vikings Blogger

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As we get ready for this week's matchup between the Vikings and Panthers, I exchanged e-mails with Dan Zinski from The Viking Age blog. Dan was nice enough to offer some insights on Minnesota for this week's Behind Enemy Lines feature.

Sportz Assassin: Everyone's buzz-worthy Vikings are now 0-2. What's going on?

Dan Zinski: I personally regret that early buzz. It was never legit. I never saw this as anything more than a 9-7 team. I never believed the passing game was good enough to get it done. Those guys who talked the Vikings up early - I'm looking at you Dr. Z - were assuming Tarvaris Jackson would develop and Bernard Berrian would give them a deep passing game. Clearly, neither of those things have happened. Now the Vikes will be perceived as a bust and it's all the fault of a few media guys who latched onto them as a trendy pick.

Sportz: Do you think Minnesota needs to really look at going away from Tarvaris Jackson as your QB?

Dan: Yes. Not that I think Gus Frerotte is the answer either. But yes - Jackson is in his third year and he's hit his ceiling. He'll never work out in this offense. [Note: After this conversation, Minnesota did decide to bench Jackson for Frerotte].

Sportz: You mentioned in your blog, "How close is Zygi Wilf to giving up on Brad Childress"? Do you think there is a lack of faith in what Childress is doing from Wilf and the fanbase?

Dan: I know there's a lack of faith in the fanbase. There's been a lack of faith almost since Childress was brought here and his conservative offense and bland personality have only made it worse. As for Wilf - I frankly have no idea. He doesn't really say much. He has given Childress votes of confidence in the past and he did sign him to a 5-year deal originally so you have to believe he's pretty sold on the guy. But an owner needs results at some point and I'm sure an 0-2 start is not was Zygi was looking for.

Sportz: What advantage do the Vikings have over the Panthers on Sunday?

Dan: I think the Viking D-Line is legit. I think it can dominate the Panthers line which is still gelling. I think they can knock Jake Delhomme around and I definitely think they can stuff the running game. The first half could look a lot like the first half against the Colts.

Sportz: What advantage do the Panthers have on the Vikings?

Dan: The Panthers don't have to worry about the passing game and can concentrate on slowing down Adrian Peterson. Unless AD goes nuts - 250 yards and 3 TDs or something - Carolina should be able to keep the Vikes out of the endzone and then it's a matter of putting together a couple big plays like Indy and Green Bay both did and snatching the victory away in the second half. Something the Panthers have done twice already this year.

Sportz: Which Viking (other than Jackson) has been the most disappointing for you?

Dan: I'm upset that Madieu Williams got hurt. I was looking forward to seeing him because I thought he was really on the verge of busting out and becoming a top-flight safety. Otherwise, I'm mad the team hasn't made more use of Garrett Mills who could be a good pass-catching tight end. Visanthe Shiancoe needs to go away - far, far away.

Dan: A 2-0 start for the Panthers. Are they legit or is this just a fluke?

Sportz: I'm not sure. Carolina was one play from losing to the Chargers and on the ropes against the Bears. They could just as easily 0-2. But there is some great talent on this team and Steve Smith is coming back this week. I'm not totally buying into them being an elite team ... but this is a definite playoff contender.

Dan: Do you think Steve Smith will be able to co-exist peacefully with his teammates the rest of the year?

Sportz: I think he'll fit in just fine. From what I'm hearing, everyone seems to have forgiven (but not forgotten) Steve for what happened. If he comes in and busts his tail ... which he always does ... then the he should be back in the good graces of everybody.

Dan: What are the chances Jake Delhomme gets through this whole season without breaking down again?

Sportz: From what I hear, he's stronger than ever. His passes are zipping all over the place, he doesn't seem to have any affects from the elbow surgery and ... aside from blowing out his elbow last year ... he has been pretty durable since he came to Charlotte.

Dan: How do you like your division? Are the Saints really that bad and should we expect anything from the Bucs and Falcons?

Sportz: I think the NFC South is a bit underrated. The Saints are an explosive offense team but are going through some injuries right now (mainly Deuce McAllister and Marques Colston). Their defense hasn't performed too well so far. It's hard to read the Buccaneers since they ripped Jeff Garcia of his starting gig, but the defense has been performing at a high level. The Falcons will be that team that will give you fits, but I see them staying in the division basement. There is no reason why this team couldn't get two teams into the playoffs.

Dan: Break down this weekend's game for me: How will the Panthers fare against AD? How will they bear up against Jared Allen and the fearsome D-Line?

When the Panthers have the ball, I don't seen that two-headed monster of Jonathan Stewart and D'Angelo Williams doing much against your front seven. Carolina's O-line is a bit wet behind the ears and will be in for a battle to control the line of scrimmage. I do see a lot of Delhomme-to-Smith magic in the air. The Vikings haven't stopped the opposing QB.

As for the Panthers on defense, it's tough to say since I'm interested in seeing Frerotte run this team. Despite him being a veteran, it is a bit of an unknown. At the very least, it makes the Panthers have to respect Minnesota's pass offense a little bit. That will help Adrian Peterson, who I feel will have a great game.

If I had to put money on it, I'd say your Vikings win 24-17. You are angrier and need this game in the worst way.

Thank, Dan, for the conversation about the Panthers and Vikings game. Again, you can check Dan Zinski out at The Viking Age blog!

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