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Numbers Game: Moss Returns to Vikings

Scott Cullen
10/6/2010 2:37:26 PM
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Just days after being held without a catch in the Monday nighter, Randy Moss was traded from the New England Patriots to the Minnesota Vikings.

Numbers Game examines the blockbuster swap.

The Vikings Get: WR Randy Moss.

Moss, 33, has been a declining asset this season, recording just nine catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns through the first three games before being held with a catch in the Monday night win at Miami.

(To be fair, Moss had a shot at a touchdown to end the first half, on Tom Brady's fake spike, but Moss bobbled the quick throw out of bounds.  Would a touchdown on Monday night have been enough to satisfy Moss and prevent this trade?)

When motivated, Moss is an elite talent with an ability to rack up yardage and score touchdowns like few others.  He also has a tendency to sink his value as low as possible before moving on to a new locaton.

In his first stint with Minnesota, Moss finished the 2004 season with 49 catches for 767 yards and 13 touchdowns, a year after recording a career-high 1632 receiving yards.

In 2006, with the Raiders, Moss finished with 42 catches for 553 yards and three touchdowns, a year before he put up 1493 yards and a career-high 23 touchdowns in New England.

Should this pattern hold, Moss's production through the first quarter of the 2010 season is typical of his play on his way out and the last three quarters of the season could bring big numbers as he's tended to thrive when going to a new situation.

No one will be happier to have Randy Moss in the fold than Brett Favre, the Vikings' quarterback who has struggled early in the season without a legitimate number one receiver. 

Sidney Rice, Favre's favourite target last year, has been sidelined with a hip injury this season and is still on crutches, which could raise some doubts about how likely he is to return this season and no one has been able to rise to the fill the void.  Bernard Berrian's been a bust and Percy Harvin is more suited to a slot role that allows the Vikings to exploit matchups.

Favre will waste no time in making Moss his preferred receiver, so big numbers should be expected from both over the rest of the season (perhaps not in their first week together, though, as the Vikings visit the Jets).   1000 yards the rest of the way shouldn't be out of the question for Moss.

Thus, with Moss arriving, Berrian's meagre production doesn't figure to get any better, but underneath receivers like Harvin and TE Visanthe Shiancoe should remain reasonably productive. 

It's also possible that Moss' presence could help RB Adrian Peterson, who's been forced to face a lot of defensive pressure since the Vikings' passing game has been ineffective.  With Moss providing a deep threat, and drawing safety help, Peterson may find a few more holes.

Ultimately, though, this deal is going to depend on Moss.  He still has the physical skills to make a difference and, considering his track record, a move to a new location would figure to give him the motivational spark he needs to raise his game. 

The Vikes are going all-in for a Super Bowl bid this year and, with no one able to step up in Rice's absence, bringing in Moss makes sense.

Should the Favre-Moss tandem be a happy marriage (and a lockout is averted), one can only wonder what that would mean about Favre retirement/un-retirement speculation in the summer of 2011.

The Patriots Get: A third-round pick.

In the drafts from 2000 through 2009 (too soon to gauge 2010), about 25-30 per cent of 341 players selected turned into NFL starters, and at least that many have played reserve roles, so there is a likelihood that the Pats will add a useful player with the selection.

For example, one of those third-round picks, taken by New England in 2009, is speed-burning receiver Brandon Tate, who figures to get a more looks with Moss gone. 

In four games this year, Tate has 11 catches for 135 yards, but has also returned two kicks for touchdowns, so there is incentive for the Patriots to get the ball in his hands more often to see if he can be a threat in the passing game as well. 

It's also possible that the Patriots could deal for a receiver, like San Diego's Vincent Jackson, but Tate is the immediate beneficiary of this move. 

Since Moss was factoring so little into the passing attack anyway, his absence shouldn't hurt Tom Brady's production too much.

Moss is going to be a free agent at the end of the season, so once the Patriots decided to get rid of him, it made some sense to look to the future in this deal. 

Given the Patriots' defensive shortcomings (they rank 28th in the league, allowing 384.5 yards per game), the Pats don't seem like Super Bowl contenders, so better to cut their losses with Moss, get something for him and by moving him to the NFC, even if he returns to previous form, Moss is not as likely to come back to haunt the Patriots.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.



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