Minnesota Vikings Predictions
After winning division titles in 2008 and 2009, the last two seasons have been excruciating for the Minnesota Vikings. They finished last in the NFC North in 2011 at 3-13 overall and 0-6 in division games.
While there have been plenty of dark days for Vikings’ fans the last two years, I believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Vikes aren’t ready to contend for a playoff spot, but they will be an improved team this year. 2013 could be the year Minnesota returns to prominence.
The Vikings finished 18th in the NFL in total offense in 2011 with 329.7 yards per game. They came in 19th in scoring with 21.2 points per contest. A passing game that ranked 28th in the league with only 184.8 yards per game help the offense back.
Christian Ponder, who connected on just 158 of 291 (54.3 percent) throws for 1,853 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, must be more consistent for the passing game to take a step forward. Ponder will will be able to best those numbers if he gets better protection, which he should now that top draft pick Matt Kalil will be protecting his blind side.
Percy Harvin, who hauled in 87 passes for 967 yards and six scores in 2011, was Minnesota’s best option, by far, through the air last season. The Vikes need another receiver or two to step up so opponents can’t key on Harvin as much. They believe wide receiver Jerome Simpson and tight end Kyle Rudolph have the tools to shine.
The running game is in good hands as long as Adrian Peterson is healthy. The big fella rushed for 970 yards and 12 scores last year despite missing time with injuries. He tore his ACL on Christmas Eve, but the rehab process has been going well. Even if he’s ready to go in Week 1, don’t be surprised if the Vikings err on the side of caution to make sure his knee is as healthy and stable as possible.
The stop unit was extremely porous in 2011. It ranked 31st in the NFL scoring defense with 28.1 points allowed per game and 21st in total defense with 358.2 yards allowed per contest. In order to see drastic improvement in these figures, Minnesota will need to get much better play from the secondary.
The Vikings ranked 26th in the league against the pass last season with 251.2 yards allowed per game. They allowed foes to complete over 68 percent of their throws. The secondary should be better in 2012, but how much better remains to be seen. Antoine Winfield is back from injury and Chris Cook is done with a legal battle that cost him most of last season.
The defensive backfield was clearly a priority during the draft as the team took Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith and South Florida cornerback Josh Robinson, who has sub-4.3 speed.
The defensive line is still capable of being one of the most dominant units in the league. End Jared Allen is coming off a season in which he recorded a ridiculous 22 sacks. Fellow end Brian Robison added eight. Kevin Williams is still one of the best three-technique tackles in the game when healthy, but ad 32 his healthy appears to be leaving him. He battled knee and feet problems all of last season.
The linebacker corps is led by strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway, who posted a gaudy 174 tackles in 2011. Greenway could play for anyone, but the rest of the unit has a lot to prove. The Vikes need a big season from Jasper Brinkley, who missed all of last season with a hip injury.
NFC North Prediction: 4th Place
Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit are all still ahead of Minnesota as they have proven quarterbacks. However, the Vikings will be a lot more competitive this season. Six or seven wins isn’t out of the question.
This season should not be judged by whether Minnesota makes the playoffs (because it most likely won’t), but by how much Ponder, the wide receiver corps and secondary improves.
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