2008 Record: 10-6
There’s a reason Adrian Peterson’s nickname is “All Day.” The whole state of Minnesota should put in a tax provision just to buy Peterson some Tylenol for carrying the team on his back for two years.
Guess what? Help isn’t coming any time soon either.
The Vikings most successful move in Free Agency this year was picking up backup QB Sage Rosenfels from Houston. Sage is probably best known for blowing a 17-point lead to the Colts with under 5 minutes to play last season. Beyond that, he is a decent passer, but on the whole is about the same skill level as Tavaris Jackson.
T-Jax suffered a knee injury in training camp, and while the team says he will be “ok”, the Vikings remain in the market for a quarterback. With the lack of an accomplished passer at the helm, no one really knows how good the Vikings wide receivers are. Bernard Berrian has shown flashes of brilliance in his career, and is a solid deep threat with good speed. Berrian put up 964 yards last year, averaging over 20 per catch. Behind him, the Vikings struggled, with Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice splitting catches (and drops). Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe emerged as a legitimate target, but he still didn’t see the amount of passes he could have with a quality quarterback.
The most exciting thing to happen to Minnesota might have been the drafting of high-risk, high-reward Percy Harvin out of Florida. Harvin brings another dimension to the offense with his quick-hitting ability as a swing back and as a wide receiver. Harvin will also provide some electricity in the return game.
Minnesota’s O-line is still pretty good, and they have done a good job with replacing aging veterans with young talent. Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie might be the best left side in the entire league, and the addition of rookie tackle Phil Loadholt from Oklahoma should help the line even more.
Since the days when Mike Tomlin was defensive coordinator, Minnesota has had an astonishingly good rush defense. They finished 1st in the league in run D last season, denying the Steelers the 1-1-1 trifecta. Jared Allen made a big splash last year, racking up 14.5 sacks and a 1st team All Pro selection. Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are about as unstoppable a force inside as there is in the league. Think about two Casey Hamptons at the middle of your defense. That’s pretty much what Minnesota has going here.
Behind the front 4, the defense gets slightly weaker moving back. The secondary has been exploited in recent years, though they still remain one of the better units in the league. Losing starting safety Darren Sharper to New Orleans via Free Agency will hurt, but Antoine Winfield and Madieu Williams have enough talent to make plays. The Vikings defense pulled in only 12 interceptions last season, with tied them for 21st in the league. The Vikings as a whole had a -6 turnover differential, and had a turnover in all but 1 game last year, including 7 games with more than 1 turnover.
Between T-Jax and Gus Frerotte, the Vikings outpassed their opponents in 7 games, and were 4-3 in those games. Peterson was the leading rusher in all 16 of Minnesota’s games last season, and I don’t think we need to tell you how good he is. This is largely the same team that went 10-6 last year, including going 7-2 down the stretch. But Frerotte is gone, and he went 8-3 as a starter last year, accounting for the Vikings midseason success. This team is still a threat to win this division and push for a playoff spot, but until they get someone who can scare defenses off by making a few throws, Peterson is going to see the box stacked against him every game. It is a testament to AP’s ability that he is still able to put up sick numbers (1760 rush yds, 110 yds per game last year) facing 8 and 9-man fronts all day.
Ian’s Prediction: 9-7
The Vikings face a fairly easy schedule, particularly in the early months, and they should rack up enough wins to keep them in the hunt throughout the season. They start off with Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco, Green Bay and St. Louis (with SF and GB at home). None of the road trips are incredibly far, and the Cleveland game will be their only game not in a dome. Don’t be surprised to see the Vikings start 4-1 or 5-0. The gauntlet of their schedule comes before their bye week with games against Baltimore, at Pittsburgh, and at Green Bay. Three home games after the bye against Detroit, Seattle, and Chicago should put the Vikings in good position heading into December. Three of their last five are on the road, with their closing schedule @ARI, CIN, @CAR, @CHI, NYG. There are a lot of losable games here, and the Vikings could slide at the end of the season. Their season rests on Adrian Peterson’s shoulders, and he’s going to need some help from the passing offense, which ranked 25th in the league last year. I think the Vikings will push for the division title and the playoffs again, and their defense will keep them competitive. In the end, they get edged out by Green Bay for the NFC North crown.