2013 NFC North Division Preview: Minnesota Vikings

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by Andrew Coughlin

Projected 2013 Finish: 4TH NFC North

Projected 2013 Record: 7-9

2012 Record: 10-6

So much of this year depends on how much progress Christian Ponder has made since his rookie season two years ago.  If he can show that he truly is a capable, intelligent starting quarterback that belongs in the NFL, then the Vikings could be a playoff team just like last year. Defenses will try there best to stop Adrian Peterson; that should open things up for Ponder.  We'll see if he steps up his game this year and makes the jump from average quarterback to someone teams will have to stop.

OFFENSE

348 carries for 2,097 yds.  That's what Peterson did last year coming off major knee surgery.  A career high in rushing yards and second most in carries.  It'd be awfully difficult to repeat that kind of production, especially since every defense the Vikings face will game plan around Peterson and force Ponder to beat them. 

Balance is the key for this offense.  Look for head coach Leslie Frazier to do just that.  Minnesota has arguably the best offensive line in the division, so protection should not be an issue for Ponder.  Breaking down defenses will be a necessity and Ponder needs to show he can do it on a weekly basis. 

Minnesota traded away receiver Percy Harvin and went out and signed Green Bay's star receiver Greg Jennings in return.  Then traded a cache of draft picks to move up and grab what they hope can be their slot receiver of the future in Cordarrelle Patterson.  Minnesota hopes the pair will be the weapons Ponder needs to take the next step as their starting quarterback, as well as taking the heat off of Peterson.

DEFENSE

Minnesota's defense is again anchored by their defensive line.  All four linemen return to their positions, which they played so well last season.  Defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison combined for 20.5 sacks a year ago.  Allen remains a constant nightmare for opposing QBs and it doesn't hurt that Robison is slowly becoming a consistent threat himself. 

Linebackers Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson return.  The Vikings quickly nabbed Desmond Bishop after he was released by the Packers.  He sat out all of last season with a torn hamstring.  If he returns to form and beats out Marvin Mitchell, the Vikings will have a very solid corp of linebackers.

Three returning starters in the secondary, but some big shoes to fill with the departure of longtime cornerback Antoine Winfield.  Even though he's getting up there in age, Winfield was Minnesota's best defensive back.  They used the first round pick the got for Harvin and used it on Xavier Rhodes; a tall conerback with lots of talent and upside.  He'll compete with Josh Robinson, who stepped in and started when Chris Cook went down with an injury.  It doesn't matter who wins the starting job, the Vikings will have depth in their secondary.

Minnesota was the surprise team in the NFC last season.  Peterson certainly surprised everyone by not only coming back from serious injury, but coming back stronger on his way to winning the MVP.  He'd be hard pressed to repeat last year's performance but we should all expect another great year from him.  And the Vikings defense should be about what they were last year: consistent and unyielding.  The question mark will be in their passing game.  If Minnesota can throw the ball down-field they could be a playoff team.  If they can't, they'll be under .500.

 

Send emails to acoughlin@cbs58.com

 

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