2012 NFC North Preview: Minnesota Vikings
Projected 2012 Finish: 4th NFC North
Projected 2012 Record: 4-12
2011 Record: 3-13
The Minnesota Vikings were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2011. A torn ligament and a rookie QB made it very difficult for them to get going. They didn't win a game in division play and only had one win at home. They finished 3-13 last year and suffered injuries and departures that will spill into this season, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
They reached in drafting QB Christian Ponder last year and may have rushed him onto the field too quickly. He did show glimpses in a few games last year, starting in ten games for Minnesota and finishing the year with 13TDs, 13 INTs and a 70.1 QBR. Not bad for a rookie showcase, but this offense has many question marks, starting with him. The NFL is a QB league and Ponder will be under a lot of pressure to produce and show that he's capable in a hurry.
Ponder will also try to show what he can do with a questionable offensive line. What was once one of the more dominant lines in the NFL a few years ago will start a rookie LT in Matt Kalil; the 4th overall pick in this years draft. Out is longtime mainstay Steve Hutchinson, arguably one of the best guards in the league the past ten seasons. This departure could hurt the Vikings more than they expect. A rookie LT may be enough inexperience for an offensive line to bear, but couple that with a guard that hasn't started a game yet and that may yield disaster for a second year QB.
The last question mark in this offense will be how well Adrian Peterson's knee holds up. I know he is a freak of nature, but it hasn't even been a year since his injury and he's back out there as if nothing happened to him. Although, Minnesota is being awfully cautious with him, giving Toby Gerhart a sizable workload.
If AP can come back strong and the line holds its' ground and is able to protect their QB, this offense might be able to stay in some games throughout the year.
Jared Allen anchors the defensive line again this year with fellow veteran Kevin Williams. Those two alone would give this line credibility, but it was the emergence of DE Brian Robison last year that could make them formidable. In 2011, Robison was given an opportunity and he seized it, compiling 8 sacks while starting in all 16 games. The defensive line should be a strength for an average defense as a whole.
Last year, OLB Erin Henderson got his chance to start alongside his brother. Well, E.J. is out and MLB Jasper Brinkley will get his first chance to be a starter. Add venerable Chad Greenway to the other side and the Vikings should have a pretty solid line-backing corps; as long as Brinkley can do as good a job as Erin's older brother.
CB Antione Winfield was a pleasant constant for the Viking secondary for the past 7 seasons, until he broke his collarbone last year and played in only 5 games. In the secondary, he'll be surrounded by youth and inexperience. He's still viewed as one of the best CBs in the league, but is getting up there in age at 34. Needless to say, Winfield will be teaching while trying to make plays as he'll be in front of two young safeties. The return of him and Chris Cook, both lost to injury last season, could cover for the safeties' lack of in-game play. If the defensive line can create a consistent pass rush and pressure the opposing QB, it could make this below average secondary look above average.
I don't think the Vikings are going to surprise anyone this season. The team has some talent on both sides of the ball, but not enough to compete in one of the most competitive divisions in football. This team will be about as bad as everyone expects. Look for Minnesota to get another high draft pick this year while it serves as a punching bag for the other three teams in the division.
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