The Minnesota Vikings began the 2011 season with fringe playoff hopes, pinned to the workhorse legs of Adrian Peterson and the veteran arm of Donovan McNabb. Minnesota learned quickly what Philadelphia and Washington already knew about McNabb.
Christian Ponder took over with mixed results, and, after some injuries, he had to be relieved by Joe Webb. A win over Washington in Week 16 and a competitive game against Chicago had the fan base in Minnesota swoon over Webb and quickly forget about Ponder.
Star running back Peterson left the season with a torn ACL and backup Toby Gerhart suffered a torn MCL in the final game of the season. Gerhart should be ready by the start of 2012, but Peterson is still a question mark.
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Minnesota plays in a division with two of the Top 5 passing offenses in the NFL. Jared Allen had a historic season in regards to his sack totals in 2011, but the team defense was riddled with injuries and overmatched by talent.
The Vikings drafted Ponder to be the future at the quarterback position, but they wished to ease him into the role while learning under McNabb. Ponder took over the reins in the sixth game of the season and didn’t finish a game with a rating over 103.1. He had numerous injuries, including a concussion and hip injury.
Peterson has been a monster throughout his career in Minnesota, but last season he only eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three games and finished the season with a torn ACL that may keep him out of action at the start of 2012. Recently Peterson was involved in an incident with an off-duty police officer that is pending investigation.
The Vikings drafted strong and agile offensive tackle Matt Kalil to anchor the line and protect Ponder from getting hit so often. Wide receiver Percy Harvin has made his unhappiness over his contract situation known, but Ponder is dependent on him as his best weapon and only explosive playmaker while Peterson is recovering from the ACL.
Minnesota looks to be building its offense through the tight end position. Kyle Rudolph was drafted in 2010 along with Ponder and the team signed John Carlson to line up on the opposite side in duel tight end sets.
Allen received all the headlines last season for the Vikings due to his tremendous season of 22 sacks. Allen’s personal success did not translate to the squad as a whole as the team finished 31 of 32 teams in the league, allowing 28.1 points per game.
The defense is at a point of transition with aging stars Allen and tackle Kevin Williams entering the twilight of their careers. The defensive line still has some good football left in them and Brian Robison could put up some nice sack totals opposite Allen.
The linebacking corps will be shuffled from last season. Jasper Brinkley is moving to the middle to replace E.J. Henderson. He doesn’t have elite lateral athleticism and this will put more pressure on solid outside linebacker Chad Greenway. An interesting development could be former defensive end and special teamer Everson Griffin’s move from the line to outside linebacker.
The Vikings pass coverage was horrendous last season, allowing a league-worst 34 touchdowns. Antoine Winfield will be welcomed back to the secondary after suffering a broken collarbone as will Chris Cook after legal troubles involving an assault allegation from his girlfriend.
Minnesota spent three of their first four picks in the draft on the defensive backfield. Notre Dame teammates Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton will be added along with speedster Josh Robinson to try and inject new life to an underachieving group.
2012 Minnesota Vikings Schedule Analysis
Statistically, Minnesota has the eighth hardest schedule in the NFL with an opponents winning percentage of .512.
The rebuilding Vikings couldn’t have asked for a better two-game opener. Minnesota faces a struggling Jacksonville franchise with quarterback problems and an Indianapolis team that will be depending on rookie playmakers.
Minnesota will struggle against heavy-passing offenses again this season. While they are going to improve in their secondary coverage, they still leave much to be desired. All three division opponents have strong passing attacks. Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and the Houston games in particular should be very high-scoring. Five of the six Minnesota division games last year resulted in total scores of 49 or higher.
2012 Minnesota Vikings NFL Futures Odds
At Bovada Sportsbook, the Minnesota Vikings are 150/1 to win the Super Bowl, 70/1 to win the NFC and 25/1 to win the NFC North division. Those odds are spot-on as the 2012 Vikings will struggle to win a handful of games.
Legends Sportsbook has the “over/under” win total for the Vikings at six games. Peterson recovering from a knee injury, Ponder recovering from a hip injury, Harvin fragile and upset with the team, and a defense that can’t defend the pass will make it difficult for Minnesota to defeat any of their division rivals and could easily lose 14 straight after the Indianapolis game.
While that extended losing streak will probably not occur, taking the under six wins is a smart play considering the tremendous effort the team will have to put forth to even remain competitive in the majority of their games.
2012 Minnesota Vikings Predictions
Minnesota will be running a full season audition for Ponder and a final plea from Head Coach Leslie Frazier. If the Vikings fail to improve, Ponder will be re-examined and Frazier will be replaced. With new coaches come new quarterbacks, and Minnesota would be rebuilding again.
Outside of Kalil, the Vikings drafted players to fill roles that are empty rather than finding potential difference-makers. Minnesota will be testing many new faces in many new positions. With the new players, there will be adjustment periods, timing issues on offense, spacing issues on defense and an overall lack of talent to oppose the high-powered offenses of the NFC North division.
The Vikings will lose the majority of their games this season, but they should keep games close at the Metrodome against division rivals. Even last season, the team averaged losses of only four points in the three games against the Bears, Packers and Lions in Minnesota. Smart NFL handicappers will be able to take advantage when the Vikings are home underdogs and with the over line against heavy-passing offenses.
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