I was about to write that no team overachieved more last season than the Minnesota Vikings, but I guess that title has to go to Andrew Luck's Indianapolis Colts. So let's say the Vikings were the biggest overachievers in the NFC by finishing 10-6 -- a year after a 3-13 mark - and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
I'm not sure I've seen one player who wasn't a quarterback carry a team more to a postseason berth than Adrian Peterson did last season. Peterson, of course, wasn't even a lock to start the season off major knee surgery but had one of the greatest years ever for a running back in winning NFL MVP honors. That playoff berth led the Vikings to pick up coach Leslie Frazier's option through the 2014 season, but I'm not convinced he's on solid ground if Minnesota has a losing mark in 2013. It's rare for a coach to be on the sidelines with just one season left as he would clearly be a lame-duck. Thus, don't read much into the fact that Frazier is signed through next year. Maybe the team will want to start fresh as it leaves the Metrodome after this season. It will play two seasons at the University of Minnesota before going into its gleaming new stadium -- a stadium that likely saved the team from becoming the Los Angeles Vikings in 2014.
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The offense IS Peterson. He rushed for 2,109 yards last year, just nine short of Eric Dickerson's single-season record. Peterson averaged a stunning 6.0 yards per carry and rushed for 12 scores in edging Peyton Manning for MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors. No back has rushed for 2,000 yards twice in his career, but Peterson not only thinks he can do that (he's targeting an unthinkable 2,500) but eventually break Emmitt Smith's career mark -- late in the 2017 season Peterson claimed. That's not going to happen.
The Vikings are going nowhere if Christian Ponder doesn't find some consistency. ESPN had an interesting stat. When Ponder had a QBR of 68.8 in the first four weeks of 2012, the Vikings were 3-1. When it dropped to a combined 27.1 in Weeks 5-13, Minnesota was 3-4. And in the final four weeks when Ponder's QBR was 86.8, the team went 4-0. He was downright excellent in the must-win regular-season finale against the Packers. If that Ponder shows up every day, the Vikings will be good. I don't see it. Percy Harvin was traded to Seattle, although that's looking like a good deal now with Harvin to miss most of 2013. Greg Jennings was signed, but he's trending downward and won't shut up about Aaron Rodgers. Ponder has a good tight end in Kyle Rudolph, but I don't like his targets otherwise unless first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson plays like a Rookie of the Year. He wasn't consistent at Tennessee.
The Vikings lost their best secondary player in Antoine Winfield, who's also now in Seattle. Minnesota essentially tried to low ball him, which blew up in the Vikings' faces. The line should be pretty good again as long as sackmaster Jared Allen stays healthy. The team took Florida tackle Shariff Floyd at No. 23 overall, and many think that was a steal. Fellow first-rounder Xavier Rhodes figures to plug right in for Winfield. The team also pounced when the Packers waived linebacker Desmond Bishop. He was excellent in 2011 but missed all of last year with an injury. If he's 100 percent, that's a big upgrade.
2013 Minnesota Vikings Schedule Analysis
Minnesota has the 10th-toughest schedule this year with an opponents' 2012 winning percentage of .516. We all know how rare it is for a team to start 0-2 and reach the playoffs, but that's possibly staring Minnesota in the face as it opens at Detroit and at Chicago and certainly will be dogs in both. It's the first time in 21 years the Vikings will play a pair of divisional teams on the road during the first two weeks of the season. Steal one of those, and it's three straight winnable games at home: Cleveland, Pittsburgh and, after the bye, Carolina. After that, it's eight straight against potential playoff teams: at Giants, vs. Green Bay, at Dallas, vs. Washington (short week), at Seattle, at Green Bay, vs. Chicago, at Baltimore. Yikes! That stretch, in my opinion, ends any playoff chances. The Vikings close the Metrodome in Week 17 at Detroit. Could be tough for the Lions to win that one if they need to as it likely will be emotional for the Vikes and their fans.
2013 Minnesota Vikings Futures Odds
Odds courtesy of BetOnline and Sportsbook.ag: Minnesota's “over/under” wins is set at 7.5 with the under a -165 favorite. Minnesota is a +650 long shot to win the NFC North, +2000 to win the NFC and +4500 to win the Super Bowl. Peterson is +1000 to repeat as NFL MVP and the +350 favorite to win the rushing title again. His over/under rushing total is 1,725.5 with the under a -145 favorite. There are also individual yardage chunks you can bet on: 0-999 (+600), 1000-1249 (+550), 1250-1499 (+325), 1500-1774 (+300), 1775-1999 (+325), 2000-2105 (+450) and 2106 or more (+600).
2013 Minnesota Vikings Predictions
Expect plenty of eight-man boxes against Peterson, although it seemed to not matter in 2012. Peterson is the NFL's best back, but that season was a bit flukish, just like Chris Johnson's 2,000-yard campaign was. I don't have high hopes here and think the Vikings will be the last-place team in the division as in 2011. Take the under wins, under on Peterson's rushing total and bet on the 1250-1499 prop. He has finished in that range three times in his career.
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