Reasons To Believe
1. Right On Target - It was only a year ago that Donovan McNabb was lined up under centre for the Vikings. Midway through the season the Vikings turned the offence over to Christian Ponder and the field began to open up. Percy Harvin came on strong in the second half and should continue to perform well in 2012. Aside from Harvin, the Vikings signed Jerome Simpson, who has been a standout in training camp, but will miss the first three games due to a suspension. Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson are also interesting options at tight end, making Minnesota's passing surprisingly potent.
2. Attack The Block - Jared Allen remains one of the premiere pass rushers in all of the NFL. In a division that features Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler, disrupting the pocket in imperative to winning. Allen is joined by Kevin Williams and Brian Robison to make a formittable defensive front. Allen has 77.5 sacks in the last five seasons, including 22 last year, while Williams and Robison put up 13 combined.
3. Home Improvements - Minnesota inserted third overall pick Matt Kalil as their starting left tackle from the first day of training camp. Steve Hutchinson may have left for Tennessee, but stabilizing the left tackle spot with Kalil helps solidify the line. That moves Charlie Johnson over to left guard, where he is more suited to play. John Sullivan may have been the most impressive member of the Vikings line and was rewarded by the team with a big contract at season's end. Phil Loadholt is a giant human being at right tackle and while he may lack in consistency he makes up for as a mauling run blocker.
Reasons To Doubt
1. Ready To Run? - Peterson is trying to return to the team at record speed after his knee injury late last season. The star back is participating in training camp, but the team prevented defenders from making contact with him early on. Peterson hasn't experienced a setback thus far and while conventional wisdom would lead you to believe Toby Gerhart will handle the majority of the work early in the season, it wouldn't be a complete shock to see Peterson defy the odds and be back to his usual freak self in Week 1.
2. Defensive Backfield - Minnesota was 26th against the pass, something that will need to be remedied heading into a new year. Antoine Winfield will be back in the lineup this season along with Chris Cook on the other side, however Zachary Bowman and Chris Carr are the third and fourth corners on the roster. Green Bay and Detroit will spread the field and Chicago may be able to open things up with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery now in the fold, meaning the Vikings could struggle to defend the pass yet again.
3. Wrong Place, Wrong Time - Welcome to the NFC North with the Packers (15-1), Lions (10-6) and Bears (8-8 - due to injuries to Culter and Forte). There is a chance all three of those clubs make the playoffs this season, with rosters that simply have more talent than Minnesota. It's not easy crawling out of the basement in any division and the Vikings are no exception. They will be hard-pressed to carve out wins inside the NFC North, after going 0-6 against their division opponents in 2011.
What To Expect
The truth behind Peterson is that most backs struggle when they return from severe knee injuries and even though he may be superhuman, Peterson will likely start slow in September. With their best player at half-speed, Minnesota doesn't stand a chance of improving their record by six or seven wins to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. With a franchise left tackle to protect their young quarterback, the Vikings should focus on developing their talent in hopes of taking a step in 2013.