I want to say something. I’m going to put it out there, and if you like it, you can take it; if you don’t, send it right back.
The Minnesota Vikings will make the playoffs.
Well, they could anyway, which is close enough.
A few weeks ago I predicted the Arizona Cardinals could be this year’s sleeper team. For a brief second I thought about picking the Vikings, but that went against the whole column.
I’ve since changed my mind.
Think about it. They’re younger at quarterback, have the best running back in the league, a still semi-decent run defense, and a pretty darn good receiver in Percy Harvin. They will also benefit from playing a fourth place schedule.
The Vikings could potentially be 6-2 or 5-3 when their bye week rolls around, just in time for their yearly trip to Lambeau Field. With games against Oakland, Denver, Washington and home against Chicago in the second half of the season, it is not entirely impossible for this team to finish 9-7.
I know Donovan McNabb struggled last year in Washington, but there is enough evidence to show that it wasn’t entirely his fault. Yes, the Vikings lost deep threat Sidney Rice in the offseason, but Rice has only played one full season out of his four in the league, while Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins have shown some strength along the sidelines so far this preseason. Heck, even Bernard Berrian caught a 47-yard touchdown. Team that with Visanthe Shiancoe and rookie Kyle Rudolph, and the Vikings could be one of the best offenses in the league.
The defense doesn’t have quite the break out potential, however, as even with superstars Kevin Williams and Jared Allen back, the Vikings have some holes.
Pat Williams’ departure will be filled by a more-than-capable Leroy Guion, and Brian Robison looks like he can be a consistent starter in place of Ray Edwards. Everson Griffen may even turn some heads this year.
Weak side linebacker will be the biggest area of concern. Erin Henderson — an undrafted free agent and the younger brother of Pro Bowler, and teammate, EJ Henderson — will get the first opportunity to start. He hasn’t done much to prove that he can be a starter, but I fully trust Leslie Frazier to know what he’s doing.
Speaking of Leslie Frazier, he might be the biggest reason for this year’s potential turn around. The second year head coach has surrounded himself with the personnel that fits his style: establish the run and make plays on defense.
Bill Musgrave as the new offensive coordinator means the old zone blocking scheme is gone and a straight forward, pound the rock system is in place. This again all comes back to Adrian Peterson, who has looked better than ever this preseason.
So will the Vikings make the post season? Probably not. Can they? Absolutely.
Realistically, the Packers are going to win the NFC North, leaving Minnesota to fight for one of two wild card spots. If they can finish ahead of Detroit and hope the Giants falter down the stretch again, they could be back on track.