There are so many questions swirling around the Minnesota Vikings right now. Adrian Peterson is dealing with a surgically repaired knee and an arrest for an alleged run-in with an off-duty cop. Percy Harvin is unhappy and has requested a trade. Christian Ponder had a shaky first season and doesn't exude confidence. Ditto Leslie Frazier as head coach. With all these issues, and with Minnesota playing in a division featuring the talented Packers, Bears and Lions, what are reasonable expectations for the Vikings this season?
Vikings mortgaged future on Brett Favre experimentI am not concerned with the Adrian Peterson situation -- unless it is found that he fully instigated the situation that led to his arrest. If he was knowingly in the wrong, I would be disappointed -- something I learned years ago not to be when it comes to athletes and coaches -- because I have found "All Day" to be an upstanding and solid guy for years.
As far as the Vikings, I figured they would struggle anyway. This is a very disjointed roster in terms of experience and youth. When they went for it all a few years ago during the Brett Favre experiment, they mortgaged this era. The team got old and lost talent quickly. There are holes throughout the defense, at wide receiver and on the offensive line, as well as questions at running back because of Peterson's knee.
I do think Leslie Frazier is the type of guy who could turn things around, but he needs more than this season. He also has the type of personality to handle some of the issues, like what's going on with Percy Harvin. I think he needs to get players refocused on the team, though. For a few years, there has been too much emphasis on individualism -- starting with former head coach Brad Childress's pursuit (then knighting) of Favre -- and the franchise is still somewhat mired in that rut.
Vikings have too many questions to compete in NFL's best divisionMy expectations for the Vikings are the same as they were before the Adrian Peterson news broke: They aren't going to be very good.
The out-of-division schedule helps, with reasonable games against the AFC South and NFC West, but it really hurts that they are in the most stacked division in football. There are too many questions for this team defensively to carry a young quarterback. Six wins is a fine target.
Rebuilding Vikings probably looking at 4-6 wins -- at bestMinnesota is in rebuilding mode. The Vikings want this young offensive group to grow together for the next three years. There are still too many questions to count on this offense being consistent this year, though, especially early in the season. I think the additions of OT Matt Kalil, WR Jerome Simpson and TE John Carlson will help in the long run, but Simpson will miss the first three games of the season due to suspension. And then, of course, there's Adrian Peterson. Minnesota needs to pound the ball with Peterson to really be effective, but it could take some time for the four-time Pro Bowler to fully return to form after a serious knee injury. He'll probably be better in 2013. Defensively, the line is the strongest area, while there are still plenty of questions in the secondary.
The Vikings' first two games -- the home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars and a visit to the Indianapolis Colts -- will be key contests to win from a psychological standpoint. Even so, this team probably maxes out at 4-6 wins, considering the youth on offense and issues in the secondary. This is a rebuilding period for the Vikings.
Minnesota's a prime candidate to pick first in next April's draft"With the first pick in the 2013 draft, the Minnesota Vikings select ..."
Yes, that's a reasonable expectation. Minnesota is top-heavy with talent, but doesn't nearly have the depth to compete with the rest of the division (and the rest of the NFL, for that matter). The off-field stuff will get taken care of -- it always does. But they're staring at 0-6 in the division and will be in the heavy running for the No. 1 pick -- which might also come to be known as "The Matt Barkley Experience" -- alongside the Cleveland Browns.
The Vikings reached for Christian Ponder a year ago in a panic move when everyone else was snapping up quarterbacks. They'll realize this year that it's important to put yourself in position to get the right QB (like the Washington Redskins did with Robert Griffin III), and not settle for the best one available when they draft. But hey, at least they're staying in Minnesota!
Vikes have some winnable games, but they must take advantage of soft early scheduleIf there is any hope of getting to the .500 mark this season, Minnesota must lean on the NFL's reigning sack king, defensive end Jared Allen, and the rest of its defense while Christian Ponder, Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson try to get their collective act together. Unfortunately, the team is rolling out pretty much the same defensive group -- save adding first-round pick Harrison Smith at safety and getting a healthy (but 35-year-old) Antoine Winfield back at corner -- that gave up 449 points in 2011, ranking second-to-last in the league.
The Vikings do have some winnable games to start the season, though, as they host the Jaguars before traveling to Indianapolis. And they could pull off home wins against Tennessee, Arizona and/or Tampa Bay before their bye in Week 11. But facing the Bears and Packers twice each after the bye means they'll have to fully take advantage of the early schedule to reach the eight-win mark this season.
How does Matt Barkley look in purple?The reasonable expectation for the Minnesota Vikings will be to draft Matt Barkley with the first overall selection of the 2013 NFL Draft -- although they should expect some heavy competition from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The lone drawback is no catchy slogan like "Suck for Luck." (Well, none I can offer on a family website.)
The good news for Vikings fans is there's a new stadium on the way and teams in the NFL rebuild quickly. So there's that. But probably the best Vikings fans can hope for this year is to pull off a huge upset which will greatly impact the playoff hopes for the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears or Detroit Lions.