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Vikings season preview: Teddy Bridgewater or bust

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Around The NFL's season preview goes to the NFC North.

Change we can believe in


As a rookie, Teddy Bridgewater was one of December's premier quarterbacks with Matt Asiata, Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright and Chase Ford -- not the big-name foursome of Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph that he was expected to have at his disposal.

Now Bridgewater is entering the season with a full arsenal. Jennings has been replaced by deep threat Mike Wallace, while Patterson has been displaced by the emerging Johnson. The key, though, is the return of Peterson, the most dynamic running back of his generation. As defenses stuff the box in a vain attempt to keep Peterson under wraps, Bridgewater will be passing through bigger windows this year.

Biggest concern


The offensive line was a question mark even before right tackle Phil Loadholt went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. Now the Vikings will have new starters on the entire right side of the line in guard Mike Harris and rookie tackle T.J. Clemmings. Bridgewater's blindside is also a concern, as left tackle Matt Kalil struggled with both outside and inside moves in 2014.

An added concern: Blair Walsh has gone from ultra-reliable All-Pro as a 2012 rookie to a complete mystery this summer. His field goal percentage has decreased each year in the league. Now he's missing chip shots with regularity. The Vikings need Walsh to beat the yips, as Packers veteran Mason Crosby did a couple of years ago.

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Training camp surprise


Second-round linebacker Eric Kendricks has yet to beat out underrated middle linebacker Gerald Hodges for the middle linebacker job in base packages. After an impressive offseason, though, Kendricks has been all over the field in preseason action with the first-team nickel package. Kendricks has been solid against the run and in coverage, leading all inside linebackers in run-stop percentage this month, per Pro Football Focus. In Kendricks, Hodges and 2014 first-round pick Anthony Barr, coach Mike Zimmer has a highly athletic linebacker trio if veteran Chad Greenway continues to fade.

What we'll be saying in February


The Vikings lived up to expectations as the trendy young team ready to crash the postseason party. Although they managed to secure a wild card berth, the Vikings are another year away from doing real damage in January. With the new stadium ready to open in 2016, Minnesota is one of the most exciting teams in the league.

Predicted finish: Third place in NFC North, tied for No. 6 in NFC, tied for No. 11 overall in Around The NFL's Power Poll.

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