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Posted By Sean Eckhardt On Aug 23 2012 @ 6:21 pm In Minnesota Vikings | No Comments

What if?  That is the question.  The Minnesota Vikings are a team that most experts think very little of.  A lot of Viking fans aren’t expecting too much this season either.  What if all of these people are wrong?  What if this team looks as good in the regular season as it has so far during the preseason?  Could Minnesota actually make a run at the playoffs?  Sure.  The NFL preseason is a beautiful thing, in that it allows every team and it’s fans some hope for the upcoming season.  The Vikings have given their fans some of that hope already, and this is a fan base that is used to competing for a playoff berth.  So while expectations might be a little lower than usual, there are definitely realistic scenarios for Minnesota to make the postseason.

In the NFL the most important position on the field is quarterback.  Christian Ponder has to have a dramatic step up during his second year.  Ponder created excitement when he intially took over the starting job during the 2011 season, but didn’t look very good at all as the season progressed.  At one point he was even benched in favor of Joe Webb.  As teams adjusted to Ponder’s style, he struggled and was prone to turnovers.  So far he has looked very good in the preseason, completing over 63% of his passes and he has yet to throw an interception.  Christian has actually set a goal for himself of 75% completion on 1st and 2nd down.  That is unrealistic,  but if he can stay above 60% that would be a big boost for the Viking’s offense.

Adrian Peterson is not going to play in the preseason.  That is a smart decision by Leslie Frazier and the Minnesota organization as a whole.  The Vikes need AP to stay healthy for the entire year if they want to make any noise in the NFC, so I don’t expect to see him in a game until week 2 or 3 at the earliest.  Toby Gerhart has looked impressive and should be able to hold down the fort until Peterson returns.

The Minnesota defense has plenty of new faces this year, and some of them are set to make an impact right away.  Harrison Smith, the Vikes 1st-rounder out of Notre Dame, will start at safety, and so far has really added some much needed energy to the Minnesota secondary.  Audie Cole, a 7th round LB, has also been very impressive.  This guy started out as one of those players that would struggle to make the roster, but he has been making some big-time plays, including back-to-back pick-6′s last week against Buffalo.  If the Vikings can take some of that new blood and effectively combine it with the Pro Bowl talent that is already out there(Allen, Greenway, K Williams, and Winfield), the Minnesota D can be an elite unit.  An elite defense can take a team a long way.

Maybe the biggest question mark for the Vikings continues to be at the receiver position.  They have new faces there as well, but they are all guys that have yet to make a big impact in the NFL.  According to reports coming out of training camp, the guy who does look impressive is Kyle Rudolph, the second year tight end.  He will be a great target for Ponder.  If Percy Harvin can stay healthy and keep his head on straight, the Vikings will simply need some solid contributions from some of the new blood like Jerome Simpson to have a dangerous offense.

So there it is.  A road map to the playoffs for the Vikings.  Of course it’s filled with hope and what ifs, but that’s the way the NFL is now.  Over the past twenty years there has been one constant statistic: half of the teams that made the playoffs the previous year don’t make it back the next year.  That means roughly 50% of the teams that make the playoffs this season will be new ones.  Minnesota will be vying to be one those new teams

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