The organization has a history of breaking hearts, but they have Adrian Peterson, so it ain't all bad. Prognosticators have already revised their previous 2014 Vikings predictions, due to the impressive way the team has performed in the pre-season. But while most are being non-committal to say just how good the team might be, I'll call out the Vikings to be one of the big surprises in the NFL this season – not surprise as in Super bowl surprise, but surprise like, go ahead and blow that Viking horn and enjoy a winning season kind of surprise.
Teams such as the Baltimore Ravens of 2000 and 2012, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 2002, have proven that defense does indeed win championships. Incredible offense establishes dynasties, but defense can get the championship monkey off the back of a long failing franchise.
Besides defense, balance wins championships. Offense, defense, and special teams are needed to win in NFL playoff games. Great Viking teams such as that of the 15-1 record 1998 team had these qualities.
In the upcoming 2014 Vikings campaign, it goes something like this for offense, defense and special teams:
Offense – While I would love to repeat the name of Adrian Peterson and drop the microphone, so to speak, at the very least, two other offensive players deserve mention. Second year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson looks to be a young Viking phenom like many before him (see Percy Harvin, Randy Moss, and yes, Peterson). Finding these types of talents is part of the consistent attraction of the Viking franchise; it's what they do.
But besides flashy running backs and game-changing wide receivers, a tight end is often the saving grace of winning teams. Kyle Rudolph quietly made the Pro-Bowl in the 2012-2013 season, and then proceeded to win the Pro-Bowl MVP award that year. Quarterback inconsistency and spotty injuries have hampered Rudolph's full potential – though in life there is generally a hard road to achieve one's full potential. New offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, has championship pedigree, historic respect within the league, and is known to make tight ends shine. If veteran quarterback Matt Cassel – who was recently anointed as the starter versus rookie Teddy Bridgewater – can protect the ball and take advantage of the team's talented trio, then the remaining talent on the squad should be more than enough to keep the offense moving.
Defense – New Viking Head Coach Mike Zimmer is known for defense. He is also known to develop a successful culture for his players to thrive. We'll see about all of that, but Zimmer certainly has the pieces on defense to produce a successful campaign. Though several players on the Vikings defense deserve a nod of confidence, including rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, it is the team's pick up of veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn that may tip the scales in favor of the team's defensive fortunes. Munnerlyn possesses the type of savvy ability that makes plays when plays need to be made.
If the Vikings defensive line can surprise by producing a successful pass rush, in spite of losing perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen to the Chicago Bears, then the players on the back end of the defense are the types that make plays; and that's a very good thing.
Special Teams – Interestingly, besides the Superman talent of Patterson, it is the quietly steady production from former Minnesota Gopher, and Rochester native Marcus Sherels that ensures a steady return game. Kicker Blair Walsh has a strong and generally accurate kicking leg. The Vikings' bases are covered.
All together the Vikings are well balanced in 2014 ... and they have Adrian Peterson. If good health is on their side, I'm calling their record to be 11-5. We'll deal with the playoffs when they get there.