Well, so much for the Gomer Pyle impression.
Perhaps shocking would be a more appropriate description of the 2012 Minnesota Vikings, who posted a 10-6 mark and grabbed a wild card invitation. All this after the team managed a combined 9-23 mark the previous two seasons combined, including a dismal 3-13 mark in 2011.
Head coach Leslie Frazier deserves his share of credit for the revival and the unexpected trip to the playoffs, which almost got a little lost in the shuffle as a certain running back was busy chasing history.
In any case, the Minnesota Vikings are heading back to the playoffs for a second straight season…
If: The Minnesota defense continues to develop. In 2011, Frazier's team allowed a whopping 449 points and more significantly an NFL-high 34 touchdown passes despite tying for the league lead with 50 sacks. This past season, the Vikings gave up more than 100 fewer points (348) and a total of 38 offensive touchdowns. Per usual, defensive end Jared Allen remains one of the best defensive players in the league and totaled 12 of the team's 44 sacks in 2012.
And: Running back Adrian Peterson has another big year. Asking the reigning league MVP to run for 2,000-plus yards for a second straight season may be asking a lot, not only because that's never been done but that no player in league history has reached that mark in a season twice. Peterson's 2,097 yards rushing in 2012 was the second-best single-season mark in league annals and he wound up scoring 13 of the club's 34 offensive touchdowns.
But: It could be a disappointing season for the team if quarterback Christian Ponder's third NFL season isn't charming. After a very respectable start which saw the Vikings' signal-caller not throw an interception in any of his first four games in 2012, Ponder served up a dozen picks in as many games and committed a total of 15 turnovers (while throwing just 14 touchdown passes) in the club's final 12 contests. With wide receiver Percy Harvin off to Seattle, Ponder needs to develop a rapport very quickly with new wideout Greg Jennings, similar to what he has with Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph.
So what do you think? The NFC North proved to be pretty formidable once again last season and knocking the Packers out of the top spot in the division won't be easy. Then again, are the Vikings ready to move up or was the 2012 campaign just a flash in the pan?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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