The 2011 season for the Minnesota Vikings was a worst-case scenario situation. The Vikings proved "Murphy's Law" last year because whatever bad could have happened, did happen.
The 2012 season will be much different for the Vikings. The Vikings have a lot to look forward to in the coming months in the offseason.
Here are the five reasons why the Vikings will win the NFC North in 2012.
Last season the lockout hurt a lot of teams in the offseason—none worse than the Minnesota Vikings. With a new head coach, rookie quarterback and a team who lost key players like Pat Williams, Heath Farwell and Sidney Rice, the Vikings could have used all the time allowed in the offseason.
This time around, the Vikings will have more time to prepare for next season. This will allow Leslie Frazier to see more things about his team than he was able to see in one short month of practice from last year—there will also be a lot of new faces in the coaching staff that players need to become familiar with.
The Vikings offense was not able to get on the right track with offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave last year because of the shortened offseason—they will have plenty of time this year.
The length of the offseason will benefit the Vikings more than any team the way it hurt them last year.
Ponder did look impressive in some outings but not in all. This year he will have the chance to show his true talents to the NFL and he must play well in his division. With Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler as the other three quarterbacks in the division, the Vikings need consistent play out of Christian Ponder.
Christian Ponder will be able to grow with the team through practice and OTA’s, and his receivers can build a level of trust with him that will play on the field next year. Ponder will likely learn the playbook much better this year. Ponder will also spend more time with the first team in practices which will help him grow with them. Nothing is as important as a quarterback gaining the trust and creating a chemistry with his receivers and teammates, expect Ponder to do just that.
With more consistent play at the Quarterback position don't expect the Vikings to win three games in 2012.
The Vikings have the third pick in the 2012 NFL draft and they will most likely use it on a very talented player that will immediately help the team. Whether it is LT Matt Kalil to help protect Ponder, WR Justin Blackmon to give a deep threat for Ponder and open up for Harvin or if it is CB Morris Claiborne to help the Vikings and their much-maligned secondary—they will all be a big help to the team. The Vikings also have a lot more high picks in the draft that can help provide them with talent.
What's more important is the hiring of Rick Spielman as GM. Spielman has made great moves for the Vikings and he is looking to make a splash this offseason in free agency. The signing of key free agents like a big WR, lockdown cornerback or a great defensive player will definitely occur.
The Vikings had three weaknesses last year: pass protection, passing game and pass defense. With the additions of three to four key players the Vikings will have a much stronger team than last year.
The Vikings always seemed to be in every game in 2011. The Vikings could have easily started 3-0, but they decided to start a trend of losing close games. The Vikings gave up many early leads in games which lead to heartbreaking losses. This will not happen next year.
The reason it will not happen is because the coaching staff will have more of a grasp on the game and will be able to make necessary adjustments. This logic comes from the first reason, the lack of a true offseason. With new members added to the coaching staff along with a year of maturity for a head coach and offensive coordinator, the Vikings will be well-prepared for holding on to leads and not letting close games slip away.
The added personnel will also help the Vikings. Calvin Johnson will not be able to make spectacular catches to bring the Lions back if there are decent corners. The offense will be able to convert crucial third downs with either Kalil, Blackmon or a big WR free agent.
Don't expect many heartbreaking losses from the Vikings next year.
The Vikings are not a young team trying to figure it out, they are an experienced team that needs decent play out of their quarterback and a couple of pieces to help take them to the next level.
The 2009 Vikings reached the NFC Championship and if not for a five-yard delay of game penalty, the Vikings would have had a chance to win the Super Bowl.
What is the difference between the team going into 2012 and the 2009 team?
The coaching staff in 2012 can not get worse than the 2009 staff. Head coach Brad Childress really held back the team and should not have been a head coach in the NFL. Darren Bevell was not a great offensive coach and was lucky to be around Sidney Rice, Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.
The secondary was better because Antoine Winfield was younger, although he was injured for a huge part of the year, and Cedric Griffin was not hurt. The 2012 Vikings may sign CB Cortland Finnegan or draft CB Morris Claiborne, Chase Minnifield, Janoris Jenkins or Desmond Trufant. A secondary with any of these cornerbacks and with the hopeful return of Chris Cook, the Vikings will have a stronger secondary than they did in 2009.
The offensive line was much better in 2009 with a younger Hutchinson and great play out of Bryant McKinnie. If the Vikings select Matt Kalil then the Vikings may get similar play from their offensive line like they did in 2009.
The wide receiver corps was better because of Sidney Rice and Visanthe Shiancoe playing at such a high level. One big wide receiver signing in the offseason can easily replace with production. Kyle Rudolph will put up numbers similar to Shiancoe in 2009 if he is used properly. Expect the passing attack to be strong in 2012 for the Vikings.
The Vikings team is full of experience and if veterans like Chad Greenway, Kevin Williams, Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson, Steve Hutchinson, etc. can help the newer players develop, including Ponder, then expect the Vikings to compete and win the NFC North division next year.
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