The Vikings' formula is simple: Run the ball with Adrian Peterson—who is surprising everyone with his play coming off ACL surgery—play good defense, and not rely on second-year quarterback Christian Ponder to do too much.
Through the season's first four games, the plan was working almost to perfection.
Minnesota owned a 3-1 record, Peterson was healthy and running well and Ponder—while certainly not being mistaken for an elite quarterback—hadn't made any mistakes.
However, the next four games would be much different.
The defense has still played well and Peterson has been even better, rushing for 443 yards on 6.2 yards per carry and two touchdowns. But Ponder has regressed.
Though the Vikings are a respectable 2-2 in that span, the quarterback has thrown seven interceptions.
Ponder still completed almost 63 percent of his passes while throwing for 919 yards and six touchdowns. Compare that to the first four games in which he completed 68 percent of his throws for 824 yards and four scores, and you would think that his season was progressing just fine.
After their 5-3 start, can the Vikings make the playoffs with the schedule they have in the second half?
While his cumulative stats are on the uptick, Ponder must get back to making better decisions.
Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson create a stable of reliable weapons to spread the ball around to, so there is no need for Ponder to force anything.
If the Vikings are to not waste a great first half of the 2012 season, their winning recipe can certainly stay the same. However, things will get much tougher from this point.
Minnesota's remaining eight games feature two each with the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, road games with the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans and a home game with the Detroit Lions. Each of these teams is currently ranked in the top 14 in total defense, with only Green Bay outside of the top 10.
With Peterson and the defense doing their jobs, Ponder will need to figure things out quickly or the Vikings will finish their season as a huge disappointment.