If the Minnesota Vikings are to replicate the success of their playoff season from last year, they will need to spread the offense around. Relying on Adrian Peterson to carry most of the load is a disaster waiting to happen. It's the proverbial putting all your eggs in one basket.
While it worked in 2012, don't count on a repeat performance or the same results.
There are plenty of reasons to believe Peterson will be as good as he was last season. He finished the last eight games of 2012 averaging 165 yards per game, and scored eight of his 12 touchdowns during that span.
He is completely healthy heading into the 2013 season, as compared to last year at this time when he was rehabilitating his surgically repaired right knee. And, he has set a goal of 2,500 rushing yards for himself in 2013.
In 2012 the Vikings relied heavily on their future Hall-of-Fame running back. Peterson led the NFL with 2,314 yards from scrimmage—350 yards more than Calvin Johnson, who was second with 1,964 yards. Among the top 100 players in yards from scrimmage, Minnesota had only two players on the list. Percy Harvin, who missed seven games, finished with 773 yards, ranking him 79th in the league.
Not surprisingly, this left the Vikings with the fewest players from this list among the 10 playoff teams last season. However, it was surprising that they had just as many as the NFC champion 49ers.
Taking a look at the rosters of the playoff teams from last year, there is a benefit to having multiple impact players. The Patriots and Falcons each had five players among the top 100 in yards from scrimmage, followed by the Broncos, Ravens and Colts with four each.
Another concerning stat is that Peterson not only led the NFL in yards from scrimmage, he accounted for 43 percent of the Minnesota offense—by far the most for any player in the league. Jamaal Charles, who finished fifth in the league with 1,745 yards, was second accounting for 34.2 percent of the Chiefs' offensive yardage.
Last year Peterson was so dominant with the ball in his hands, that his total yards from scrimmage exceeded the passing yards of quarterback Christian Ponder six times—something that needs to change if the Vikings are to make a return trip to the playoffs.
For the Super Bowl champion Ravens, quarterback Joe Flacco's passing yards led his team in 15 of 16 games. The only game he didn't lead came in Week 17, when he only threw eight passes before taking a seat following two offensive series.
The Vikings' offense needs to be more creative than Ponder turning around and handing the ball to Peterson. Despite having Peterson carry not only the offense, but the entire team into the playoffs in 2012, the Vikings need a more balanced offense in order to advance in the playoffs.
Last year the Vikings entered the playoffs with the second-best rushing offense in the NFL, but the 31st passing offense. This was the greatest disparity between rushing and passing production of any of the 12 playoff teams.
Over the history of the franchise, the Vikings have made the playoffs 27 times. In 16 of those seasons the passing game was ranked higher than the running game; in 10 the running game ranked higher, with one season the ranking being equal. In those 10 playoff seasons where the running game was better, six of them resulted in a one-and-done playoff run.
Without question, Peterson is the best running back in the NFL. In his six seasons since being drafted seventh overall in 2007, he has averaged 1,475 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is a member of an extremely exclusive club, surpassing 2,000 yards rushing last season.
One of only seven players ever to achieve this plateau, history does not predict that Peterson will be able to replicate that achievement. In fact, of the six previous running backs to lead the NFL with more than 2,000 yards in a season, they failed to even lead the league the following season.
Excluding Terrell Davis' numbers in 1999 when he suffered the same knee injury as Peterson, the drop off in rushing performance following their 2,000-yard season is 49.6 percent. That means the Vikings should expect Peterson to rush closer to his average, instead of the 2,500 yards Peterson has his sights set on.
The Vikings cannot rely on Peterson to be as effective as he was last year. If they are to make another trip to the playoffs and advance to the second round, they will need to rely on a more balanced offense.
It cannot be the one-man show it was in 2012—even if it is the greatest running back on earth.