10 Easy Predictions for the Minnesota Vikings in 2013
Last season the Minnesota Vikings surprised a lot of people by finishing 10-6 and making it to the playoffs. The surprises included a historic performance by Adrian Peterson in a record-setting season and for rookie field goal kicker Blair Walsh, who made all 10 of his attempts from greater than 50 yards.
The season also contained plenty of drama. There was the rift between head coach Leslie Frazier and wide receiver Percy Harvin, that led to Harvin being placed on injured reserve for an ankle sprain, and missing the final eight games—ultimately leading to his trade to the Seahawks.
General manager Rick Spielman is continuing his youth movement. With the release of Antoine Winfield, the Vikings will most likely have one of the youngest rosters in franchise history. With youth, the season could hold plenty of surprises for 2013.
With that, here are 10 fairly obvious predictions for the Vikings this season that should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Jerome Simpson Will Be Better Than Last Season
All right, so it starts with an easy one. After all, there's no way Jerome Simpson could be any worse than he was last season.
A second-round draft pick in 2008, Simpson started 14 games for the Bengals in 2011. He finished with a career-high 50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns. Last year he was limited to 12 games due to suspension and a back injury. He only caught 26 passes for 274 yards and no touchdowns.
If Simpson could have replicated his 2011 stats last year with the Vikings, he would have been the team's leading receiver. Granted, Percy Harvin (677 receiving yards) only played in nine games.
Simpson will most likely open the season as the starting split end—that is until Cordarrelle Patterson learns the position well enough to displace him.
Cordarrelle Patterson Will Not Be Rookie of the Year
Cordarrelle Patterson comes to the Vikings after only one season of Division I football. A dangerous player from anywhere on the field, last year at Tennessee he scored touchdowns by catching the ball, running the ball and one each on a punt return and a kickoff return. In total he led the Volunteers with 10 touchdowns.
While it's not the same position, look for there to be plenty of comparisons to the departed Percy Harvin.
He is an extremely talented athlete, and no doubt will be able to help the Vikings, but he has some work to do on his route running. Until then, he will be coming off the bench. In the first week of OTA's he was lined up at split end, behind Jerome Simpson.
Another potential comparison problem for the rookie is the fact he is wearing no. 84—the same number he wore in high school and college. Unfortunately for Patterson, it's also the same number another first-round wide receiver wore for the Vikings—Randy Moss.
Both Harvin and Moss came to the Vikings after falling in the first round because of character issues while in college. They both came into the NFL with a point to prove, and leveraged that point into a Rookie of the Year award.
While Patterson may have dropped some in this year's draft, it's mainly because he only played one season at Tennessee. Many draft projections, including Walter Football, had him ranked as one of the best wide receivers in the draft.
Greg Jennings Will Not End the Drought of 1,000-Yard Receiving Seasons
After having to trade away the disgruntled Percy Harvin, the Minnesota Vikings did well in replacing him by signing free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings.
The problem is that Harvin (25) is more than four years younger than Jennings (29). Jennings' best seasons came in 2007 and 2008 with the Packers. At the age of 24 he led the Packers with 12 touchdown receptions, and the following year, at the age of 25, he led them with 80 catches for 1,292 receiving yards.
He comes to the Vikings with a recent history of injuries. The last two seasons Jennings has missed a total of 11 games—three in 2011 with a sprained MCL, and eight in 2012 with a groin injury.
Jennings will be an improvement over everyone of the Vikings' wide receivers from last season, but it won't be enough to gain 1,000 yards. Even the talented Harvin never had a 1,000-yard season.
Christian Ponder Will Still Have His Struggles
Despite starting all 16 games for the Minnesota Vikings last season, and leading them to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth—he was not that good.
In six of his starts he had fewer passing yards than Adrian Peterson had in total yards from scrimmage. His passer rating of 81.2 ranked him 35th in the NFL last season.
The addition of Greg Jennings, a healthy Jerome Simpson, a talented rookie in Cordarrelle Patterson and a Pro-Bowl MVP tight end in Kyle Rudolph gives Ponder plenty of weapons. Include Adrian Peterson, the NFL's best running back, and there are very few excuses left for Ponder.
Head coach Leslie Frazier was hesitant last season to pull Ponder from the game because the backup was Joe Webb. This season, veteran Matt Cassel, who has 82 career touchdown passes, is the backup and with his experience will no doubt see some action this season.
Ponder will be better than he was last year, however, it will only be his third season in the NFL. Despite the recent success of some very young quarterbacks, it still takes time to develop a good starting quarterback. Aaron Rodgers spent three years backing up Brett Favre, and Drew Brees didn't have his breakout season until his fourth year in the NFL, when he had an 11-4 record as the Chargers' starter in 2005.
The added pressure on Ponder to lead the Vikings back to the playoffs could cause him to regress in 2013.
Without Antoine Winfield the Defensive Backfield Will Struggle Early
In 2012, Antoine Winfield had his best season since 2006. The 35-year-old led the Vikings with three interceptions and was third on the team with 101 tackles.
As of right now it looks like the Vikings starting cornerbacks will be Chris Cook and first-round draft pick Xavier Rhodes. Josh Robinson will take over for Winfield as the nickel cornerback and will cover the slot receiver.
In an interview with Mark Craig of the Star Tribune last month, Robinson indicated that he is a bit concerned about playing the slot corner position. It's a position that he's never played, even in college. With a second-year player to step in for a 14-year veteran, there will be some growing pains as Robinson adjusts to the new role.
Leslie Frazier's Job Will Be in Jeopardy
A funny thing happened after head coach Leslie Frazier led the Minnesota Vikings to a 10-6 record, and a return to the playoffs—the team exercised the option on his contract for 2014.
After two consecutive last-place finishes, and a franchise-worst 3-13 record in 2011—the seven-game turnaround was the largest in team history. Considering with what he had to work with, the Vikings should have signed him to a contract extension and given him a raise.
Exercising the option on his contract just doesn't feel like a huge vote of confidence—instead it seems to beg the questions: "nice job, but can you do it again?"
The expectations will be for the Vikings to continue to improve, and making the playoffs seems like a given—anything short of that may be seen as a step backwards.
For every bad loss the Vikings suffer this season, Frazier's future with the team will come into question.
Blair Walsh Will Miss a 50-Yard Field Goal
When I am wrong, I admit it. Boy, was I wrong about Blair Walsh.
Last season, when Rick Spielman used a sixth-round draft pick to select the kicker from Georgia, I thought it was a bad move. After all, the Vikings had Ryan Longwell, who in six years climbed to third place all-time on the team's career scoring list.
Sure, Longwell's leg wasn't as strong, and he was unable to put the ball in the end zone, even with the kickoff moved back to the 35-yard line, but he was still a reliable veteran that had made 86 percent of his attempts.
Walsh, who made only 73.8 percent of his attempts in college, came in and exceeded expectations. In his first regular-season game in the NFL he hit a 55-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. There he hit a much easier, 38-yard field goal to win the game.
For the season, he hit 35 of 38 field goals—an incredible 92.1 percent. The 141 points he scored last season ranks second all-time in franchise history for a single season. Only Gary Anderson, who scored 164 points for the top-ranked scoring offense in the NFL in 1998, is ahead of Walsh.
Walsh was so good, he set the NFL mark by hitting 10 field goals from 50 yards or more. He finished third in the league with 53 touchbacks, and was named to the Pro Bowl.
As good as Walsh was in 2012, there are several factors working against him. This will be his second season in the NFL, and with that comes a sophomore slump. Also, the law of averages indicates that he cannot continue to convert 50-yard attempts, and because people know what he can do, the expectations will be higher and the pressure greater this season.
Walsh will shank a 50-yard field goal attempt—you can count on it. All right—, he'll most likely end up kicking one a bit wide.
This Will Be Jared Allen's Last Season in Minnesota
Since joining the Minnesota Vikings in 2008, Jared Allen has averaged 15 sacks per season. In 2011 he set the franchise record for sacks in a season with 22, one-half sack shy of matching Michael Strahan for the NFL single season record.
Allen led the team with only 12 sacks last year—in what might be considered a down year. Of course Allen's play was affected by a torn labrum in his left shoulder. This offseason he's had surgeries to repair both the shoulder and his knee, and is reportedly healthy.
The problem is that Allen turned 31 in April. Over the past couple of years the Vikings have parted ways with veterans in their 30's. Since Rick Spielman has been named general manager, the Vikings have either released, or failed to re-sign more than 10 starters who were in their 30's.
Some of the players include offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, linebackers Ben Leber and E.J. Henderson and from this last season Antoine Winfield and Chris Kluwe.
Due $14.3 million this season, there's no way the Vikings will be re-signing Allen for anywhere near as much. There will be plenty of teams willing to pay more than the Vikings will offer in 2014.
Adrian Peterson Will Not Rush for 2,000 Yards.
There's no doubt that Adrian Peterson is not from this planet, no doubt he was born on Krypton.
Last season he did the unthinkable, rushing for 2,097 yards after returning from a major knee injury suffered in Week 16 of the 2011 season. That was only nine yards shy of Eric Dickerson's single season record that he set in 1984.
Peterson got stronger as the season progressed—he rushed for 1,322 yards in the final eight games—63 percent of his rushing total. His 2,314 yards from scrimmage not only led the Vikings, but also led the NFL.
Peterson has even greater goals for 2013. He wants to rush for 2,500 yards. That's an extremely lofty goal considering that for the previous six running backs who rushed for 2,000 yards, the following year their rushing total dropped by an average of 49 percent. Barry Sanders, who rushed for 2,053 yards in 1997 had the smallest drop off when he rushed for 1,491 yards in 1998—still a 27.4 percent decrease.
If that's the case, Peterson will finish with about 1,500 yards this season.
Another factor that may work against Peterson may be his head coach. In an interview from AOL.com in February, Leslie Frazier indicated that he wants to find more balance in his offense.
The Minnesota Vikings Will Not Win the NFC North
There's the saying that if you're not getting better you're getting worse. After finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs, the Minnesota Vikings' chances of getting better are slim.
In order to improve over last season, the Vikings will have to be able to win on the road where they finished 3-5. With road games against the Giants, Cowboys, Seahawks, Ravens and Bengals along with the Packers and Bears, that would appear to be an extremely difficult task.
Since the NFL went to the eight divisions in 2002, only three times has 10 wins been enough to win the NFC North. As pointed out on several slides, the Vikings will be a younger team this season, and with youth comes learning curves and growing pains.
That just doesn't add up to more than 10 wins.