Are the Minnesota Vikings the Most Underrated Team in the NFL?
The six-year veteran was a mere nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 yards on his way to receiving the 2012 MVP award—the first running back to do so since LaDanian Tomlinson in 2006.
In addition to coming off surgery to repair the torn ACL that Vikings' all-time leading rusher suffered a year earlier against the Washington Redskins, Peterson also underwent surgery for a sports hernia following the 2012 season.
With Peterson at 100 percent entering the upcoming season, one could anticipate high expectations for a team sporting a top offensive line behind Matt Kalil, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt.
Add in a draft that included three selections in the first round—Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson—which all met immediate and future needs for the Vikings, you might expect the team to be on the radar as a potential contender in the NFC for a deep playoff run.
Well, not so fast.
Instead, the Minnesota Vikings appear to be a team once again on the outside looking in as forecast by "experts" as another convoluted NFL season approaches.
ESPN has the Vikings ranked 17th in its recent power rankings, with nine other teams ahead of them in the NFC. This means that even after the playoffs are set, Minnesota ranks fourth among teams watching from home.
Out of all playoff teams from 2012, ESPN's rankings put the Vikings dead last prior to the start of the 2013 season, with two sub-.500 teams, the New Orleans Saints (7-9) and St. Louis Rams (7-8-1), both rated ahead of Minnesota.
The experts over at Bristol are not the only ones down on the Vikings this year. Will Brinson of CBSSports.com predicts the Vikings will be under the win total odds of 7.5 set by Las Vegas. A difficult schedule and regression by Peterson are cited as the rationale for the prediction.
Continuing with Vegas odds, Minnesota is the greatest long shot to win the Super Bowl among all 2012 playoff teams, coming in at 50-1 to bring home the Lombardy Trophy.
And while Christian Ponder seems to be a common target for criticism, finishing 21st in passer rating at 81.2, the third-year quarterback has an improved arsenal of receivers with former Packer Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson joining the team.
Combine that with Pro Bowl MVP Kyle Rudolph and an emerging threat in slot receiver Jarius Wright, it would be fair for fans to scratch their head as to why so many pundits expect a 10-win playoff team to regress so much.
How will the Vikings finish the 2013 NFL season?
However, this tends to be the trend for analysts predicting the fate of the Minnesota Vikings, a team that has not been to a Super Bowl since the 1976 season and has lost three NFC Championship Games over the last 15 years.
History seems to be battling the likelihood for success of this upcoming season, one that includes the best running back in the NFL, young players continuing to develop at key positions and an overall improved team following free agency and the NFL draft.
Looking at the overall landscape of the NFL, it's hard to find a team more underrated than the Minnesota Vikings in 2013.
But maybe that's just the type of motivation the team needs to shake its harshest critics.
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