Power Ranking Every Minnesota Vikings Team of the Past Decade
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The Minnesota Vikings have been on a bumpy ride over the past decade. The team has enjoyed some extreme highs, while enduring some very bitter lows.
With the 2013 NFL season soon approaching, many fans and analysts have attempted to predict how the Vikings will perform this upcoming year. Opinions are varied, to say the least.
Coming off an exciting finish to the season last year, Minnesota hopes to continue its trajectory as a playoff team. But a difficult schedule and more realistic expectations for Adrian Peterson could prevent those aspirations.
Let's take a look at the last 10 years of Vikings football and rank each year's team against each other. Be warned—some of these memories may sting. Although there are plenty of bright spots along the way.
Team record was taken into consideration, but playoff performance and overall league statistics also weighed into the criteria for ranking each team.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference, unless otherwise noted.
10. 2011 Minnesota Vikings (3-13)
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The 2011 season for the Vikings was easily the team's worst of the past decade, if not the past 25 years. You have to go back to the 1984 season led by head coach Les Steckel to find a comparison. That year's team also finished 3-13.
One of the most frustrating aspects of this season was that the Vikings started the first three games leading at halftime 17-7, 17-0 and 20-0—only to lose all three games in historic fashion. No team in NFL history had ever blown double-digit halftime leads in its first three games.
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder took over for the veteran stopgap of Donovan McNabb in Week 6 of the season, but the Vikings still only amassed a record of 2-8 after that game.
And when it looked like the season couldn't get any worse, star running back Adrian Peterson tore his ACL against the Washington Redskins in Week 16, leaving his future in question.
Interestingly, the Vikings won the game against the Redskins, costing them the No. 2 selection in the upcoming draft. Those same Redskins would trade up with the St. Louis Rams to select quarterback Robert Griffin III.
9. 2010 Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
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Keeping with the past three years, the Viking's 2010 season was similarly painful to watch for Vikings fans. Coming off a brilliant 2009 season, Brett Favre could not rekindle the magic that was present one year earlier.
The team struggled in both total points scored and point differential, ranking 29th and 25th respectively. Also, the Vikings defense simply could not turn the ball over in 2010, and the team ranked 29th in takeaway/giveaway ratio.
As Favre threw for the fewest number of touchdowns (11) in his career since joining the NFL as a rookie, the Vikings were forced to rely on backup quarterbacks Joe Webb and Tarvaris Jackson in injury relief. Neither performed particularly well and the team was never in playoff contention.
In many ways, the 2010 season was fittingly capped off when the Vikings' stadium collapsed in December. The 17 inches of snow that fell on the Metrodome were reminiscent of each week that weighed on the team that season.
8. 2006 Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
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The 2006 Vikings were led by 38-year-old quarterback Brad Johnson, a journeyman on the last leg of his career in Minnesota. Johnson only managed nine touchdowns, adding 15 interceptions to a less-than-ideal resume for the year.
Chester Taylor had the strongest rushing performance of his career, posting 1,216 yards and six touchdowns, including a franchise record for longest run with a 95-yard touchdown. The free-agent signing from the Baltimore Ravens was an offensive bright spot for Minnesota in 2006.
The Vikings also saw the emergence of the "Williams Wall," a defensive duo between Kevin and Pat Williams. This season would be the beginning of a three-year period where the Vikings led the NFL in rushing defense.
7. 2005 Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
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The 2005 NFL season would be the last for head coach Mike Tice. During his more than four seasons coaching the Vikings, Tice was unable to turn the team into a deep playoff contender.
This was in stark contrast to previous head coach Dennis Green, who helped lead the team to eight playoff appearances in 10 years—including two NFC Championship games.
In addition to a mediocre season, the team was struck with controversy on two fronts. First, Tice was fined during the offseason for selling his Super Bowl tickets, a violation of NFL policy that resulted in a $100,000 fine. This was the largest fine ever handed down to an NFL coach at the time.
Then came the "Love Boat" scandal, which remains a black mark on the Vikings' storied franchise. Although 17 players were named in the report, four eventually received charges—Daunte Culpepper, Bryant McKinnie, Moe Williams and Fred Smoot.
Although the Vikings ended with a winning record in 2005, the off-the-field stories dominated the press for the team during this season.
6. 2007 Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
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The Vikings had a solid 2007 season despite missing the playoffs with an 8-8 record. After drafting Adrian Peterson seventh overall in the NFL draft, the former Sooner rushed for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Brad Childress improved from a 6-10 mark the previous year but continued to struggle in the division. The Vikings had a 5-7 record against NFC North opponents, including an 0-4 mark against the Green Bay Packers in his first two years.
The Vikings dominated on rushing defense again this season, leading the NFL in yards allowed on the ground. The team ranked 13th in takeaway/giveaway ratio, but was dead last in passing yards allowed with 4,225.
5. 2003 Minnesota Vikings (9-7)
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The 2003 season for the Vikings had the potential to be one of the best over the past decade. Minnesota was heading into the final game of the season, needing a win against the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals to win the NFC North and make the playoffs.
Instead, in an improbable finish that included an onside-kick recovery and a 4th-and-25 touchdown on the last play of the game, the Vikings stood in shock as Arizona celebrated.
By losing the game, the Cardinals would have received the No. 1 draft selection in the upcoming draft. Playing spoiler against Minnesota prevailed instead, and Arizona slid to the third selection.
Statistically, the season was as strong as any in team history for the Vikings. They finished first in the NFL in total offensive yards behind Daunte Culpepper, Moe Williams and Randy Moss, while scoring the sixth-most points in the league.
Out of all Vikings teams over the past 10 years, this 2003 squad had the second-best point differential. Minnesota also had the fifth-best takeaway/giveaway ratio in the NFL.
Unfortunately, the end of the season tarnished what could have amounted to a promising playoff run. The looks on the faces of players on the field matched those of the fans watching at home.
4. 2004 Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
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For as difficult of a finish as was the 2003 season, 2004 provided some helpful breaks that the Vikings have not often received in their history.
Although only managing a record of 8-8, Minnesota snuck into the playoffs and traveled to the division-rival Green Bay Packers in what looked to be a near-impossible matchup. The Packers had already beaten the Vikings twice during the season and were 14-1 all-time in home playoff games.
However, the Vikings were able to devise a game plan that ended in a 31-17 shocking defeat of Green Bay. Daunte Culpepper out-dueled Brett Favre, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions on 284 passing yards.
The rarely-human Favre only managed one touchdown and 216 yards while throwing four interceptions.
One of the most notable parts of the game came after a 34-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Moss (now famously) pretended to pull his pants down towards the crowd, a gesture intended to poke fun at Packers fans who moon visiting player buses.
The league didn't think the gesture was very funny and fined Moss $10,000, which led to his response when asked how he was going to pay. Moss replied, "Straight cash, homey."
3. 2008 Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
The Vikings were able to break a three-year drought of missing the playoffs in 2008, as they posted a record of 10-6 and won the NFC North.
The team's run defense and Adrian Peterson's league-leading 1,760 rushing yards were the high points of the season.
Unfortunately, a home playoff game would not prove enough of an advantage to advance in the tournament, with the 9-7-1 Philadelphia Eagles prevailing 26-14.
Although the Vikings' run defense remained strong, the team's offense was split at quarterback, with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson sharing time.
After an 0-2 start, Jackson was benched and Frerotte took over. His numbers over the season were relatively strong, with 2,157 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games.
Jackson eventually replaced the injured Frerotte in Week 14, going 3-1 over the last four games, including a 20-19 win over the New York Giants in the final regular season game.
2. 2012 Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
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With a better playoff push, the 2012 Vikings would have ranked highest over the past decade. However, as it stands, they rest firmly at No. 2.
The performance put on by Adrian Peterson was nothing short of remarkable. And while breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record would have been satisfying, an MVP award after ACL surgery on his left knee should be recognized as an outstanding achievement.
It's rare that fans get a chance to witness something as special as Peterson's run at history, and his motivation to improve in 2013 is extraordinary.
While the pass defense and consistent quarterback play of Christian Ponder needs to improve, the 2012 Vikings were an unexpected treat compared with a 3-13 season one year prior.
1. 2009 Minnesota Vikings (12-4)
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Showcasing the team that seemed to catch lightning in a bottle, the 2009 season hosted the best Vikings team over the past decade.
The storyline for this season was riveting from the start, as Brett Favre was lured away from retiring and personally chauffeured to team facilities. Conflict between head coach Brad Childress began to surface during the season, with the coach even contemplating pulling the gunslinger at times.
Although the Vikings finished the season poorly at 1-2 after starting 6-0 and eventually 11-2, Minnesota still secured a first-round bye in the playoffs and beat the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round.
As a result, the Vikings made it back to the NFC Championship for the first time since 2000, where they were blanked 41-0 by the New York Giants. Their opponent would be the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, and a bounty scandal would follow years later.
While the loss to the Saints still stings for Vikings fans, this was still the best team in Minnesota over the past 10 years. The idea of Brett Favre wearing purple and gold was considered lunacy at one time, yet here he was leading that team to a near-Super Bowl berth.
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