The more I read about the NFC North these days, the more I read comments of this nature:
"The Vikes will dominate the NFC North!!", "Adrian Peterson will have 7,000 yards rushing!!!", or even "This is the best defense the NFL has ever seen!!", and we can't forget "Tarvaris Jackson is the best quarterback in the NFC!!!"
While those last three are exaggerations—you get the idea. Everyone seems to have forgotten just what happened last season, and are holding on to a weak winning-streak and a few massive performances by Adrian Peterson. While the Vikings have a decent team, and I don't question Peterson's skill, I believe that the Vikings are just that—decent. Adrian Peterson can be stopped.
Last year the Vikings began the year 3-6, and it looked like a lost season. But after their sixth loss in week 10, a 34-0 loss at the hands of the Packers, the turnaround began.
The Vikings notched five-straight wins to bring their record to 8-6, and the playoffs were in sight. Adrian Peterson had broken the single-game rushing record, and Tarvaris was 5-0 as the starter.
Obviously, the Giants are the only playoff team in there, and they had a similar game against the Vikings as the Packers had against the Bears in Week 15. So besides the Giants, we have four teams that didn't even make it over .500. Not impressive.
In these wins, we have three of the five where Adrian Peterson wasn't the leading rusher (a couple because of injury), and two where Tarvaris was over 200 yards passing. Adrian Peterson had 14 attempts for three yards vs. the 49ers defense, which was ranked 22nd against the run. Against the Bears, he had 78 yards rushing on 20 attempts, and if you take away his 28-yard rush, had a 2.6-yard average.
All of these stats show that it was mostly the defense that won them these games, not T-Jack or Peterson. So, for the Vikings to become a great team, their offense has to make up for those games where the defense doesn't dominate, and those games where the opposing team takes care of the football. Are the Vikings that type of team? Look at their last two games against mediocre opponents:
Week 16: 32-21 Loss to the 9-7 Redskins.
Defense doesn't dominate. Todd Collins passing: 22-29, 254 pass yards, 2 TD. Turnover ratio 3-0 in favor of the Redskins.
Offense can't make up for it. Adrian Peterson rushing: 9 attempts for 27 yards. Tarvaris Jackson passing: 220 yards, 1 TD, 2INT
Week 17: 22-19 Loss to the 7-9 Broncos.
Defense doesn't dominate. Jay Cutler passing: 26/37, 246 yards, 2TD. Turnover ration 3-0 in favor of the Broncos
Offense can't make up for it. Adrian Peterson rushing: 11 attempts for 36 yards. Tarvaris passing: 16/31, 175 yards, 2TD. Chester Taylor with Tarvaris Jackson: three fumbles lost.
The Vikings are decent, but not great. Until their defense can defend the pass consistently, and their offense can make up for turnover-free games by opposing teams, they will remain that way.