But what about Minnesota?
Many can argue that the Vikings are few years away from contending again, let alone this year.
But the reality is, outside of the four teams mentioned above, the last remaining playoff slots are basically up for grabs, minus a few teams.
In other words, the Vikings have just as much of a chance of making the postseason as anyone in the league, and today we’re going to quickly examine why that is.
AP has got to be the Vikings’ greatest asset and one of the biggest reasons why this team has a chance to make it to the playoffs in 2011.
But it’s not just his 4 straight years of 1,300 plus yards rushing—technically he was two yards shy in 2010 of 1,300 but you catch my drift—or his growing role as a pass catching back or even his ability to keep defenses off balance.
It’s also his durability and the expected expanded responsibility in the offense in general.
Last year Peterson actually saw a decrease in carries (283, which is his fewest since his rookie year) suggesting he is primed for a major workload in 2011, and nowhere near a slow-down.
And, Coach Leslie Frazier has already made it clear that 'All-Day' is the focal point of this offense moving forward:
Peterson enters the 2011 season as a true veteran, and is not the only quality back in town with the rising Toby Gerhart on the roster.
With a ground assault such as the Vikings, there is plenty of wiggle room to make a postseason run.
For those who may not know, the coaching staff has undergone some serious moves this offseason, most notable being the addition of Mike Singletary as the new linebackers coach and assistant head coach, and Bill Musgrave as the new offensive coordinator.
Musgrave is probably the biggest addition for several reasons.
Musgrave spent his pro career behind guys like Joe Montana, Steve Young and even John Elway and his acquired knowledge seemed to work…just a little bit as a quarterbacks coach molding Falcons gunslinger Matt Ryan.
But it is the expected minimal offensive attack changes that could hold the most value.
Musgrave will keep the core offense intact, but he will also employ some new looks out of the double tight end set which will help Adrian Peterson’s cause to inflict more damage, and also aid whomever winds up at the helm in 2011.
Other coaching upgrades include Fred Pagnac’s promotion to defensive coordinator and the addition of ex-Bronco special teams coach Mike Priefer who is an accomplished gent in his own right.
All the right tools in all the right places always make the task at hand easier and more fluid.
This one’s a little tricky.
There are still some questions surrounding Sidney Rice’s future, but the feeling is the two sides will in fact come to an agreement.
Bernard Berrian is an obvious area that needs addressing, but the Vikings have plenty of choices to kick the tires on.
2011 draft selection Stephen Burton could be a nice fit, but the immediate impact will more than likely not be felt.
CFL star Emmanuel Arceneaux was brought in with a three year deal equivalent to a sixth-round draft choice, and is expected to compete for a roster spot. He has good size at 6’2", 201 pounds and has been clocked at a 4.44-4.52 range in the 40-yard dash.
And then of course, there’s Percy Harvin who I don’t think I have to tell anyone about here.
But let’s not forget the potency of the tight ends in Visanthe Shiancoe and newly acquired pass catching TE Kyle Rudolph.
Shiancoe is expected to see a limited increase in work with some of the new sets, and Rudolph is expected to make an immediate impact himself.
In short, the Vikings have a much underrated receiving corp. as it is, and there is still a chance the Vikings could add Vince Jackson to the mix.
Imagine how dangerous the Vikings would be then!
OK, here we go.
There's still some floating rumors regarding Vince Young being brought in to Minnesota, with him and Adrian Peterson continuing to work together in offseason workouts three to four times a week.
This is more speculation to fuel the fire, but anything is possible in the NFL right now.
Then there is still the Donovan McNabb saga, albeit in its final chapter. But it is becoming more evident that the road is widening between the two parties.
But again, anything is possible in the NFL.
Then there’s the newest appetizer of the Vikings being interested in Kyle Orton becoming a compliment to Christian Ponder.
The problem with this is the Broncos are going to command no less than a second round draft pick for Orton, and the conflicting words from the Vikings brass regarding Christian Ponder as “their version of Matt Ryan”.
There are two obvious patterns here:
- With Musgrave being added, yes, the Vikings do believe they have a Matt Ryan caliber quarterback in Christian Ponder, and the possibility is certainly there.
- The Vikings obviously know that having another veteran presence would take Ponder’s development to a whole new level.
If I had to guess, the Vikings will do their best to deal for a viable veteran as the months continue on, but how much faith they actually have in Ponder will determine what type of veteran they go after.
If they want Ponder to sit for a while, they will target a guy who can lead this team even in the interim.
But if they want to get Ponder’s feet wet right away, they may target a cheaper alternative in a veteran who could assume a backup role, but still be a nice addition, like Marc Bulger.
The moral here is that the organization feels that Ponder can get the job done, and is a lethal quarterback.
But with the free agent market being the way that it is, there is little reason to believe the Vikings can't score another veteran arm.
Either way, the Vikings have enough talent to challenge for a postseason berth at the helm.
This may be a gray area now, but don't count them out just yet.
One of the major concerns entering into the 2010 offseason was addressing the defensive depth charts, and what to do with certain contracts and players.
Ray Edwards is the biggest question mark as he has already made it clear he will not play for the restricted tender this season.
Pat Williams was considering retirement, but now admits he has a 50/50 shot at returning.
Cedric Griffin is hoping to be healthy enough by the time camp comes rolling in, and Coach Frazier has already stated that he will retain his starting role if as is well.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The point here to remember, though, is last year was a disappointing year for the Vikings defense, simply because they are a much better core of players than last year’s collective performance would suggest.
And sometimes that’s a good thing.
There aren’t any question marks concerning the team’s ability, only on a handful of curious situations.
Even so, the Vikings did make some moves in this year’s draft to help alleviate any unforeseen pressure that may come about.
In the end, this defense is still a top-five defense in the NFL, and there is a very good chance this defense could rediscover that personal aspect about themselves, making the defensive end of the ball another dangerous facet of the Minnesota Vikings.
To sum everything up: The Vikings are not your garden variety team.
This is a team that is built for postseason play, and eventually dominate straight across the board.
In reality anyone who claims the Vikings don’t stand a chance at postseason play, is basically limping to the barn with a weak argument at best.
Do they have pressing questions that need to be addressed? Of course they do
But so did the Packers in 2010 with their injury woes, as did the Saints in 2009 and as did the Steelers with a suspect O-Line all season long in 2008.
All Super Bowl winners who began their journey much like the Vikings will: One step at a time.
Do you think the Vikings have a shot at the postseason? Let me know whether you do or not, and why below, and if you’re interested in some fantasy football advice, come check out my latest 2011 NFL Free Agency Coverage.
And thanks for stopping by!