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2013 NFL Preview: NFC North

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Reasons to be Cautious:

The Vikings Offense – I believe the Vikings 2012 playoff run was a perfect storm of good luck. Rarely do you see such an imbalanced offense (2nd rushing; 31st passing) make the playoffs – at least not without a dominant defense – which the Vikings did not have (16th overall). Now the Vikings lost their leading receiver Percy Harvin. Greg Jennings and Cordarelle Patterson do not make up for the loss of Harvin. Jennings was a product of Aaron Rodgers and Cordarelle Patterson is a rookie with some maturity issues (sounds like Jennings may have maturity issues as well).

Christian Ponder – I have not seen anything thus far that makes me believe Ponder is an everyday starting QB. He has been serviceable, but in 2012, he was the QB of the league’s 31st ranked passing attack and has a career completion percentage which is less than 60%. If he had any RB not named Adrian Peterson, this team would not have sniffed the playoffs in 2013. In 27 games, Ponder has 4,788 yards and 31 TDs, that is less than a whole season for the upper echelon QBs in the league. Eventually Ponder needs to carry his weight and not rely so much on AP. At 28, who knows how much longer he will have an AP which can be leaned on. 2013 is likely a big season for Ponder. A step backwards may result in Minnesota exploring new QBs for 2014.

Vikings Receiving Weapons – Greg Jennings was very good in GB. So was every other receiver. Jennings will find out very quickly how much his numbers were a product of Aaron Rodgers and not his own abilities. At a generous 6’0”, 195 lbs, and less than blazing speed, Jennings is not your typical #1 WR. This was not a problem when he had Rodgers. It is likely to be a problem when he has Ponder throwing the ball and Jerome Simpson on the other side.

Speaking of Simpson, as Bengals fans know, the guy has freakish talent but is as reliable as a Kim Kardashian marriage. Cordarelle Patterson has great talent, but maturity has been a knock on him and with a suddenly mouthy Jennings and an unproven QB, will Patterson be kept in check? I like Kyle Rudolph, but, with less than 500 yards in 2012, I don’t think he is going to take much coverage away from the WRs.

Overall:

I believe this team made the 2012 playoffs based on AP and a whole lot of Smoke and Mirrors. Rarely does a team with the 31st ranked passing attack and 16th ranked defense make the playoffs. AP was just that good in 2012. I don’t see AP repeating that season in 2013 and I don’t see marked improvement in the passing game and defense.

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