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Louis Villaume

Hamel, Minn.

Villaume: Great Expectations for Purple

When LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title earlier this year, many people pointed to the fact that the Cavs had never won a title. With the Chicago Cubs dominating the 2016 baseball season, there is great excitement that this year may bring their first title since 1908. On the PGA Tour, Dustin Johnson broke through an excellent career without winning a major when he captured the United States Open in June.

If one believes in foreshadowing....

The angst Minnesota fans feel toward never having won a Super Bowl is unique. The Minnesota Twins won in 1987 and 1991 to shed a state-wide winless championship streak that went back to the days of the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1950s. The Minnesota Lynx have won three titles (2011,2013,2015) in a short span. However, most presently consider only the four major men's sports as legitimate titles in the mythical hunt for city-based championship titles. And that is too bad, because the Lynx are highly successful and deserve greater attention.

What makes the Vikings situation uique is that they are probably the most successful sports franchise without a title. Certainly they are the winningest NFL team not to have won a Super Bowl. Minnesota ranks tied for 8th overall in winning percentage among all franchises. The following is a list of those teams ahead of Minnesota.

Note that the first three categories include pre-merger years dating back to 1920 for some.

Chicago Bears, .572 win percent, 96 seasons, 25 playoffs, 3 Super Bowls (SB) appearances, 1 SB win.

Dallas Cowyboys, .569 win pct, 56 seasons, 31 playoffs, 8 SB appearances, 5 Super Bowl wins..

Green Bay Packers, .568 win pct, 95 seasons, 31 playoffs, 5 SB appearances, 4 Super Bowl wins..

Miami Dolphins, .561 win pct, 50 seasons, 22 playoffs, 5 SB appearances, 2 Super Bowl wins.

San Fransisco 49ers, .553 win pct, 70 seasons, 26 playoffs, 6 SB appearances, 5 Super Bowl wins.

Boston/N.E. Patriots, .548 win pct, 56 seasons, 23 playoffs, 8 SB appearances, 4 Super Bowl wins.

New York Giants, .543 win pct, 91 seasons, 31 playoffs, 5 SB appearances, 4 Super Bowl wins.

Those are the only teams that have won a greater percentage of their NFL games than our Vikings. Between those seven teams there are 40 Super Bowl appearances and 25 Super Bowl wins. Minnesota and Baltimore would be next, tied for eighth....

Minnesota Vikings, .542 win pct, 55 seasons, 28 playoffs, 4 SB appearances, 0 Super Bowl wins.

Baltimore Ravens, .542 win pct, 20 seasons, 10 playoffs, 2 SB appearances, 2 Super Bowl wins.

Continuing the list Denver would be next with 3 Super Bowls in 56 years. The Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts have won 2 Super Bowls in 63 years. The Oakland Raiders are next, winning 3 Super Bowls in 56 years. Only the Cleveland Browns have a winning percentage and have not won a Super Bowl like Minnesota. Their history is rich with NFL Championships, having won 8 over their 69 year existence. Last of note is the most successful of all NFL franchises in terms of Super Bowl wins...

Pittsburgh Steelers, .527 win pct, 83 seasons, 29 playoffs, 8 SB appearances, 6 Super Bowl wins.

The numbers help demonstrate the anxiety/stress we Purple fans feel. There is only one franchise in the NFL that has made the playoffs at a greater percent than Minnesota, and that is the Cowboys. The Vikings have 28 playoff visits in 55 years. Fans can generally expect to make the playoffs every other year. Dallas has 31 appearances in 56 years. No other franchise can make that claim. Not Green Bay (31 playoff visits in 95 seasons). Not Chicago (25 playoff visits in 96 years). Not Pittsburgh (29 playoff visits in 83 seasons). The Cowboys and VIkings are the only two franchises that have been to the playoffs more than they have stayed home.

Only nine teams (of 31) have made it to more Super Bowls than Minnesota. Only one has more division titles in the same amount of years (Dallas 22, Minn 19). Only one has been in more playoffs in the same amount of time (Dallas 31, Minn 28).

Minnesota has elite numbers in the NFL. Just no Super Bowl win.

So we enter 2016 as hopeful as any in recent memory. Since 2009 and Brett Favre we have not seen this much hype toward a successful season. That team, and the 1998 Minnesota Vikings who went 15-1, are easily the two best shots we have had to return to the Super Bowl. Both ended tragically, not unlike the loss last season to the Seahawks in frigid TCF Bank Stadium on a missed chip shot..

And while both of those teams were very good, many feel this year's team is their equal. While the offense of the 1998 team could probably never be matched by this group, nor the quarterback play of the 2009 team and Favre, one could argue that the 2016 defense is better than any Vikings' team since the 1970s. And as the saying goes, "Defense wins Super Bowls".

The local and national media have given encouraging words toward this purple season. Many have cautioned that only a much improved offense can help Minnesota leap frog by top teams in the NFC like Seattle, Carolina and even Arizona. Vikings' administration did their part by adding offensive linemen through free agency, and then drafting a receiving weapon for Norv Turner's passing game. The addition of Laquon Treadwell, combined with the improved play of Stefon Diggs and/or Charles Johnson, gives Teddy Bridgewater a chance to air out his 31st ranked passing offense of 2015. And of course, the additions at offensive line in the off-season might also help the 29th overall offense that was mostly Adrian Peterson last year.

We have suffered for years and years waiting to break through with a Super Bowl win. Lesser teams, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, already have a Super Bowl win despite a career .385 win percentage. With zero Super Bowl wins Minnesota is grouped with teams like San Diego, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville and Atlanta. The difference is, those teams have all lost more than they have won. The Lions have made the playoffs only 16 times in 86 seasons. The Bucs 10 times in 40 seasons.

It's not right.

The 2016 brings great promise. A strong coach locked into a contract. A much improving young defense, already 5th in scoring last year. One of the greatest running backs in the modern era, and he is healthy. If the passing game can get on board...It may be the chance to finally end the drought of a great franchise with everything but a Super Bowl win. It seems to be the year for it.

Go Cubs!


Villaume: Time to Follow Peterson

The 2016 Minnesota Vikings are primed for a big season. The opening of a new stadium. The defending of the North Division for the first time in a long while. The top rusher in the NFL. A rapidly improving defense. Strong additions to the offensive line. A flashy new wide receiver from the NFL Draft. Teddy Bridgewater with some added wisdom from the 2015 return to the playoffs.

A Super Bowl visit is in our near future.

Of all the factors that determine a Super Bowl run, certainly defense plays a large role. Minnesota finished the season with the 13th best defense in terms of yards allowed. While that is improvement, the top three teams in the NFC (Seattle, Arizona, and Carolina) finished 2nd, 5th, and 6th respectively. Minnesota actually finished the season better against the pass (12th) than the run (17th). 

In order to make it to the Super Bowl, the defense will have to improve on those numbers. An area that does not need much improvement is in points allowed. Minnesota finished 5th in points allowed per game at 18.9. That was a mere 1.6 points away from the number one scoring defense of the Seahawks. The Vikings finished ahead of the Panthers and Cardinals in this crucial category. 

Offense is a different story.

Minnesota finished 29th in overall yards. They finished 31st in passing yards per game (183.0). 16th in points per game (22.8). The running attack, led by NFL rushing leader Peterson, finished 4th at 138.2 yards per game. Still, that number was third in the NFC behind Carolina and Seattle.

There must be improvement in the offense in 2016.

Arguement on whether Norv Turner bottled up Bridewater, or Minnesota adapted to a skills limited quarterback carried on throughout the 2015 season. Many times during the year it was difficult to see Bridgewater look any different than Christian Ponder. Other times Teddy's abiity to avoid the rush and find a receiver brought hope anew. His completion percentage is his strength. Fans are hoping that the addition of Laquon Treadwell ignites the offense similar to the introduction of Randy Moss in 1998. Or at least more than Cordarrelle Patterson.

One thing looked eerily similar, and that was a faltering offensive line. Injuries took their toll in 2015, and Minnesota survived with a patchwork approach to the front line of our offense.

No Sullivan. No Fusco. No Loadholt.

The 2016 line will be much better. Off-season acquisitions Alex Boone and Andre Smith will revitalize the team this year. Already Boone is turning heads in training camp. Smith will solidify right tackle in the absence of the retired Phil Loadholt. Brandon Fusco will return to guard, Matt Kalil will be given one more year to find the stellar play that marked the beginning of his career. The biggest question appears to be either Joe Berger or John Sullivan at center. 

Armed with a better offensive line, including a bone-crushing guard in Boone, it is likely that Adrian Peterson will look more like the AP that ran behind Steve Hutchinson. From 2007 to 2011, AP started 66 games behind Hutchinson, totaling 6,752 yards, and 64 rushing touchdowns. Only an injury in 2011 kept Peterson from having 5 consecutive 1,000 yard plus rushing seasons to begin his career. 

Of course, in his best season, Adrian ran for 2,097 yards in 2012 without Hutchinson. He was replaced by Charlie Johnson that year, and Johnson teamed up with a then rookie Matt Kalil to represent the left-side of the line. Sullivan, Loadholt, and Fusco were also starters on that team. 

Which brings us back to our soothsayer, Adrian Peterson. He turned 31 in March this year. he is entering his 10th season. Due to his legal troubles in 2014, he played only one game that year, so in actuality, Peterson has played eight full seasons with injuries popping up here and there. Most NFL fans know that running backs tend to slow down as they enter their thirties.

The all-time NFL rushing leaders played on average about 12 seasons. Emmitt Smith, the NFL all-time rushing leader (18,355) played 15 years. Second place Walter Payton (16,726) played 13 seasons. Thrid place Barry Sanders (15,269) played only 10 seasons. Only Jim Brown (9th with 12,312) played less than 10 seasons. Marcus Allen (12th, 12,243) played the most at 16, though many of those ending years were as a goal line specialist.

Adrian Peterson presently is 17th all-time in rushing with 11,675 yards in 113 games started. If he runs for 1,000 yards this year he will leapfrog the following NFL greats: Fred Taylor, Frank Gore, Thurman Thomas, Franco Harris, Marcus Allen, Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk, and Jim Brown. That would move him to 9th overall. If he repeats last year's total, he will also pass Tony Dorsett for 8th overall.

Adrian Peterson was quoted his rookie year by the Tribune as saying he wanted to be the greatest player to ever play the game. Suspensions and injuries have hamepred his progress. Of the possible 144 games he could have started in his nine year career, he missed 31 starts. 24 games as well.

Still, he is poised to finish as one of the elite backs of all-time. If he were to play as long as Emmitt Smith, and average 1,000 yards each season, he would end up 2nd overall and within reach of the all-time rushing leader. Even if he were to play only four more years, but averge his usual 1,300 to 1,400 yards, he would still end up 2nd overall. 

Adrian Peterson is trying to make good on a promise to himself and we fans that he would be the greatest player ever. While he has a long way to go, and injuries could appear at any time, he has for the most part followed up his talk with his play. So when Adrian says in 2016 this team can win the Super Bowl... who are we to say no?