The Vikings play their first preseason game tonight, and we dare say it's their most anticipated season since 2009. People had high hopes for 2010, but we at least thought we knew what we were getting going in. We knew 2011 was a rebuilding year. And we would have settled for a jump from three to six wins last year; instead, the Vikings made the playoffs with 10 wins. And now there are 2013 expectations. As such, the big question is can the Vikings take a step forward again, or at least sustain that plus side of .500? Here are three reasons they will and three reasons they won't, as we see it.
Turnover margin: Usually when a team comes out of nowhere to make a huge leap in victories, turnovers play a huge role. The Vikings, however, were a minus-1 in turnovers last year. That was tied for 11th in the NFC. Every other NFC playoff team was at least a plus-7. If the Vikings can improve on that margin, that will go a long way toward sustaining success.
Receivers are collectively better: It sounds crazy, but even without Percy Harvin the Vikings figure to be better and deeper at receiver. Greg Jennings is a legitimate target. Cordarrelle Patterson is getting early rave reviews. Jerome Simpson is a wild card but could be a threat. Jarius Wright showed promise after Harvin was injured.
QB position: Christian Ponder had several clunkers last year, but at least in the finale against Green Bay you felt like the Vikings won in large part because of him and not just in spite of him. He’s a year older, presumably a year better, and if he’s not – well, Matt Cassel is a far more capable backup than Joe Webb. In other words, the QB position might not be great, but it is certainly better than it was in 2012.
Special teams: The Vikings lived a charmed life with special teams last season. Their coverage units were great. They returned a punt and a kickoff for a TD. Blair Walsh was accurate and strong-legged. Chris Kluwe had value as a punter and a holder. Now? Well, Harvin is gone so the kickoff return game is in flux. Punt returns, too, are a work in progress. New punter Jeff Locke has a huge leg, but he’s also the new holder and there are some bumps in the road with the kicking game. If the Vikings go from great special teams to simply decent-to-above-average special teams, it could cost them a game or two.
Peterson: Adrian Peterson can’t be that good again, can he? Seriously. Can he? We know we shouldn’t doubt him, but …
Secondary: Chris Cook is the leader of the defensive backfield, and he’s never intercepted a pass in his life. That’s enough to make you scared, isn’t it? The pass defense was far more passable last year than it has been in recent years, but the unit still surrendered 28 TD passes and loses Antoine Winfield from that group.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.

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