When Adrian Peterson stated that he expected to be ready to play by the 2012 season opener -- barely eight months after tearing his ACL on Christmas Eve -- many of us thought he was crazy. When he achieved that goal and was on the field in Week 1, we assumed it was with this caveat: He won't be the same Peterson. ¶ And we were right, but not in the way we thought. ¶ Because there is this: Peterson, one could argue, is having the best season of his career and is back better than ever. Here are the supporting facts:

• He is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, the best mark of his career -- even better than his rookie year in 2007, the season in which he set the single-game NFL record with 296 yards.

• He is on pace for 46 receptions, which would be a career-high.

• So much for easing Peterson back into things. His 168 carries are No. 3 in the NFL. And, of course, his 957 yards lead the league.

• He is on pace for roughly 1,700 yards rushing. While that wouldn't be a career-high (that came in 2008, with 1,760), he has just two fumbles this season. In 2008, he had nine.

• He is doing all this behind a young and rebuilt offensive line. In previous seasons, the Vikings had Matt Birk, Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie on the line -- all of whom made the Pro Bowl sometime during Peterson's tenure.

• He is doing it all despite the struggles of Christian Ponder. No team fears the Vikings passing game. Every team is geared up to stop the run. Yet in the past three games, when Ponder has particularly struggled, Peterson has 55 carries for 458 yards and four rushing TDs.

• Any debatable points about whether Peterson is having his best season with the Vikings should go to the first tiebreaker, which is the fact that Peterson HAD HIS KNEE SHREDDED like 12 days ago and is now a beast again. The defense rests.