Scoggins: Vikings' success boils down to QB

  • Updated: August 31, 2013 - 7:04 PM

The message didn’t change, only the context.

Don’t listen to what people say about you, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier warned his team on the eve of training camp. The NFL is too unpredictable and fluid to fall into that trap.

“I’m sure over this offseason they have had a lot of people telling them, ‘Hey, you guys are on your way, you’re moving in the right direction,’ ” Frazier said.

Frazier shared a similar edict about outside expectations before the start of training camp last summer. He told his players to ignore chatter, which was smart, because most of it predicted a rather crummy season.

“In the NFL today, I don’t know if you want to count yourself out of any situation,” Frazier said then.

In many ways, this season will provide more context to their 2012 surprise, perhaps reveal whether a 10-6 record and playoff appearance was a fluke or an indication that the organization truly is on the ascent. In truth, it’s still difficult to get a read on this team, largely because of its quarterback.

Preseason predictions are mostly a futile exercise in the NFL because roster turnover changes every team’s chemistry. And injuries remain an unforgiving reality that levels the playing field and can submarine even the best teams.

The Vikings look like a talented team, maybe even a playoff team again, if — and this belongs in bold capital letters — Christian Ponder can perform at the level he showed in the final three games of the season. It’s hard to envision the Vikings advancing in the playoffs with mediocre quarterback play, but a more consistent Ponder should give this team a chance to contend for the division title.

But nobody really knows if Ponder can do that and the schedule looks treacherous, so the Vikings inspire an equal dose of optimism and skepticism. Here’s why:

A year ago, the Vikings had more new faces than freshman orientation. This season, they return 19 of 22 starters, all three coordinators and added a few important pieces in Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Sharrif Floyd and Xavier Rhodes.

They have a nucleus of players who rank somewhere between elite and very good at their respective positions: Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, John Sullivan, Kyle Rudolph, Matt Kalil, Chad Greenway, Harrison Smith and Blair Walsh.

That’s a solid foundation to build upon. Yet that doesn’t guarantee anything because so many factors determine the direction a season takes.

Take 2012, for example. Everything just kind of came together for the Vikings last season. Their young players exceeded expectations, Peterson performed out-of-this-world and the team caught momentum and ran with it.

Can that happen again? Sure. But some areas of concern create enough doubt, beginning obviously with Ponder’s development and whether he can be trusted as a franchise quarterback.

The Vikings also are thin at linebacker, and Erin Henderson must prove that he can handle the middle linebacker role. The depth at defensive tackle will be tested if Kevin Williams’ knee injury lingers.

The loss of cornerback Antoine Winfield can’t be overstated because he was a glue for the secondary, and his absence leaves a lot of unknowns at cornerback. Can Chris Cook stay healthy? How will Rhodes fare as a rookie? Can Josh Robinson handle the slot/nickel?

And the schedule is a doozy. The Vikings own the league’s 10th-hardest schedule, based on their opponents’ 2012 record, according to NFL.com. That’s always a nebulous statistic because of the league’s year-to-year fluidity, but the path appears daunting.

The Vikings open with back-to-back road games in the NFC North (Detroit and Chicago) and play only one true home game the first month because of their London trip.

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 4th Qtr 5:40
Dallas 10
Seattle 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 7:00 PM
Nashville
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 42 2nd Half 11:39
Wright State 40
Western Ky 31 2nd Half 20:00
Saint Josephs 24
Michigan State 32 2nd Half
Rider 11
UCLA 20 1st Half 9:05
North Carolina 19
Marquette 7:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Long Beach State 7:30 PM
Western Mich
Stephen F Austin 8:00 PM
Prairie View
UAB 8:30 PM
Florida
Rice 8:30 PM
Mercer
San Jose St 10:00 PM
Washington
Washington St 10:59 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Baylor 10:59 PM
Memphis
LSU 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 66 2nd Half 4:41
BYU-Hawaii 43
Charlotte 32 2nd Half 15:50
Montana 44
Illinois 51 2nd Half 10:11
(9) Kentucky 43
Central Michigan 7:00 PM
Richmond
Oklahoma 7:15 PM
South Florida
Princeton 7:30 PM
Wake Forest
(19) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Butler
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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