Not a lot actually happening in football, so I thought it would be fun to hear what folks are picturing for next year. To make things more entertaining, I would love to hear the best and worst outcomes imaginable before hearing the actual prediction. My guesses are below the jump.
Christian Ponder shows he was actually the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft. The new offensive coaching leadership brings him along quickly while still being creative. The West Coast passing game hits its stride involving both Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. The offiense is spiced up with some great running by Adrian Peterson, wildcat formations for Joe Webb, and the occassional shot down the field to (I'm not really sure who the deep-threat receiver will be, but I'm going with Emmaneul Arceneaux who the Vikes got from the CFL.)
The defense is re-invigorated as the Vikings make the surprise move of signing Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Cook has the kind of year his training camp promised last year. Antoinne Winfield moves back to Safety where his amazing instincts let him grab a league-high number of picks. Brian Robison shows that he was worth the money, and Everson Griffin and Chritian Ballard both step in to show what some aggressive youth can do to help support the veteran talent of Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.
Despite posting a 12 and 4 record, the Vikings come up short in the NFC championship game. Part of what makes the future for the franchise so exciting is knowing that the Vikings are headed to a new stadium in Arden Hills. The Vikings leadership look forward to hosting a super bowl in this facility and keeping a commitment to quality drafting and keeping the roster young. Adrian Peterson sees the commitment and quality of leadership - he decides to re-sign with the Vikings to finish out his hall-of-fame career with the team.
The Minnesota Legislature passes a budget but fails to pass the stadium bill. The Governor won't call a special session solely to consider the issue. Despite wanting to keep the Vikings in Minnesota, the Wilf's need to take the prudent business decision to sell the team (especially given the ongoing uncertaingy in getting a new collective bargaining agreement.) The team is sold to a Los Angeles ownership group, and construction starts immediately on a new stadium there.
While the season is played in Minnesota, the new ownership trades away Adrian Peterson to stockpile draft picks for the following year. Although it's unknown whether it is ordered by the ownership or just the result of having no pre-season and even losing the first two regular-season games to CBA negotiations which don't get wrapped up, the Vikings tank with a 2 and 12 record.
As cold comfort to the Minnesota fan base, the team formerly known as the Vikings draft Andrew Luck and go on to win the super bowl in their first year in Los Angeles playing as the LA Stars.
The stadium issue gets worked out in a special session when the NFL agrees to provide $75 million. The Vikings stay in Minnesota. Eventually, the Arden Hills site is known as a showcase for the NFL experience.
The Vikings benefit from a fairly soft schedule, but the fact that there are only two weeks of preparation and no preseason due to the CBA negotiations really hurt. Sidney Rice signs as a free agent with the Rams, and the team can't find weapons to make the passing offense work consistently. The Vikings give up a third-round draft pick to start Kyle Orton as a veteran given the minimal time available to get Ponder up to speed. Orton shows flashes, but the Vikings bring in Ponder by week seven. The defensive backfield never quite gets settled, and the Vikings have difficulty in catching up to opponents who jump out to early leads.
In the end, this all adds up to a 7 and 9 season with the Vikings ending up third (behind Green Bay and a surging Detroit but in front of a Chicago team that falls flat on its promise from the prior year.) Still, Ponder showed improvement as the season progressed, and the Vikings post solid wins in their final two games against the Redskins and Bears. All in all, the sense is that the team has far fewer holes than coming out of the 2010 season, and the Vikings are poised to make a leap in 2011.