You may have seen these popping up on some of the other SB Nation NFL sites, and I'm going to do ours right here. The folks from the mothership have given us nine questions to answer about the Vikings and the NFC North.
1) Which player on your team is the easiest to root for?
Why, the best one, of course. And by "the best one," what I mean is "the best one in the entire National Football League." Seriously, after what he did last season, how do you not root for Adrian Peterson? The man's work ethic is probably the best in the NFL, he's probably the most exciting player in the league with the football in his hands (or, at least, he's on the short list), and he's a hell of a guy off the field, too. Unless you ask the Houston police department. Never did find out how a guy gets arrested for "resisting arrest" and nothing else, did we?
2) If you could buy a ticket to just one game this year. . .
Well, this is an easy one. It would be the game where the Vikings take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in merry ole England on September 29. Yeah, I know, it's a "home" game that's 10,000 miles away from the Great White North. But, you know. . .it's England. Culture is important and stuff. Of course, then you have to buy plane tickets, get a hotel room, and those sorts of things. . .but that doesn't change my mind.
3) Which veterans could be cut by the team before the season due to salary cap issues?
Rick Spielman, and more so Rob Brzezinski, have done a great job with the Vikings' salary cap over the past couple of years, so there aren't really a lot of potential "cap casualties." John Carlson might have been had he not restructured (and even now it would cost the Vikings more to cut him than to keep him). Prior to the recent issues at defensive tackle, Letroy Guion might have been on the list. But there really aren't a whole lot of cases on this team of salary greatly exceeding production, so I wouldn't anticipate any of the Vikings' upcoming cuts having a whole lot to do with salary.
4) Which second year player is going to make the biggest leap?
Conventional wisdom would point to either safety Harrison Smith or offensive tackle Matt Kalil, but those guys are already pretty good at their positions, and don't have that far to "leap" to reach that next level. With that, I'm going to go off the reservation a bit and say wide receiver Jarius Wright. Wright came on at the end of last season, being responsible for the team's two longest receptions of the year, and was one of the stars of Training Camp this past off-season. With Greg Jennings mentoring him and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson hopefully opening things up, Wright should have plenty of opportunities this season.
5) What are the odds of your head coach getting fired?
I think that Leslie Frazier is relatively safe, barring a complete meltdown. Obviously if this team goes 4-12 or something like that, he's out the door. But Frazier has shown patience during the team's rebuilding process, and the players seem to love playing for him, so it would be surprising if that were to happen anyway.
6) What franchise or NFL records could be broken this season?
After last season, the spectre of 2,105 (Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record) will be talked about quite a bit. Adrian Peterson might not get that mark this season, but barring something weird, he will become the 28th player in NFL history to reach the 10,000 rushing yard plateau (he currently sits at 8,849). But, other than that, I can't think of any major franchise records that we need to keep an eye on off the top of my head. I'm sure there are some, though. . .we'll just have to do some digging to find out what they are.
7) Which rookies will see significant playing time?
Of the Vikings' three first-round selections, cornerback Xavier Rhodes will probably get the most playing time to start with, as he's basically been penciled in as the starter already. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who had a knee issue in the pre-season, might get more snaps than originally anticipated early on, as Kevin Williams might have to sit a while with a knee issue of his own. Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is slotted as the #1 kick returner at this point, and is apparently further along as a receiver than the coaching staff anticipated when he was drafted. Hopefully the playing time for one specific rookie. . .fifth-round punter Jeff Locke. . .will be minimal.
8) Predict the order of finish in your division
Sadly. . .I think it's the same order of finish that this division saw last year, with slightly different records.
Green Bay: 11-5
The NFC North has one of the toughest schedules in the league this year, though. The AFC North is no joke, and the NFC East is pretty solid as well. One game here and there could make a real impact on things, as it does every year in the NFL.
9) What do you expect your season-ending record to be?
Oops. . .just answered that one. I still think that this team is more than capable of double-digit victories. If quarterback Christian Ponder can take the "step forward" that everyone is hoping for from him this year, a division championship. . .and possibly more. . .certainly isn't out of the question, either.