Biggest changes: All the changes were positive for the Vikings, who inked defensive end Jared Allen and big-play wide receiver Bernard Berrian for a combined $47 million this offseason. Entering his fifth season, Allen is coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2007, racking up 15.5 sacks in 14 games. Berrian, who spent the last four seasons with the Chicago Bears, adds a vertical threat to the offense.
Positives: Minnesota can run the ball and stop the run, two of the most important characteristics for a winning team. Second-year phenom Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor take care of the former, while Allen, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams handle the latter. Peterson is perhaps the most dynamic offensive player in football and, unbelievably, gives way to one of the most versatile runners in the game, Taylor, who is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. That dynamic duo is aided by a bruising offensive line, which includes standouts Bryant McKinnie - who was suspended for the first four games of the season - Steve Hutchinson and Matt Birk. As such, the Vikings led the NFL with an average of 164.6 rushing yards last campaign.
Negatives: Quarterback play. With the team loaded in all other areas, the Vikings need a huge year from Tarvaris Jackson, who has not shown the ability to consistently throw the ball downfield. MinnesotaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stellar running backs may face more defenders around the line of scrimmage until Jackson proves he can make defenses pay. The truth is in the numbers, considering the young signal-caller had just nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season.
On the spot: While it goes without saying that Jackson is under enormous pressure, the VikingsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ pass defense also must improve. Minnesota was the leagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worst team at defending the pass and will need improvement from, among others, cornerback Cedric Griffin, who was challenged a lot. Tested veteran Antoine Winfield is on the other side. Shoring up the passing game will be even more important if the Vikings expect to make the leap to Super Bowl contenders. The run defense already is sound and an improved secondary would give MinnesotaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense a measure of security.
Prediction: 10-6. Dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is the first sign of a good team. But a great team needs a serviceable quarterback, no matter the talent of his supporting cast. The Vikings will make the playoffs but will not be able to make much noise behind the struggling Jackson.
Tidbit: The Vikings ranked first in rushing offense and defense last season, only to come in 28th and 32nd, respectively, in the passing game.