At the beginning of the 2012 season, not many people believed that the Minnesota Vikings would be anywhere near the playoff picture when December rolled around. With a 3-13 record the previous season, a single offseason didn’t appear to be enough time for such a big turnaround.
That, however, was as far from the case as possible.
With the 2012 regular season at its end, the Vikings stand at 10-6 and have secured the sixth seed in the NFC with a hard-fought victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 17. Their late-season surge, spurred by the superhuman running of Adrian Peterson, has them in the playoffs and ready to play the sleeper role as the postseason gets under way.
In the first round, the Vikings will face off against the Packers again in the season’s series tie-breaker. The Packers overcame a huge game from Peterson in Round 1, but couldn’t come out on top in Round 2 as Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder made the most of the defense focusing on slowing down the run game. In the final showdown of this season, the Vikings have the momentum and confidence that they need to advance to the Divisional Round.
Assuming they defeat the Packers next Saturday, the Vikings would enter a Divisional Round match-up with the Atlanta Falcons, who finished the 2012 regular season with an NFC-best 13-3 record. Although the odds would certainly be stacked against them, Minnesota has shown an ability to slow down even the best of teams this season. They knocked off the San Francisco 49ers earlier in the year and, as we saw on Sunday, brought enough to the party to put the Packers in the loss column. As long as Peterson can keep pace during the postseason and the pass defense can find some sort of consistency, the Vikings have the talent to stick with anyone in the NFC.
And we all know that if it comes down to a field goal, rookie Blair Walsh has no problem hitting the tough three when the pressure is on.
If the Vikings take down the Falcons, there’s no telling just how far they can go. If the Packers could beat the odds in 2010 and the New York Giants could in 2011, there’s no reason to believe that the Vikings couldn’t pull off a sixth-seed surprise in 2012.
The NFL playoffs are upon us and the journey to Super Bowl XLVII has begun. Enjoy.