The Vikings' run to a 10-6 record and a wild-card spot in 2012 was one of the most surprising stories of last season. It also was, in many ways, a charmed run.
Aside from Percy Harvin, the Vikings lost remarkably few starters to injury. Five of their first eight games were at home, allowing a young team to get comfortable early. And Adrian Peterson's 2,097-yard MVP performance helped the Vikings overcome the league's second-worst passing attack.
Things don't line up so favorably in 2013. The Vikings start the season with tough road contests against division foes Detroit and Chicago -- plus a trip to London for a "home game" against the Steelers -- and begin an eight-week stretch in late October against teams that finished no worse than 8-8 last season. No running back has come close to 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons, and even if Peterson can buck that trend, the Vikings will need more from Christian Ponder and a retooled receiving corps than they got last season. They are also counting on four cornerbacks with a combined 70 NFL games under their belts after parting with Antoine Winfield.
It's possible the Vikings will improve as young players like Harrison Smith and Cordarrelle Patterson develop, but it's hard to imagine the team being so fortunate two years in a row. In a tough division, the Vikings might be in line for a step back.
Predicted finish in NFC North: second