The soap opera could’ve ended months ago, but it dragged on. Adrian Peterson wanted out of Minnesota. The Vikings wanted Peterson. The two sides, stuck between a rock and hard place, weren’t about to budge.
The saga arrived at a resolution last week when Peterson, suspended all but one game last season after allegedly whipping his son, reportedly received a restructured contract.
There’s no guarantee Peterson will remain a member of the Vikings, but chances are better than they’ve been throughout the spring and summer. The Vikings peppered a little more guaranteed money into his contract, and added flexible roster bonuses, among other things. It was a strengthening of their commitment, an olive branch Peterson accepted.
So there’s a reason the Vikings are a trendy pick to be a dark horse challenger in the NFC North. This fall, Peterson will be what he’s been the previous eight years — namely, the Vikings dynamic, workhorse tailback. The Packers will travel to Minnesota on Nov. 22, then host their rival five weeks later on Jan. 3. Both games could be critical to securing a fifth straight division title.
Three things to know about the Vikings
•All day: Six Pro Bowls. Three All-Pros. A 2,000-yard season. Peterson has been the NFL’s best running back since entering the league in 2007. With his tumultuous 2014 behind him, there’s no knowing what kind of player he might be in 2015. Will the rust from missing practically a full year of football be hard to shake? Or will his time away from the field be reenergizing? Peterson turned 30 years old in March, an age when many running backs — even the great ones — start to decline. If Peterson can dodge Father Time, it might be his most impressive broken tackle yet.
•Zimmer’s defense: Mike Zimmer, known for his aggressive 4-3 defense, made an immediate impact on the Vikings last season. Minnesota ranked last in the NFL with 30 points allowed per game in 2013, and 31st with 397.6 yards allowed per game. In Zimmer’s first year, those numbers improved to 21.4 points allowed (11th) and 344.7 yards allowed per game (14th). It was a dramatic jump, one the Vikings hope takes another step this fall. It’s not implausible to think the Vikings could have a top 10-ranked defense this season.
•The schedule gauntlet: By the time the Packers get to late November, they’ll be in the midst of their most important schedule stretch of the season. Starting with the Lions on Nov. 15, the Packers will play four straight games against divisional opponents. Their Nov. 22 date with the Vikings will be especially important because a) it’s the first of two road games during the stretch, and b) it leads into a short week. The Packers sure could use an injury-free road victory.
Packers schedule glimpse
Week before: Detroit, Nov. 15.
Week after: Chicago, Nov. 26.
On the horizon: at Detroit, Dec. 3.
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Coach: Mike Zimmer (7-9, second season).
2014 record: 7-9, 3rd NFC North.
Scoring offense: 20.3 points per game (20th in NFL).
Total offense: 315.5 yards per game (27th).
Scoring defense: 21.4 points allowed per game (11th).
Total defense: 344.7 yards allowed per game (14th).
Series: Packers lead 49-48-2 (1-1 postseason).
Last meeting: One of the NFL’s most balanced rivalries over the decades, the Packers won a rubber match of sorts 24-21 at Minnesota in November last season. With the Vikings lacking their workhorse in the backfield, the Packers turned to theirs. Running back Eddie Lacy had 125 yards on 25 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown that opened scoring.