MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Vikings raced forward with their rebuilding project last season by finishing 10-6 and reaching the playoffs ahead of projection.
It was a feel-good ride as Adrian Peterson posted the second-highest total for rushing yards in a season with 2,097 yards.
With Peterson in his prime and a bunch of recent high draft picks with the potential to be future cogs, there's a sturdy blueprint in place. But that's far from an assurance of sustained success.
Standout defensive end Jared Allen is in his 10th year in the league and the last in his current contract. Of the 22 starters, 10 of them are 28 or older. The windows of NFL winning open and shut quickly.
Peterson will again be the featured attraction, but here are five things to know about the Vikings beyond the league MVP award winner:
PONDER'S PROGRESS: Christian Ponder has to take several steps forward in his development this season for the Vikings to be in championship contention, but quarterbacks have often flourished in their third year. If he doesn't, the Vikings will have to consider starting all over at the game's most important position.
DOWN ON THE CORNER: With Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford in the division and Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III among other standout passers on the schedule, the performance of the cornerbacks could prove to be critical for the Vikings.
RIVALS RECRUITED: The modern history of the Vikings has included several chapters on former Packers who crossed the border to join their NFC North foes, most notably Brett Favre. That pipeline from Green Bay hasn't dried up yet, as evidenced by the arrival of wide receiver Greg Jennings and linebacker Desmond Bishop, both key contributors to the Super Bowl champion Packers of 2010-11 and their 15-1 record the following season.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE TANDEM: Kevin Williams is 12 years older than Sharrif Floyd, so it's clear who will be manning the under tackle position next year and beyond. For now, the plan is a time share, to limit the wear and tear on the six-time Pro Bowl pick Williams and ease in the rookie from Florida, the first of those three first-round picks.
STADIUM SAGA: The Vikings secured funding approval last year from the state for a new stadium, and they're planning to open it for the 2016 season after playing two years at the University of Minnesota. The timetable has tightened, with the public agency in charge of it examining the personal finances of team owner Zygi Wilf and his family. The Wilf brothers committed fraud and contract breach with an apartment development, a New Jersey judge ruled recently, and they'll likely have to pay a hefty fine. Both sides have said repeatedly there's no danger to the stadium project.
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