Can the Green Bay Packers be dethroned in the NFC North?

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Dec 7, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback

Teddy Bridgewater

(5) passes against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings made strides in 2014 after their awful 5-10-1 record in 2013.

They brought in a new coaching staff, led by head coach Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, renowned for his defensive style, improved the Vikings’ 31st ranked defense of 2013 into the 14th best in 2014.

Now heading into his second year, the Vikings will be hoping to keep improving in 2015.

Key Decisions

It all starts with Adrian Peterson.

Do they bring him back? 

Nov 3, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) runs with the ball in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.The Cowboys beat the Vikings 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If they opt not to bring Peterson back, they would prefer to trade him rather than release him.

Either way, they would still take a $2.4 million cap hit for his departure. Peterson would have a $15.4 million cap hit should he stay, assuming they don’t restructure his contract.

The decision regarding Peterson will have some bearing on who they might bring in through free agency and via the draft.

Should he leave, the Vikings will need to find a replacement. Running backs in free agency include 2014 leading rusher DeMarco Murray and Mark Ingram.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley are among a deep 2015 draft class.

Minnesota’s free agents include running back Matt Asiata, defensive tackle Tom Johnson and linebacker Jasper Brinkley.

Team Outlook

The arrow for the Minnesota Vikings is certainly pointed up. With Teddy Bridgewater coming off an impressive rookie year, he will be looking to move up a level in 2015 with a full offseason under his belt. 

Should Adrian Peterson return, the Vikings will have back one of the best running backs in the NFL.

Will he be as effective after missing almost all of 2014? We will have to wait and find out, but it is difficult to not believe the 2012 MVP can’t get back to his best.

Greg Jennings leads the wide receiver group, and there is a ton of potential with Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson didn’t have a great 2014, but there is still plenty of room for him to improve heading into 2015.

An improving defense could do with some help at linebacker, as they aim to keep improving in 2015. The main aims in the offseason will be to give Bridgewater more weapons, while shoring up an offensive line that gave up 39 sacks last year.

How can they win the NFC North?

Winning the NFC North is no small task, and they will need to be a complete team to dethrone Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. 

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  • Should Adrian Peterson return and play like we all know he can, along with extra weapons in the passing game, this Vikings offense could become very dangerous. Teddy Bridgewater will need to continue to improve, and if the Vikings can strike a balance between a solid passing game and a powerful running game, they can cause defensive coordinators nightmares.

    Defensively, Zimmer will need to keep improving the unit. With two games a year against quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, they will need to find a way of forcing turnovers to have success against these teams.

    A lot has to happen for the Vikings to be a legitimate threat to the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in 2015, but if they make strides like they did last year, you never know.

    Next: Can the Lions roar?