Midseason report: Minnesota Vikings

After being pulled in a number of different directions due to injuries and the legal troubles of their best player, the Minnesota Vikings finally appear to be reaching some state of normalcy as they hit the bye week. They've won two straight games to get to 4-5, have seen rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater lead back-to-back fourth-quarter comebacks, and have crafted a defense that's played like one of the best in the NFC so far this season. The Vikings are young and inconsistent -- and their season could have another hairpin turn coming, depending on what happens with Adrian Peterson -- but they have reason to believe they're headed toward better times.

Midseason MVP: In his third season, Harrison Smith has blossomed into one of the best safeties in the league, thanks to a role that's taken advantage of the former first-round pick's talents in a number of areas. Smith has intercepted three passes, returning one for a touchdown, registered a sack and a forced fumble, and made 49 tackles. He's a hard-hitting, instinctive safety who's done a little bit of everything, and he has a good chance to make his first Pro Bowl.

Biggest disappointment: Left tackle Matt Kalil was healthy at the beginning of the season after playing with a knee injury last year, but Kalil hasn't been able to get back to the Pro Bowl form he displayed as a rookie in 2012. He's given up a league-high 10 sacks, according to Pro Football Focus, and has struggled enough that the Vikings have had to shift help to his side of the line on numerous occasions, even assigning tight end Rhett Ellison or running back Matt Asiata to pick up edge rushers while Kalil blocks down on an inside rusher. The Vikings will have to decide after the season whether they'll pick up Kalil's fifth-year option, and Kalil, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, will have to be better in the second half.

Best moment: On the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first play of overtime on Oct. 26, linebacker Anthony Barr ripped the ball away from Austin Seferian-Jenkins, returning it 27 yards for a game-winning touchdown that provided another glimpse into how good the first-round pick can be. Barr recovered three fumbles in the Buffalo and Tampa Bay games, recorded four sacks in his first nine games and proved he could be a force in run support, as well as a disruptive pass-rusher. The fumble return against the Bucs ended a three-game losing streak for Minnesota and gave the Vikings a shot of optimism about their future.

Worst moment: On the field, it was the last-second touchdown the Vikings allowed in Buffalo on Oct. 19, after letting the Bills keep the game alive on a fourth-and-20 play. But the first half of the Vikings' season has been played under a pall of what happened off the field in September: Peterson being arrested on child abuse charges and eventually put on the commissioner's exempt list after sponsors balked at the Vikings' initial decision to keep the running back on the field. Peterson's future remains cloudy, but the moment was an ugly episode in the running back's eight-year career with the team.

Key to the second half: The biggest key for the Vikings, both now and looking forward, is to develop a consistent passing game around which they can build for the future. Bridgewater has been put in a tough situation, but he'll have the rest of the season to keep growing, and he could get tight end Kyle Rudolph back as soon as Nov. 16. Cordarrelle Patterson, though, needs to become a bigger part of the offense, and it's difficult to say the Vikings aren't trying to make that happen; they targeted him seven times Sunday, but connected just once. Patterson is still trying to refine his route-running and needs to improve against press coverage. He'll have to get better if he's going to be Bridgewater's top target in the future, and in the short term -- when the Vikings play four of their final seven games against teams with losing records -- a more consistent passing game will be important.