Vikings: Dream/nightmare scenarios

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012.

Dream scenario (9-7): Quarterback Christian Ponder makes a big leap in his second season, spurred in part by confidence in his new offensive line. Ponder makes good use of his two pass-catching tight ends, Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson, and either Jerome Simpson or Greg Childs provides a legitimate downfield threat. Tailback Adrian Peterson (knee) is back to full strength early in the season, if not in Week 1. The Vikings get a big return on overhauling the middle of their defense and aren't hindered by starting one rookie safety (Harrison Smith) and perhaps two (with Robert Blanton). In a tough division, they're thrilled to finish with a winning record.

Nightmare scenario (3-13): The Vikings show no improvement from 2011, giving them a three-year record of 12-36. Ponder's inconsistency raises questions about his future with the franchise. Peterson returns but isn't a dominant runner any longer. The defense implodes because of its inexperience and lack of playmakers in the back end. It's clear the franchise has another year or more to go before matching the rest of the division.