Vikings getting national cred

The Vikings are becoming a trendy playoff pick with an up-and-coming roster and respected coaching staff.

It has been a long time since the NFL has showed a lot of love toward the Vikings. Since 2011, most prognosticators have projected the Vikings to finish last in the NFC North.

But if you saw the NFL’s official website Monday, you would think the Vikings are ready to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. In a highlighted story featuring the Vikings and wide receiver Charles Johnson, the league website projects Johnson as the No. 20 player that will be “Making the Leap” to stardom in the NFL.

The rationale for making Johnson a player to watch in 2015 gave a lot of credit to offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Turner was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland when the Browns claimed Johnson off waivers from the Packers after he was released. Then it was learned that he had a torn ACL. He missed the entire 2013 season but was able to learn under Turner, and what Turner saw, even though Johnson was injured, was enough for him to vouch for Johnson when the Browns tried to hide him on the practice squad only to have the Vikings claims him.

Johnson’s play down the stretch helped provide a spark for the Vikings offense that increased their scoring from 16.4 points a game in the first nine games to 24 points a game in the final seven. In those final seven games, he was targeted 47 times, caught 25 passes for 415 yards and led the team in all three of those categories.

While there is plenty of competition at the receiver spot – from Mike Wallace to Jarius Wright to Cordarrelle Patterson to Kyle Rudolph – at the end of the season Turner said that Johnson was “far and away our best receiver” and he plans on showing that off on a much bigger stage this season.

Are the on-field comparisons that were made between Johnson and Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who had 1,646 receiving yards in Turner’s offense valid? It would appear as though that might be the case as the Vikings look to explode in front of the NFL world in 2015.

In a related story on the site, the Vikings were compared to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, a team that didn’t have the flashy dominant superstars, but had a collection of players that, when combined, were greater than the sum of their parts. With the return of Adrian Peterson, who would like be the Steph Curry of the Vikings, with a young, improving nucleus on both sides of the ball, the Vikings may not be ready to challenge the Packers for divisional supremacy this year, but they’re closing the gap quickly.

The buzz that is building around the Vikings is palpable. They are being viewed as one of the young teams ready to make its move, much like the Packers did five years ago, the Seahawks did three years ago and the Indianapolis Colts are currently doing. It may take some time – maybe another year – for the Vikings to be viewed as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but the process of improvement has begun and, from the looks of things, is gaining steam.

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