Vikings, Peterson excited for return, will it be enough to contend?

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The Minnesota Vikings are one of the popular picks to rise from the depths of the NFL and turn into a potential playoff contender this season.

There is more excitement around the club than there has been in years and it isn't hard to see why.

Mike Zimmer enters his second year with second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a few new playmakers on the offense and a defense hungry to show continued improvement – am I forgetting something? Oh yeah, Adrian Peterson is back too.

According to the Pioneer Press, among 13 NFL.com analysts who made preseason picks, six picked the Vikings to earn a Wild Card spot and two even boldly predicted Minnesota would steal the NFC North.

However, none of them predicted the Vikings would win the Super Bowl and VegasInsider still gives a 30-1 shot of that happening.

One big reason for the optimism is obviously the return of Peterson. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told Sirius NFL Radio that AP will see the ball in their season opener on Monday night in San Francisco.

"He's going to get the ball," Zimmer tells NFL Blitz hosts Rich Gannon and Bruce Murray Tuesday. "The plan is he gets to play on Monday night. We're excited about it, he's excited about it."

The Vikings won their first game with Peterson in the lineup last season, but without the future Hall-of-Famer they finished 6-9.

But is too much weight being paid to Peterson's return? A new ESPN measure seems to think so. ESPN's Football Power Index believes the Vikings are the most overrated team in the league in 2015.

"Would the Vikings be ranked this high if Adrian Peterson were still suspended? Most expect Minnesota to take a big step forward after a strong end of the year by Teddy Bridgewater and the return of Peterson.

But running backs barely move the needle when it comes to team projections. An elite running back, such as Peterson, adds about one win a season, which generally is not enough to make a big difference in a team's fortunes unless it's otherwise a good team."

The Vikings open the season on Monday night at San Francisco.

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