I'll own up to it. I thought Adrian Peterson would struggle this season. The Vikings running back tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee on Dec. 24 last season. According to the normal ACL recovery timetable, he probably should have started the season on the PUP list.
But there's nothing really normal about Adrian Peterson.
Through 12 games, Peterson leads the NFL with 1,446 yards and and average 120.5 yards per game. He's carried the ball 234 times and scored eight touchdowns. The 27-year-old University of Oklahoma product is likely to set a new career-high in rushing yards and could even cross the magic 2,000-yard milestone for the first time in his career.
How Peterson got back on the field and in fine form is the subject of a Friday profile at USA Today. Medical science is a mighty splendid thing, and it helped Peterson recover from an injury that used to be a career-ender for most athletes, especially NFL running backs. Medicine can only do so much, Peterson himself made up the difference with a Herculean effort at rehab, according to the article:
"The things you guys don't see is how much I work and grind and fought through different situations to get back. Mentally, I was able to push through when I was tired and didn't want to do anything. I definitely give credit to the things I put into my off-season.
"You've got to have one believer. I'm sure there weren't many out there, but I definitely believed I could come back and be better than I was before."
More unbelievable is that Peterson now has a shot at the record book, specifically Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards set in 1984. Topping the 2,000-yard threshold is impressive in and of itself; only six running backs have ever done it.
In order to break the record, Peterson needs to average 138.5 rushing yards per game. The Vikings have four more games left to play, along with an outside shot the playoffs. Does he have a shot at history?
Peterson is riding a hot streak. He topped 150 yards in four of his last six games, including a 210-yard performance last week in a loss to the Packers. The good news is that Peterson and Vikings play Green Bay one more time in Minneapolis. Nevertheless, the schedule is definitely working against him. Let's take a look:
Week 14, vs. Chicago
The Bears are allowing an average of 103.5 rushing yards per game. Peterson ran for 108 yards two weeks ago at Soldier Field, on just 18 attempts. Playing indoors this week should help, but the Bears defense will be keyed in on the running back, especially with Percy Harvin on the shelf.
Week 15, at St. Louis
Week 16, at Houston
This is, by far, the toughest game on the schedule for both the Vikings and Peterson's quest. Houston sports the league's second-best run defense for yards allowed, an average of just 87.6 rushing yards allowed each week. Chris Johnson of the Titans is the only running back to top 100 rushing yards against Houston this season, hitting 141 back in Week 4.
Week 17, vs. Green Bay
As mentioned above, Peterson did break the 200-yard mark against the Packers. Green Bay's playoff status could help a little here, if Mike McCarthy lets his starters rest a little this week.
Playing two of the league's stingiest run defenses over the last four games doesn't bode well for Peterson's chances of breaking Dickerson's record. On the other hand, players with surgically repaired knees aren't supposed to be flirting with 2,000-yard seasons in the first place. Are you willing to bet against Peterson a second time?