Things change fast in the NFL.

Super Bowl winners go from touting the Lombardi Trophy to watching the playoffs from home. High-priced veterans go from beloved faces of a franchise to veteran has-beens on the open market.

No team has recently exemplified the blink-and-you'll-miss-it evolution of NFL affairs as well as the Minnesota Vikings.

The months that preceded their renewed hunt for prominence in the NFC North shows just that:

Oct. 16, 2016.

The Minnesota Vikings are barely a month removed from the year's most expeditious quarterback unraveling, their impromptu embrace of trade acquisition Sam Bradford. The veteran signal-caller had been given all of eight days before the start of the 2016 season to adapt to his surroundings, absorb a new playbook and, you know, ease an entire city's qualms about the well being of their quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater.

The Vikings were off to a historically hot start in 2016. USATSI

And yet, here they are, five games into the season, resting on their bye week, the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL. Their defense is tops in points allowed per game. Bradford is without an interception. Minnesota is the consensus No. 1 in nationwide power rankings.

Oct. 23, 2016.

The first signs of deterioration are loud and clear on a trip to Philadelphia, where general manager Rick Spielman took Bradford from the Eagles. Largely turnover free leading up to their arrival at Lincoln Financial Field, the Vikings fall victim to blunder after blunder in a loss that not only sparks the ire of coach Mike Zimmer but sets into motion a four-game losing streak and an abrupt crash closer to .500. Injuries take their toll up front, and team spirits are dampened for a whole lot longer than a single Sunday.

Dec. 24, 2016.

Downtrodden by seven losses in their last nine games, the Vikes get a final shot at redemption by squaring off with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, complete with a chance to ruin Aaron Rodgers' "run-the-table" prediction, but their season-long slump to mediocrity is completed in a 38-25 defeat.

The Vikings ended their 2016 season with three wins in their final 11 games. USATSI

A .500 season is secure, as is a seat at home for the playoffs. Merry Christmas Eve.

Sept. 11, 2017.

A season removed from their historic fall from grace, the Vikings will open their 2017 campaign in front of Monday Night Football's bright lights -- and in an almost indistinguishable place.

U.S. Bank Stadium, still a dazzling work of architecture, is plenty distinguishable, even if it'll host Adrian Peterson, a staple of Minnesota sports history, on the wrong sideline that evening. But the Vikings themselves, they are not so defined.

They own a quarterback in Bradford who is both revered for his record-breaking Midwestern debut and cautiously supported thanks to a detailed history of injuries and playoff success (or lack thereof). They own an offensive line that features as many new faces as physical ailments it sustained in 2016. Most of all, they aren't the Packers -- a team fronted by Rodgers, a perennial MVP candidate, that has missed the postseason once in the last decade.

But the Vikings, with all their unpredictable parts, would tell you they're still in full-fledged pursuit -- and very much capable of capturing -- the very thing Green Bay stole on Dec. 24 and has so often stolen before: an NFC North championship.

It's something Minnesota took home in 2015. The Vikings, in fact, own the most division titles (19) of any team currently in the quartet. But it's also something the Packers have used to guarantee annual inclusion on pundits' lists of Super Bowl contenders, not to mention real-life runs deep into the playoffs -- something the Vikings haven't done since Brad Childress was head coach, Brett Favre was quarterback and Percy Harvin was Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Now, with another season in tow, the Vikings have reason to hope the tables will be turned. In fact, they've got a couple of reasons to believe that maybe, just maybe, they will be the ones to turn the tables and unseat the Pack as NFC North champs:

An upgraded offensive arsenal

Say what you will about Bradford, but the veteran couldn't have turned in a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (20:5) during his first Vikings season considering the circumstances of his arrival, not to mention his lack of protection throughout 2016. The O-line is still a sizable question mark -- free-agent prize Alex Boone was recently axed just a season into a four-year deal, and four of the five projected starters are different than when Minnesota took the field in December.

But outside of the trenches, every aspect of the Vikings offense is noticeably improved. The package surrounding Bradford is a whole lot more explosive.

Cook should be a three-down weapon right out of the gate in 2017. USATSI

Peterson may very well be a ram when he looks to "stick it" to the Vikes in Week 1, but if Dalvin Cook looks anything like he did this offseason, the team already has a three-down weapon to fill in for "All Day." Any contributions from Latavius Murray are just a bonus. Take it out wide, and you've got maybe the NFC's most underrated inside receiving trio in Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell, not to mention a mid-season sleeper and summer Bradford favorite in motivated, big-bodied Michael Floyd. Couple all that with target machine Kyle Rudolph, and you've got the most legitimately threatening Vikings offense since the 2009-10 era.

Bradford, ever unaffected by his critics, needs help to succeed. But if he gets even a little more protection than he had in 2016, he's got plenty more help at the skill positions to do damage. (And if he doesn't, or injuries prevail, is it shocking to suggest Bridgewater may do the impossible and get some snaps late in the season following his rehabilitation stint? Maybe not.)

A defense that went heavy on retaining, not replacing talent

It's going to be difficult for the Vikings to replicate some of their defensive dominance from early in 2016. Terence Newman, 39, sure isn't getting any younger at cornerback either, and that's a position that'll demand increased production from former early-rounders Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. All in all, in fact, the secondary could have its fair share of lumps following the departure of corner Captain Munnerlyn.

Barr is due for a rebound in 2017 alongside Eric Kendricks. USATSI

But a few questions in the defensive backfield shouldn't hide the fact Minnesota, with Mike Zimmer running this team, still boasts something of a scary unit. Unlike, say, Green Bay, the Vikings haven't often worried on a week-to-week basis about the core of their defense, and that trend should continue into 2017.

The team doled out a whopping $178 million this offseason to lock up shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes, defensive end Everson Griffen and defensive tackle Linval Joseph, so the building blocks are there. Anthony Barr is bound to improve upon a subpar 2016 alongside up-and-coming star Eric Kendricks, too, so it's not as if the team is lacking top-tier talent. It wouldn't be a stretch, actually, to suggest the Vikings own a premier player at every defensive position.

Take the team as a whole and, like 31 other organizations in the NFL, it has its question marks. You're also not going to find many clubs with as much promise, or proven experience, on both sides of the ball.

If only, for the Vikings' sake, that lasts longer than October this time around.