2012 Minnesota Vikings: How .500 Is Possible

Scott ReighardAnalyst IFebruary 8, 2012

2012 Minnesota Vikings: How .500 Is Possible

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    We are just a few weeks out from the beginning of the real offseason and the combine in Indianapolis. I think the Vikings coaches are energized and feel the Senior Bowl really allowed them to evaluate as a group and to get a chance to develop more camaraderie.

    As we look to 2012, here is the general schedule the Vikings will most likely face.

    Home Games 

    Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Arizona, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee 

    Away Games

    Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, St. Louis, Seattle, Washington, Houston, Indianapolis

    We will first look at our division foes.

Division Rivals Focus of Vikings Re-Emergence

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    This slide is a little lengthy, but I think well worth it.  

    A sure sign of Minnesota’s comeback has to be establishing victories within the division. One thing you have to say about Dennis Green: He had a very good record against the NFC North. We have been mediocre since then.  

    This is kind of depressing, so you may need to turn away. Since 2000, the Vikings have the following record versus our NFC North foes.

    Packers 16-Vikings 9, Packers 4-0 the last two years.

    Bears 14-Vikings 10, Bears 4-0 the last two years.

    Lions: 3-Vikings 21, Sounds great, but…. Lions lead 3-1 the last two years. Will someone please go check to see if the sky is falling?  

    It's an absolute must the Vikings turn the tide of these recent dismal results.

    Here is probably some senseless researched information:  

    Since 2002, the Vikings have played the Lions first five times, the Bears first twice and the Packers three times, two of those meetings coming in Week 1.  

    The Vikings' most common division opponent lately is the Bears. The Vikings have played the Bears five times and no earlier than Week 13 for the second game, except for 2002, when Minnesota played them the second time in Week 8. 

    The largest gap between games falls between the Vikes and Lions. In eight of the 10 years, there has been at least a six-week separation between games.  

    Conversely, the team the Vikings play most with less time between games is the Packers. Minnesota has played them four times with four weeks or less between games, and those include the bye week.  

    Speaking of the bye week, the Vikings' most common bye week has been Week 5. They have had that three times, Week 4 twice, Week 9 twice and Week 6 twice.  

    As if any of this matters I predict the Vikings will play the Lions first, then the Bears followed by the Packers. Minnesota have only played all three teams three times before the bye, so it is likely the Vikings will not get to play all three division foes before their bye.

    My guess is, the bye will come around Week 6. The Vikings will probably play the Bears sometime in Week 13 or 15 because Minnesota has played them three times in Weeks 13 and 15. 

    If the Vikings can steal a win at home against one of their division rivals, and take four of five from other opponents, then 5-3 is possible.

So, How Is 5-3 Possible?

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    Coming from this year’s results and teams, it’s safe to say the Vikings will have a tough time beating Green Bay, Detroit, San Francisco and Chicago. However, if the Vikings can “steal” one of those victories, it would be huge.  

    For some reason, they are becoming quite familiar with other teams not within our division.  

    More trivia: The Vikings will play the Cardinals for the fifth straight year. Their record in the previous four is 2-2, both losses away, so the home turf looks good.  

    Also, the Vikings will play the Redskins for the fourth time in five years. Minnesota is 3-1 so far; oddly, two of the wins have come on the road, so this one is a toss-up being at home, but I would think the Vikings have Shanahan’s number. Damnit, you see if Minnesota had just made it to Super Bowl XXXIII and played the Broncos instead of the Falcons playing them, they would have maybe had Shanahan’s number then too.  

    The only other home game that is iffy for me would be the Buccaneers. Why is it that they just can’t put them away when they have them choked and gagged and ready to catch a plane back home? I’ll tell you what: If the Vikings were outside, they’d smoke the Bucs' you-know-whats.  

    In 2008, Minnesota played the AFC South, and obviously, things are different now. The Texans seem to be the team to beat. The Titans look pretty strong, the Colts are rebuilding and Jacksonville has been a mess for a few years now.  

    In 2008, the Vikings were 2-2, losing to Indy and the Titans. Remember the Indy game where they couldn’t score TD’s, and I kept saying, “You can’t leave Peyton in the game.”

    And the Colts do what? They score 18 points in the second half to beat Minnesota. Ouch!  

    As for the other home games, the Vikings need to be careful, not turn the ball over, have a good balance and make some plays defensively.  

    Prediction: 5-3

Up, Up and Away

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    Surprisingly, the Vikings had two of their three wins in 2011 on the road, but we haven’t exactly been road warriors, and that something has to change, especially if you are in a playoff environment, you almost have to win at least one, maybe two games on the road.  

    I tell you it’s the dome effect.  

    OK, so the road schedule looks pretty favorable other than the usual. In case you forgot and don’t want to click back slides, here are the away opponents again: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, St. Louis, Seattle, Washington, Houston and Indianapolis 

    Let’s call these game automatic losses: Green Bay, Houston and either Chicago/Detroit. I still feel we can steal a victory at Chicago or Detroit. I am just feeling it, but then again, it is only February.  

    Also, the big factor is when they play these teams and where the bye comes in all of this, etc.  

    Even though Seattle has Tarvaris Jackson as their QB as of this writing, Seattle is very tough at home.  

    With Andrew Luck being the likely guy in Indy and with St. Louis in a similar situation as Minnesota, I can see winning those games. But then again, if things are not going well yet again, it could get ugly by December.

    Road prediction: 3-5, bold 4-4.

2012 Assessment

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    Realistically, if the Vikings can get eight wins, that would be considered a substantial move forward for the organization.  

    With a successful free-agent season, but more importantly, astute drafting, the Vikings could be well on their way for 2013 and beyond. I believe there are subtle shifts taking place within the NFL, and no, nothing on the scale of Mayan predictions, but I think some of the more elite teams from the past few years will fall on hard times, and that will make room for new, young, and dynamic teams.  

    Of course, a lot of this is predicated on Ponder’s maturation and performance, but I seriously hope the franchise is patient with a quarterback, who, in my estimation, could be very much like an Eli Manning. He may not have it right away, but give him a few years, and I think we will see some pretty amazing stuff from this kid.

    As always, your constructive comments are welcome.