Minnesota Vikings 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

Mike Nelson@Mike_E_NelsonCorrespondent IApril 18, 2012

Minnesota Vikings 2012 NFL Schedule: Game-by-Game Predictions, Info and Analysis

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    The Minnesota Vikings are a long shot to make a run into the 2012 NFL postseason but will have a schedule that may enable the team to finish better than it would otherwise.

    On Tuesday the NFL released its 2012 schedule and as the last-place finisher in the NFC North the Vikings get to play the bottom feeders of the other three NFC divisions in addition to the NFC West and AFC South.

    Six of Minnesota's 13 opponents were playoff participants in 2011 and posted a combined  98-110 record (.471 win percentage).

    However, with a second-year quarterback and far too many holes to fill, barring numerous breakout performances, the Vikings are bound to miss the playoffs in 2012.

Week 1: At Home vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jacksonville Jaguars 2011 Record: 5-11

    Passing yards per game: 136.2 yards (32nd)
    Rushing yards per game:
    123.1 yards (12th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    208.8 yards (eighth)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    104.2 yards (ninth)

    This game begins a new era for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They have a first-year coach in Mike Mularkey and the first full season with Blaine Gabbert under center.

    The Jaguars offense operates around running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who hasn't rushed for fewer than 1,300 yards in the previous three seasons.

    Jacksonville's defense is well-rounded, as demonstrated by its top-10 standing against the run and the pass, and led by Paul Posluszny (119 tackles) and Daryl Smith (107 tackles).

    The Vikings' strength on defense is stopping the run, which should suit them well in this contest. Jacksonville's offense outside of Jones-Drew is putrid.

    Look for the Vikings to start the season 1-0.

    2012 Record: 1-0

Week 2: At Indianapolis Colts

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    Indianapolis Colts 2011 Record: 2-14

    Passing yards per game: 187.2 yards (27th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    99.6 yards (26th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    227 yards (15th)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    143.9 yards (29th) 

    Big game for the Indianapolis Colts franchise. This is the first opportunity for the home crowd to see its new quarterback: Andrew Luck. It's also the first game for new head coach Chuck Pagano.

    It's difficult to use last year's offensive numbers as a point of reference for the 2012 season with the new system and quarterback, but the defense should still be poor.

    With so much on the line and an unproven head coach and quarterback, I look for the Vikings to take this game, too.

    At this point the Vikings will be tied for the league's best record, but don't look for it to last.

     

    2012 Record: 2-0

Week 3: At Home vs. San Francisco

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    San Francisco 49ers 2011 Record: 13-3

    Passing yards per game: 183.1 yards (29th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    127.8 yards (eighth)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    77.3 yards (first)
    Passing yards allowed:
    230.9 yards (16th)

    Jim Harbaugh led the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game in his first season at the helm, taking the NFL by storm. In 2012 the 49ers are expected to again be a top-contender in the NFC, which doesn't bode well for your Vikings.

    Alex Smith showed great progress as an NFL quarterback under Harbaugh in year one and I expect him to improve more in 2012.

    The 49ers again will have a top defense, led by Patrick Willis, which was the best against the run in 2011 and should be near the top again.

    Minnesota's running game is the one thing it has going for it offensively, which means the Vikings should struggle in this one.

    Mark this as Minnesota's first loss in 2012.

    2012 Record: 2-1

Week 4: At Detroit Lions

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    Detroit Lions 2011 Record: 10-6

    Passing yards per game: 300.9 (fourth)
    Rushing yards per game:
    95.2 (29th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    128.1 (23rd)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    239.4 yards (22nd)

    It's back-to-back weeks of the Vikings battling surprise teams from 2011. This one should end similarly to the San Francisco 49ers contest.

    Matthew Stafford finally was healthy in 2011 and proved he should be considered among the game's best quarterbacks. Calvin Johnson flourished with Stafford throwing to him and cemented himself as an elite receiver.

    The Vikings were historically terrible against the pass last year (34 touchdown passes allowed, 251 yards per game). This one could get ugly. Look for Stafford to throw for 300-plus yards and a few touchdowns while Johnson records 100-plus receiving yards and two touchdowns.

    Minnesota loses this one, big.

    2012 Record: 2-2

Week 5: At Home vs. Tennessee Titans

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    Tennessee Titans 2011 Record: 9-7

    Passing yards per game: 245.2 yards (12th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    89.9 yards (31st)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    128.3 yards (24th)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    226.8 yards (14th)

    This will be a close contest and could go either way.

    Tennessee excels when the ball is in Chris Johnson's hands (as a running back or a receiver). With Kenny Britt (who's returning from an ACL injury), Nate Washington (1,000-plus receiving yards in 2011) and Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck has enough weapons to dice Minnesota's secondary.

    Johnson will rush for fewer than 100 yards, but Minnesota will allow Tennessee to wreak enough havoc through the air to put this one out of reach.

    2012 Record: 2-3

Week 6: At Washington Redskins

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    Washington Redskins 2011 Record: 5-11

    Passing yards per game: 235.8 yards (14th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    100.9 yards (25th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    117.8 yards (18th)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    222.1 yards (12th)

    Minnesota already got to see the Colts' new shiny toy (Andrew Luck), so now it's time to check out Washington's (Robert Griffin III). Griffin is expected to bring a new dimension to the quarterback position in Washington, one that should be much improved compared to what Rex Grossman and John Beck provided in 2011.

    This will be Minnesota's first trip to Washington since Adrian Peterson tore his ACL. Leslie Frazier and company won here in 2011 and Brad Childress led the team to a victory in 2010.

    Look for the streak to continue.

    The Redskins don't have enough toys for Griffin to be a rookie phenom like Cam Newton was in 2011, and Minnesota should be able to run the ball successfully.

    Chalk up a "W" here.

    2012 Record:  3-3

Week 7: At Home vs. Arizona Cardinals

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    Arizona Cardinals 2011 Record: 8-8

    Passing yards per game: 222.9 yards (17th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    101.6 yards (24th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    124.1 yards (21st)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    231 yards (17th)

    This will be the fourth consecutive season that Minnesota and Arizona have met. Minnesota is 3-1 over that stretch.

    Last season Minnesota triumphed 34-10 because its defense rattled Kevin Kolb early and often, causing turnovers that led to easy Viking points.

    The offensive line for Arizona hasn't had any improvements made to it since then and with this as a home affair against a team that struggles to stop the run, the Vikings should be in a position to succeed.

    Arizona could have a field day against Minnesota's secondary if Kolb ever finds his self that played for the Philadelphia Eagles. If not, then this game should put Minnesota over .500 for the first time since its three-game losing streak.

    2012 Record: 4-3

Week 8: At Home vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2011 Record: 4-12

    Passing yards per game: 228.1 yards (16th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    91.1 yards (30th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    156.1 yards (32nd)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    238.4 yards (21st)

    Vikings fans vividly remember Minnesota blowing a 17-0 lead to Tampa Bay last year. That turned into one of only four wins for Tampa Bay last year.

    Since then, however, the Buccaneers turned into one of the biggest disappointments of the 2011 NFL season, fired their head coach and watched as their defense crumbled before their eyes.

    If this were in Tampa Bay I would favor the Bucs, but as this is a home game, look for another Vikings win.

    The Bucs will be unable to stop Toby Gerhart or Adrian Peterson, whoever is running the football, and I expect the primary carry man to rush for 175 yards. With so many yards gained on the ground, Minnesota will own the time of possession and earn its fifth victory of the season.

    2012 Record: 5-3

Week 9: At Seattle Seahawks

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    Seattle Seahawks 2011 Record: 7-9

    Passing yards per game:194.1 (22nd)
    Rushing yards per game:
    109.8 (21st)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    112.3 yards (15th)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    219.9 yards (11th)

    Matt Flynn is expected to take over the quarterbacking duties in Seattle, reverting Tarvaris Jackson back to an NFL bench where he belongs. Flynn showed a glimpse of greatness against the Detroit Lions, completing 31 of 44 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns.

    Flynn isn't expected to be an elite quarterback but should still be able to carve up Minnesota's defense enough to make this a tough one to win.

    This will be Sidney Rice's first shot at his former team and at this point Flynn and he have had eight games to get on the right page.

    I expect Minnesota to lose by 10-14 points.

    2012 Record: 5-4

Week 10: At Home vs. Detroit Lions

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    Detroit Lions 2011 Record: 10-6

    Passing yards per game: 300.9 yards (fourth)
    Rushing yards per game:
    95.2 yards (29th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    128.1 yards (23rd)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    239.4 yards (22nd)

    Detroit left no room for doubt after one meeting earlier in the 2012 season and should do so again.

    It doesn't matter that this one is at the Mall of America Field. Playing at there isn't much different than playing at Ford Field. The Lions will prove it, too.

    The Lions are the team Minnesota should model in its rebuilding process. Maybe Minnesota will learn something during this game.

    However, it won't come out with a victory because Detroit's passing game is far too strong for Minnesota's secondary to contain. That's all there is to it.

    2012 Record: 5-5

Week 12: At Chicago Bears

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    Chicago Bears 2011 Record: 8-8

    Passing yards per game: 188.2 yards(26th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    125.9 yards (ninth)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    96.4 yards (fourth)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    254.1 yards (28th)

    They are whom we thought they were!

    Well...not really. The 2011 Chicago Bears weren't whom we thought they'd be, but that was due to injury—first Jay Cutler, then Matt Forte.

    The Bears offense will be much better in 2012 and should help the Bears compete for an NFC Wild Card position.

    Cutler is back and he's got Brandon Marshall to throw to again. The two were a dynamic duo in Denver during Cutler's two full seasons as the starting quarterback. Cutler threw for 3,497 yards and 20 touchdowns and 4,526 and 26 touchdowns in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Marshall posted 102 receptions for 1,325 yards and seven touchdown receptions in 2007 and 104 receptions for 1,265 yards and six touchdown receptions in 2008.

    If the Bears don't have Forte then they at least have Michael Bush to run the ball in 2012.

    Either way, Minnesota is in trouble. It's a team that struggles in cold outdoor games and hasn't won in Chicago since 2007.

    Welcome to life under .500. Get used to it.

    2012 Record: 5-6

Week 13: At Green Bay Packers

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    Green Bay Packers 2011 Record: 15-1

    Passing yards per game: 307.8 yards (third)
    Rushing yards per game:
    97.4 yards (27th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    111.8 yards (14th)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    299.8 yards (32nd)

    In the previous week the Vikings got their first overly cold road game out of the way. Why not get the coldest road game out of the way next?

    The Vikings' struggles on the road in cold environments are well-documented. When Minnesota wins road games in cold environments it makes headlines because it doesn't happen often.

    Don't worry. No headlines to be made here...not about that, anyway.

    Green Bay is the favorite to win the NFC North again in 2012 and should move up and down the field on the Vikings defense.

    Even if Minnesota scores 28 points, it won't be enough. The Vikings cannot contain Green Bay's passing attack and will fall further under .500.

    2012 Record: 5-7

Week 14: At Home vs. Chicago Bears

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    Chicago Bears 2011 Record: 8-8

    Passing yards per game: 188.2 yards(26th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    125.9 yards (ninth)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    96.4 yards (fourth)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    254.1 yards (28th)

    This is a game where I think Jay Cutler could have his signature game against the Minnesota Vikings. At this point in his career against Minnesota, as a Chicago Bear, he's never thrown for more than 300 yards or more than four touchdowns.

    Brandon Marshall and he should be more comfortable with one another than at any other point in the season and given the lack of elements provided by Mother Nature at Mall of America Field, Cutler should be able to have his way with Minnesota's secondary.

    The Vikings will put up a fight but this one won't ever feel overly close. Chicago has more offensive weapons and a better defense. The Bears will sweep the season series with this win.

    2012 Record: 5-8

Week 15: At St. Louis Rams

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    St. Louis Rams 2011 Record: 2-14

    Passing yards per game: 179.4 yards (30th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    104.2 yards (23rd)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    152.1 yards (31st)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    206.3 yards (seventh)

    Jeff Fisher is now at the helm for the St. Louis Rams and should bring instant credibility to a franchise that needs it after a 2-14 season.

    Stephen Jackson continues to post 1,000-plus yard seasons on the ground like it's no big deal, as 2011 was his seventh consecutive year of reaching said feat.

    However, the outcome of this game depends on which Sam Bradford shows up in 2012.

    If Bradford plays like his 2011 form then chalk up a victory for the Vikings because St. Louis will be unable to exploit Minnesota's putrid pass defense. If the Bradford of 2010 plays, then the Vikings will lose. That Bradford showed promise as a passer and would be able to do work on Minnesota's secondary.

    I think the Bradford of somewhere in between will show up, ending in a Vikings victory.

    2012 record: 6-8 

Week 16: At Houston Texans

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    Houston Texans 2011 Record: 10-6

    Passing yards per game: 219.1 yards (18th)
    Rushing yards per game:
    153 yards (second)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    96 yards (fourth)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    189.7 yards (third)

    How this game is played out depends on where the Houston Texans are in their season. Playing in the lowly AFC South, the Texans could already have their division and playoff seed locked up, deeming this game meaningless for them.

    Then again, they could have an opportunity to improve their playoff standing with a win against Minnesota.

    Either way the Texans should win this game. It just depends how the game will play out.

    The Texans have a top-five defense returning minus Mario Williams, but it should still be a top-10 defense again, meaning Minnesota won't be able to put up many points.

    Houston, meanwhile, will have Matt Schaub back for 2012, and with Andre Johnson that duo could do serious damage against Minnesota's secondary.

    2012 Record: 6-9

Week 17: At Home vs. Green Bay Packers

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    Green Bay Packers 2011 Record: 15-1

    Passing yards per game: 307.8 yards (third)
    Rushing yards per game:
    97.4 yards (27th)
    Rushing yards allowed per game:
    111.8 yards (14th)
    Passing yards allowed per game:
    299.8 yards (32nd)

    If the Green Bay Packers are kryptonite, then the Minnesota Vikings are Superman.

    The Packers utilize the NFL's best passing game. Aaron Rodgers has an amazing chemistry with his receivers, a corps that is the league's most talented and that leads to Green Bay scoring in bunches.

    It also has a strong defensive corps that stops the run well, which is what Minnesota prides itself on offensively.

    However, this game should be rather meaningless for both teams. Green Bay should have the NFC North locked up and the Vikings should be preparing for free agency and the NFL draft after this game concludes.

    Either way, expect a loss here, folks. Green Bay is just too talented.

    2012 Record: 6-10

     

    *With the Minnesota state legislature voting against the latest stadium bill proposal, this could be the Vikings' last game in Minnesota.*

Review

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    FINAL 2012 RECORD: 6-10

    I've seen predictions for Minnesota's 2012 season ranging from as few as four wins to as many as nine wins.

    I obviously believe Minnesota will accumulate six wins in 2012, but of the 10 losses I have projected, I could easily see Minnesota defeating the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans.

    Of the six projected wins, I could easily see Minnesota losing any one of them because this team will be very young. Youth leads to inconsistency, especially amongst a core that hasn't won together before.

    Two themes I noticed myself spewing out over and over Minnesota's reliance on running the ball on offense and its inability to stop the pass on defense. Many of my projected wins and losses were based upon the opposition's ability to stop the run or be successful passing the football.

    Fixing the secondary needs to be the focus of the coaching staff during OTA's and in training camp. It will kill Minnesota to have a secondary performance like 2011. 

    Christian Ponder needs to take major strides in 2012, too, just like the secondary. Minnesota needs to have a balanced attack because teams don't win championships running the football in the 21st century.

    If Ponder and the secondary show major progression in 2012, Minnesota has reason to be optimistic for 2013.