With the Minnesota Vikings in the midst of their organized team activities at the team's Winter Park headquarters in Eden Prairie, there is an air of hope for an increase in wins for 2012, as the excitement for the upcoming season is already at a very high level.
The opening of the season is still more than three months away, yet Vikings fans are eager to get a look at many of the new faces on the Vikings roster.
The unexpected retirement of cornerback Asher Allen leaves the Vikings with 88 players listed on their roster. With so many new faces on the practice field, it confirms the Vikings are indeed in the rebuilding mode. The good news is that the revolving door of veteran quarterbacks seems to be closed with Christian Ponder penciled in as the Vikings starting quarterback.
This is the greatest time of the year for Vikings fans. There are no heartbreaking losses to division rivals to lament about, and the savior of the franchise will no doubt emerge from one of the 10 draft picks taken in the draft.
There is also hope from how quickly other teams have turned around their losing ways. Last year, there were six teams that improved their record by at least four wins.
The 49ers had the greatest turnaround, winning seven more games in 2011 than 2010 and finishing with a 13-3 record and the second seed in the NFC playoffs.
Speaking of the playoffs, since the league expanded to eight divisions in 2002, the NFC has had an average turnover of a 61 percent of teams earning a playoff berth. Over the last nine seasons, four times the NFC playoff field had at least four new teams in the tournament that did not make the playoffs the previous year.
Don't start reserving your playoff tickets just yet.
While the Vikings, only three seasons removed from their last NFC Championship game, will be improved in 2012, the season will still hold plenty of challenges.
The Vikings have the eighth-toughest schedule in the NFL. Their opponents have a combined 131-125 record from last season, with seven games against quality opponents—defined as teams with at least nine wins.
They will also get a shot at the two teams who drafted ahead of them this year, with the chance to prove who was really the worst team in NFL.
With the final 53-man roster nowhere near being set, here's a way too early look at how the Vikings will fare in 2012.
One note: Take this prediction with a grain of salt. After all, I predicted the Vikings would finish 7-9 last season. Of course, if the Vikings had not blown halftime leads in their first three games, my prediction would have been a little bit closer.