It's amazing how things have turned for the Minnesota Vikings over the past three weeks.
The Vikings were 4-1 and looking to be a serious playoff threat. Fast forward three weeks, and Minnesota has lost two of its last three games and defeated the Arizona Cardinals in a very ugly offensive performance.
Halfway through the season the Vikings are 5-3 and still very much in playoff contention. The outlook just isn't as bright.
With that in mind, here's a game-by-game prediction for the rest of the season.
This Week 9 matchup with the Seahawks will be Sidney Rice's first shot at his former team.
There must be something in the water in Seattle or something that Seahawks fans bring to the field of play, because that is a completely different team at home in Seattle compared to on the road.
On the road, the Seahawks have losses to the Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams.
But this game is in Seattle, which means the Vikings are in for a dogfight.
Seattle boasts a top-10 defense against the run (fifth) and pass (eighth). The offense is based on the running abilities of Marshawn Lynch, which gives Minnesota a real shot to make this a low-scoring affair.
It will be a close game, but Seattle triumphs.
Result: Seattle 17, Minnesota 14
Minnesota record: 5-4
Calvin Johnson was held in check by a revamped Vikings secondary in Week 4 when he caught five passes for 54 yards.
Having defeated the Detroit Lions (3-4) in Week 4, this should be a cakewalk for the Vikings, right?
The Detroit Lions still have a strong passing attack, as demonstrated by Matthew Stafford completing 24 of 49 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns Sunday.
Seattle is a top-10 pass defense. Imagine what Detroit could do to the Vikings, who will be without their biggest cornerback, Chris Cook (6'2"), because of his broken wrist. Without Cook, Calvin Johnson (6'5") could be in for a big day.
Regardless, the Lions have no ground game. They are a one-dimensional team. Minnesota will be able to control that facet of the game despite its recent struggles (the defense has allowed 125-plus yards the past three games).
The outcome of this game will depend on Minnesota's ability to control Detroit's passing attack and limit its own turnovers.
Detroit's picking its game up, but I like the Vikings at home.
Result: 24-21 Vikings
Minnesota record: 6-4
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and the defense have fueled Chicago to its 6-1 start.
In the last four games at Chicago, the Minnesota Vikings are 0-4 and have lost each game by an average of 14 points.
When the Vikings won in 2007, they won 34-31.
The Vikings just don't play well on Chicago's field. And with the way the Bears are playing this season, that trend should continue.
The one loss Chicago (6-1) has suffered this season was when Jay Cutler threw four interceptions in an NFC North affair in Green Bay. The Bears still lost that game by less than two touchdowns.
Minnesota won't be able to keep up in this divisional road game.
Result: Chicago 30, Minnesota 20
Minnesota record: 6-5
After a slow start, Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with 20 touchdown passes through eight games.
This is a tough stretch of consecutive games for Minnesota. Facing two divisional foes in a row on the road is tough—it's even tougher when the two teams in question are as talented as the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
The Packers (5-3) are in the midst of a revival. After losing three of their first five games, Aaron Rodgers seems to have the offense back rolling, while the defense does enough to win.
Just like with Chicago, Minnesota has struggled at Lambeau Field. The Vikings have lost five of the last six contests there, with the one win coming while Brett Favre quarterbacked Minnesota in 2009. Those five losses were by an average of 16.6 points per game.
Minnesota, like the rest of the league, will struggle to keep Rodgers and company in check while the offense will have its fair share of successes.
Result: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 20
Minnesota record: 6-6
Jay Cutler is a game-changer every time he takes the field. It just depends if that change is for the better or worse.
The Vikings will get their revenge on this day.
As Jay Cutler goes, so do the Chicago Bears, unless the defense bails him out.
Prior to the past two seasons, when the Vikings were among the league's worst teams, Chicago had lost three in a row at Minnesota by an average of 17.7 points.
The Vikings aren't as bad as the last two years, but very similar to their 2007 and 2008 years.
Look for the defense to force two Cutler interceptions and win this game by double digits.
Result: Minnesota 23, Chicago 13
Minnesota record: 7-6
Sam Bradford and company are not the league's best team but are much tougher at home than they are on the road.
At home, the St. Louis Rams are one team. They've defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 19-13, and the Washington Redskins, 31-28.
On the road, they are another. They've lost to the Miami Dolphins, 17-14, and Detroit Lions, 27-23.
The Minnesota Vikings unluckily draw the Rams at home.
But the Vikings should defeat St. Louis (3-5) nonetheless.
The Rams offense is inconsistent, at best. Steven Jackson is past his prime, and fellow running back Daryl Richardson is still trying to gain footing as a rookie.
Quarterback Sam Bradford is inconsistent at best. He threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns against the Redskins, then threw for 152 yards with two interceptions against the Chicago Bears.
The Vikings will be able to slow down the Rams' inadequate offense to take this game.
Result: Minnesota 20, St. Louis 10
Minnesota record: 8-6
J.J. Watt and the defense combine with the offense to form the most balanced team.
The Houston Texans are the most complete team. Period.
Minnesota is lucky enough to draw the Texans in the second-to-last game of the season. By that time, Houston may have wrapped up home-field advantage and have nothing to play for.
The Texans (6-1) own both the AFC's best record and the tie-breaker with the Baltimore Ravens (5-2).
But if the Texans have something to play for at this point, then Minnesota is in for a long game.
Houston is a top-five defense, fifth against the pass and fourth against the run. Its running attack is sixth best, and Matt Schaub could go off any game.
Adrian Peterson and the ground game can run on any defense, but Christian Ponder and the passing attack will struggle.
Result: Houston 24, Minnesota 14
Minnesota record: 8-7
Alex Green and the Packers' running game are struggling since Cedric Benson's injury.
The Green Bay Packers are all over the place this season, but they seem to have found a rhythm in recent weeks. Who knows where they'll be at this point in the season.
This is a game the Minnesota Vikings can win.
Since the Packers have no running game, the defense can put all of its focus on stopping Aaron Rodgers and the aerial attack. Minnesota can keep seven in the box and let the back four focus solely on the pass.
Minnesota will make sure to bring plenty of pressure onto Rodgers as his offensive line struggles to provide adequate protection. It has been proven that if a defense provides pressure, it can rattle Rodgers into bad passes, especially if the receiving corps remains injured.
It'll be a close game, but I like Minnesota with the home-field advantage.
Result: Minnesota 28, Green Bay 24
Minnesota record: 9-7
At 9-7, it's tough to see the Minnesota Vikings reaching the postseason.
I could see the Vikings defeating the Seattle Seahawks, and the lone reason I chose Seattle to win is because it's at home and dominates there.
The Vikings could also luck out with the Houston Texans, who could have nothing to play for with two games left in the season. They could opt to rest starters, opening up the possibility for the Vikings to steal one.
Best Case Scenario
The Vikings finish 11-5.
The Vikings could very easily lose to Chicago, Green Bay and Detroit at home, leaving the Vikings 6-10 after starting off the year 5-3. I don't see it happening, but with Chicago and Green Bay very much competing for the postseason and Detroit having a potent offense, anything is possible.