The Minnesota Vikings enter the 2013 season with expectations to better their surprising 2012 season. In the final season of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the Vikings have the 10th-toughest schedule, making that expectation very difficult.
Working in their favor is a healthy Adrian Peterson, the reigning NFL MVP, to open the season. Last year, Peterson carried the team into the playoffs. He finished the season rushing for 2,097 yards—the second most in NFL history. His feat is that much more incredible when you take into account he was coming off reconstructive knee surgery just nine months before the season opened.
This is also an important season for third-year quarterback Christian Ponder. After missing last season's playoff game, people are looking at this as a do-or-die season for Ponder. He must avoid the roller-coaster-like performance he had last season if the Vikings are to contend for the playoffs.
No matter how you look at this season, anything short of another playoff appearance will be considered a failure.
Vikings 2013 schedule:
|Sept. 8||1||at Detroit Lions|
|Sept. 15||2||at Chicago Bears|
|Sept. 22||3||Cleveland Browns|
|Sept. 29||4||Pittsburgh Steelers (London)|
|Oct. 13||6||Carolina Panthers|
|Oct. 21||7||at New York Giants|
|Oct. 27||8||Green Bay Packers|
|Nov. 3||9||at Dallas Cowboys|
|Nov. 7||10||Washington Redskins|
|Nov. 17||11||at Seattle Seahawks|
|Nov. 24||12||at Green Bay Packers|
|Dec. 1||13||Chicago Bears|
|Dec. 8||14||at Baltimore Ravens|
|Dec. 15||15||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Dec. 22||16||at Cincinnati Bengals|
|Dec. 29||17||Detroit Lions|
Here's a look at each of these games with an early prediction of the final score.
The Minnesota Vikings have a 68-33-2 record against the Lions. Their .670 winning percentage is the best against any opponent they have played more than five times.
After losing three straight to the Lions between 2010 and 2011—something that has only occurred twice before—the Vikings swept the season series in 2012.
A playoff team in 2011, the Lions finished the 2012 season with the worst record in the NFC at 4-12. They will be looking to rebound in the season opener at home against a divisional rival.
The Lions, with the second-most passing yards in the NFL in 2012, will look to pick on the Vikings' young secondary.
They catch the Vikings before things jell on defense.
Prediction: Lions 30, Vikings 17
Vikings' record: 0-1
The Minnesota Vikings have not fared well against the Chicago Bears over the past four seasons. The win in Week 14 at the Metrodome last season broke a six-game losing streak to the Monsters of the Midway.
In Week 2, they head to Chicago attempting to end another losing streak—five straight at Soldier Field. Since 2000, the Vikings have only won twice in Chicago, a span of 14 games.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the trend continues as Brandon Marshall, the Bears' leading receiver in 2012 with 118 catches for 1,508 yards, dominates the Vikings secondary. Last year in Chicago, he caught 12 passes for 92 yards.
Prediction: Bears 34, Vikings 20
Vikings' record: 0-2
Finally the Minnesota Vikings get to play under the friendly confines of the Metrodome against an opponent they have dominated. The Vikings own an 11-3 record against the Browns.
The Cleveland Browns make only their fifth—and last—visit to the Metrodome.
The Browns are a franchise that has struggled for a long time. Since 1989, spanning 21 seasons, they have only had four winning seasons—making the playoffs only three times.
Quarterback Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense take advantage of a defense that finished 25th against the pass last season in yards allowed.
Also look for Adrian Peterson to lead the Vikings at home where he scored eight of his 12 touchdowns last season.
Prediction: Vikings 24, Browns 10
Vikings' record: 1-2
The last time the Minnesota Vikings hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers was in December 2005.
The Minnesota Vikings gave away a home game in 2013 to play in London.
This is a head scratcher since the team finished 7-1 in the Metrodome last season, and it will be playing outdoors at TCF Bank stadium in 2014 and 2015—a venue with only a 50,000-seat capacity.
On top of moving away from the friendly confines of Mall of America Field, it faces a tough opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers on a neutral field.
Streaks seem to be the theme of this season. The Vikings will be looking to end a three-game losing streak against the Steelers. I was a bit surprised when I checked the Vikings' franchise record against Pittsburgh. They head into this game with an 8-8 record.
Unlike the Browns, another AFC North team, the Steelers have been a very successful team. Since 1999, they have only had two losing seasons.
The Vikings will have a tough time against a Steelers defense that finished with the top rating in yards allowed last year.
Prediction: Steelers 17, Vikings 7—a score very similar to the last time these two teams met on a neutral field in Super Bowl IX.
Vikings' record: 1-3
If the Minnesota Vikings limp into their early-season bye week with a 1-3 record, look for the local airwaves to have plenty of Christian Ponder bashing. Right or wrong, the quarterback is typically the lightning rod for the fans' criticism.
The start will be the exact opposite of how the team opened the 2012 season. With expectations being a whole lot higher this year, things could get ugly fast.
On one hand, a week off might be exactly what the team needs to turn things around; on the other, it gives everyone two weeks to complain about the slow start.
This will be the second time Cam Newton and Christian Ponder square off. In the first meeting between the two 2011 first-round draft picks, Newton had the better stats day, but Ponder earned the victory for the Vikings in a 24-21 win.
Newton has started every game for the Panthers since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2011. Ponder took over as the starter after six games his rookie season. For both quarterbacks, the expectations are extremely high to turn their respective franchises around—especially in light of the success of other young quarterbacks like Russell Wilson in Seattle, Robert Griffin III in Washington and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco.
Unfortunately, the pressure will continue to mount for the loser in this game. The Vikings take advantage of having a week off and beat an inferior opponent at home.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Panthers 17
Vikings' record: 2-3
Despite winning two Super Bowls since Eli Manning took over at quarterback in 2005, the Minnesota Vikings have won four of the last five meetings with the New York Giants.
The lone loss came at Ford Field in Detroit when the Vikings were forced to move their home game to Detroit due to the collapse of the Metrodome roof.
After winning the Superbowl in 2011, the Giants failed to make the playoffs last season, finishing second to the Redskins in the NFC East. They will be looking to reassert themselves as the top team in the NFC East.
Surprisingly, the Vikings have fared well against the Giants on the road, winning eight of the 14 games played on the East Coast.
This is definitely a game the Vikings can win. The Giants finished 2012 ranked 25th against the run. With Adrian Peterson leading the way, the Vikings get a rare road win.
Prediction: Vikings 21, Giants 17
Vikings' record: 3-3
The biggest game of the 2013 season for the Minnesota Vikings may be the first meeting with the Packers. Greg Jennings finally gets a chance to show his old team what it missed out on by not re-signing him.
It will also be an important game to set the pecking order for the top two teams in the NFC North from 2012.
Last year, Adrian Peterson rushed for 508 yards in three games against the Packers. In the two regular-season matchups, he averaged 204.5 yards per game. In the wild-card playoff game, the Packers limited the MVP to only 99 yards.
Peterson is the key for the Vikings' first win within the division against a Packers defense that ranked 17th against the run last season.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Packers 24
Vikings' record: 4-3
The last time the Vikings played in Dallas was 2007.
If my predictions hold true—an unlikely premise considering my track record at prognostication—the Minnesota Vikings will be rolling into the Big D on a three-game winning streak, a feat they mastered twice last season.
The Vikings have had good success against the Cowboys of late. Since drafting Randy Moss in 1998, the Vikings have won seven of eight games, including two of the last three. This will be their trip to the new AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboy Stadium).
The Cowboys have not made the playoffs since 2009 when the Vikings defeated them 34-3 at the Metrodome. They will be looking to make some noise in the NFC East where the Giants and Redskins figure to battle for the division title.
Ranked 22nd against the run in 2012, the Vikings would be wise to give the ball to Adrian Peterson as much as they can in this game.
This feels like a trap game with the Vikings feeling good about themselves after three wins and a big showdown next week against the Redskins.
Somehow, somewhere, something goes wrong, and the Vikings wind up letting a game get away that they absolutely can win.
Prediction: Cowboys 24, Vikings 20
Vikings' record: 4-4
This will be a very tough test for the Minnesota Vikings on a short week against a team that racked up 183 rushing yards in Week 6 of the 2012 season. Robert Griffin III accounted for 138 of those yards, including a 76-yard touchdown run in a Week 6 38-26 loss for the Vikings.
It's also the third game against an NFC East team in four weeks and opens, arguably, the toughest stretch of the Vikings' schedule, with the four of the next five games against playoff teams from last season.
A lot will depend on how well Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III fares on his own comeback from major knee surgery. Last season, Adrian Peterson set the bar to a new level, and no doubt Griffin will be out to prove he is just as good as last season.
Last week was the first time Griffin has participated in team drills, but let's make the assumption that he comes back as good as he was last season.
Griffin was spectacular last season, finishing with a 9-6 record as the starter and a passer rating of 102.4. He scored a total of 27 touchdowns with 20 through the air and seven on the ground.
This one will be a lot like last year's game with the Vikings unable to contain RGIII.
Prediction: Redskins 31, Vikings 21
Vikings' record: 4-5
This was supposed to be a reunion of note. The last team Percy Harvin played against for the Vikings, in Week 9 of last season. The game in which he was seen yelling at head coach Leslie Frazier on the sidelines. The game that propelled the Seattle Seahawks to a 7-1 finish to the regular season.
The Seahawks dominated that game as rookie Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns and Marshawn Lynch ran for another. Adrian Peterson did what he could to keep the Vikings in the game. He was unstoppable, rushing for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
The problem was Christian Ponder finished the day 11-of-22 for only 63 yards and an interception—there's little wonder that Harvin was angry.
At the end of the season, the Vikings traded Harvin to Seattle for three draft picks, including the first-round selection that netted the Vikings Cordarrelle Patterson.
Harvin's season is now uncertain after requiring surgery to repair a torn hip labrum early in training camp. Typically taking anywhere from three to four months to make a return, this game sits right between those two numbers. No doubt he has November 17 circled on his calendar.
It's also the reunion with cornerback Antoine Winfield, whom the Vikings released in order to reduce their salary cap.
Heading into the season, many sources, like NFL.com's Elliot Harrison, have the Seahawks ranked as one of the best teams in the NFL. Despite the injury to Harvin, that doesn't change a whole lot.
This one will not be as ugly as last year's game, but the results will be the same.
Prediction: Seahawks 31, Vikings 27
Vikings' record: 4-6
Those brainwashed Packers fans will finally get their chance to let Greg Jennings know what they think of him when the Vikings travel to Green Bay in Week 12.
The Vikings' season is quickly slipping away, and they will desperately need a win in order to keep any hopes of making the playoffs. Unfortunately, they run into the buzz saw that is Lambeau Field. The Packers will also have the extra motivation of avenging their Week 8 loss to the Vikings.
This just doesn't look like a game the Vikings can win, unless the Packers find themselves battling for the top seed in the NFC and are looking ahead to their game against another top team in the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14.
The last time the Vikings won in Green Bay was the successful season with Brett Favre at quarterback in 2009—as opposed to the unsuccessful Favre season of 2010.
The Packers rule at Lambeau in November.
Prediction: Packers 34, Vikings 24
Vikings' record: 4-7
Over the last four seasons, the Minnesota Vikings have only beaten the Bears two times—and both of them came at home. Last season at the Metrodome, Adrian Peterson led the Vikings to a 21-14 win by rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bears had a top-five defense last year, but Peterson still averaged 5.3 yards per carry. Once again, the Vikings will rely on Peterson to lead the way on the fast track that is the Metrodome.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will have one of those games where he looks completely off, and the Minnesota defense will take advantage of it with a couple of interceptions, one that seals the game for the Vikings.
Prediction: Vikings 17, Bears 10
Vikings' record: 5-7
This will be only the fifth meeting between the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens. The last time these two teams met in 2009 at the Metrodome, it was a missed field goal by Ravens place-kicker Steven Hauschka to preserve a 33-31 win. Hauschka's career with the Ravens would only last another three games.
That win improved the Vikings to 6-0 on the season on their way to a 12-4 mark and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
The Ravens, the reigning Super Bowl champions, have made the playoffs five straight years and six of the last seven. Under coach of John Harbaugh, they are 54-26, that's a .675 winning percentage.
In order for the Vikings to be competitive in this game, they will have to attack the one chink in the Baltimore armor. Last season, the Ravens defense ranked 20th against the rush, allowing 122.8 yards per game. The Vikings will use this to their advantage to control the game.
This will be a lot like the game for the Vikings at Houston last season when they shocked the Texans with a 22-6 win at Reliant Stadium.
The offense will put together a complete game keying off the effective running of Adrian Peterson.
Prediction: Vikings 28, Ravens 13
Vikings' record: 6-7
The last time the Eagles played at the Metrodome they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 26-14 in the 2008 playoffs.
Before the Minnesota Vikings' shocking victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in a Tuesday night game in December 2010, the Eagles had won eight of the previous nine meetings, including playoff wins following the 2004 and 2008 seasons.
The Eagles are looking to change the landscape of NFL offenses this season. New head coach Chip Kelly is going to try to institute the same kind of high-paced offense he ran at Oregon.
The last three years, Oregon's offense ranked no lower than fourth in the FBS, averaging 530 yards per game and scoring 47.5 points. With the recent success of the read-option offense, it will be interesting to see if Kelly's fast-paced, uptempo variation will work in the NFL.
The key for the Vikings will be to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson as often as possible. If they can control the game and keep the Eagles offense off the field, they should be able to win this game.
Last season, Philadelphia was ranked 23rd against the run and last in the league in passing defense, allowing 33 touchdown passes.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Eagles 19
Vikings' record: 7-7
The outcome of this game is going to depend on whether the Cincinnati Bengals have anything to play for. Having made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, they seem to be finally turning things around in Cincinnati. This comes after a stretch of only three playoff appearances in the previous 21 seasons from 1988-2008.
The Bengals have never qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons. Assuming that their snakebitten ways continue, they could just be playing out the schedule at this point of the season. If that's the case, the Vikings might have a shot to win this game.
In the 11 meetings between the two teams, the home team has won 10 times. The Vikings have the only road win of the series coming in 1992. In the six games played in Cincinnati, the Bengals have won by an average score of 23-16, including two shutouts in 1973 and 1980.
Of course, past performances should not impact future results as both teams are very different from the last time they met, and the Vikings have the only road win of the series. Look for history to be ignored in this game.
Prediction: Vikings 24, Bengals 23
Vikings' record: 8-7
Will Christian Ponder still be the Vikings' top quarterback when the season ends?
At this point, with an 8-7 record, the Minnesota Vikings could still be looking to qualify for the playoffs.
If that's the case, then playing at home against the Detroit Lions would be very close to the ideal situation. The Vikings have won 14 of the last 15 games and are 23-7 all time against the Lions in the Metrodome. That's kind of surprising considering that the Lions also play in a domed stadium.
The trend continues and the Vikings avenge their Week 1 loss to the Lions.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Lions 10
Vikings' record: 9-7
Playoffs? Most likely not. The Vikings' record won't be good enough to win the NFC North, and the last time nine wins were enough to make the NFC playoffs as a wild card team was in 2008.