Minnesota Vikings: 2011 Schedule Analysis and Predictions

Nick McAndrews@@NickMcAndrewsCorrespondent IIIApril 20, 2011

Minnesota Vikings: 2011 Schedule Analysis and Predictions

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 28:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 26, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    At 7 P.M. on April 19, the 2011 NFL schedule was released, containing the opponents of each NFL team to be played in the upcoming season—providing there is a 2011 season. 

    Obviously, the Vikings already know the matchups that they will have; this schedule will just tell them the time and location of each one. 

    Released shortly after the Super Bowl, the opponents for the Vikings in 2011 include:

    The other NFC North Teams as usual (Bears, Lions, Packers). Just like every other year, the Vikings will play each of these teams twice (once at home and once away).

    The entire AFC West. They will play The Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders at home, and the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers in their respective cities. 

    The entire NFC South. They will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and have a heated rematch with the New Orleans Saints at home, and play the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers away. 

    They will also play the Arizona Cardinals at home, and the Washington Redskins away. 

    Here is a week-by-week listing of the Vikings 2011 schedule, along with an analysis of each game. 

Week 1: Sept. 11, 2011: Vikings @ San Diego Chargers

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  The San Diego Chargers offense huddles as they face the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 33-28.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    To open up the season, the Vikings will take on the San Diego Chargers.

    Last season, San Diego missed the playoffs for the first time in several years with a record of 9-7. 

    Injuries led to many of San Diego's losses down the stretch, particularly at WR. 

    These two teams are considered to be the frontrunners to potentially move to a new stadium in Los Angeles, so it is interesting to see them square off to begin the 2011 NFL season. 

    Uncertainty at QB makes it difficult for the Vikings to stand a chance against a team with such a prolific pass-defense that last year ranked first in the league. 

    San Diego's rush defense isn't shabby either, ranking fourth in 2010, but All-Pro Adrian Peterson could help to even the playing field for the Vikings a little bit.

    On offense, San Diego's only real weapon on offense in 2010 was TE Antonio Gates, but with Vincent Jackson as a full time contributor once again, Philip Rivers could have another potential deep threat to throw to again. 

    San Diego has had virtually no run game since the departure of star running back LaDanian Tomlinson after 2009. Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles have not contributed much to San Diego's offense. Taking this into consideration, the Vikings could capitalize on this weakness to even the playing field on defense. 

    Though the Vikings defense struggled a little bit last year, some youth brought to the front four because of the departure of Pat Williams could be just what the Vikings need to be competitive in the run defense again. 

    In my mind, these two teams are somewhat even. With the addition of a starting QB, the Vikings should have no problem competing with the Chargers

    Prediction: Vikings upset the Chargers.

Week 2: Sept. 18, 2011: Vikings vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Josh Freeman #5 celebrates after throwing a touchdown  with Dezmon Briscoe #89 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2011 in New Orlea
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    The Vikings have their home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Tampa finished third in the NFC South in 2010 with a record of 10-6.

    QB Josh Freeman is emerging as a viable option for the Bucs, giving them some life on offense.

    Tampa has an aging defense, but still a decent one; they finished seventh in the league in pass defense in 2010, but ranked a staggering 28th in the rush defense. 

    The Vikings could struggle with their passing game, but Adrian Peterson will likely run all over their weak run-stoppers. 

    The only real weapons the Bucs have in the passing game are WR Mike Williams and TE Kellen Winslow. In the run game, however, Tampa is very deep with RB's LeGarrette Blount, Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham. Luckily, the Vikings have had a traditionally strong defense in the run-game. 

    Prediction: Vikings over Buccaneers

Week 3: Sept. 25, 2011: Vikings vs. Detroit Lions

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 26:  Lineman Ndamukong Sue #90 celebrates a sack against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    In Week 3, the Vikings have another home game, this time against their division rival Detroit Lions

    In Week 17 of 2010, the Lions upset the Vikings to split the season series. The Vikes will be thirsty to get one back. 

    The Lions have steadily improved over the last few years, adding players like Matthew Stafford, Jahvid Best and Ndamukong Suh. They improved enough to best the Vikings for third place in the NFC North in 2010, though they shared the same record of 6-10.

    If the Vikings are able to add a QB who is able to lead the Vikings better than could be done in 2010, they should have no problem downing Detroit who ranked 16th in passing defense and 24th in rushing defense in 2010. WR's Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are more than adequate as receiving options. Throw TE Visanthe Shiancoe and RB Adrian Peterson, and you have the same explosive offense that you saw in 2009. 

    On offense, the Lions have struggled to keep their starting QB Matthew Stafford healthy. They ranked 12th in passing yards in 2010. RB Jahvid Best was a pleasant surprise for the Lions in 2010, but also struggled to stay healthy, landing the Lions at a ranking of 23rd in the league for rushing yards. 

    Providing that the Vikings get the QB who so are so desperately seeking, they should have no problem against Detroit. They have all other pieces in place to be a contender in the NFC North once again. 

    No way do the Vikings let the Lions beat them as home again.

    Prediction: Vikings over Lions.

Week 4: Oct. 2, 2011: Vikings @ Kansas City Chiefs

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Matt Cassel #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs fakes a hand-offagainst the Baltimore Ravens in their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 9, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vi
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    On the road again, the Vikings take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4. 

    The Chiefs placed first in the AFC West in 2010, with a record of 10-6. 

    QB Matt Cassel, WR Dwayne Bowe and RB Jamaal Charles are KC's playmakers, leading their offense to a first place finish in rushing yards and a mere 30th place finish in passing yards in 2010.

    Despite a disappointing finish in the passing game, the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe is one of the better receivers in the NFL and could be a headache for the Vikings weak secondary. 

    The Chiefs have two very talented rushers in their backfield with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones splitting carries. 

    On defense, the Chiefs are about an average club; they finished 17th for pass defense and 14th against the run. 

    If the Vikings can contain the Chiefs running backs, they should be able to stay competitive, but the Chiefs are tough to beat at home with a record of 7-1 at home in 2010. 

    Prediction: Chiefs over Vikings.

Week 5: Oct. 9, 2011: Vikings vs. Arizona Cardinals

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 25:  (L-R) D'Anthony Batiste #74, Derek Anderson #3 and Ben Graham #5 of the Arizona Cardinals run out onto the field before the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 25, 2010 in Glend
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Arizona Cardinals fly in to Minnesota for Week 5 in 2011. 

    In 2010, the Cardinals finished with an embarrassing record of 5-11, the second worst in the NFC.

    The Cardinals' best offensive weapon, Larry Fitzgerald, is coming home to Minnesota to play against the team for whom he was a ball boy as a child.

    Arizona is in the same situation as the Vikings with their QB situation. They have weapons in WR's Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, but no one to get them the ball. They finished 31st in the passing game in 2010.

    The Cardinals have virtually no answer in the running game either. They still have hope for RB Beanie Wells, who they drafted in 2010, but Wells has had difficulty staying healthy thus far.

    The Cardinals' defense is not anything special either. They finished 23rd against the pass and 30th against the run in 2010.

    Adrian Peterson and company should make short work of the red birds.

    Prediction: Vikings down the Cardinals.

Week 6: Oct. 16, 2011: Vikings @ Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears smiles while taking on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Vikings travel to Chicago to take on the Monsters of the Midway in Week 6.

    The Bears had an impressive season in 2010, finishing first in the NFC North with a record of 11-5. They went on to lose in the NFC Championship to the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers

    By no means is it Chicago's offense that makes them a tough team. They finished 28th in passing and 22nd in rushing in 2010. QB Jay Cutler does not have very many receiving options and struggles to stay healthy himself. 

    Their defense, however, is quite a tough one. All Pro DE Julius Peppers has become the new face to an already loaded defense. LB's Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher make it difficult for any team to move the ball against Chicago. In 2010, they finished 20th against the pass and second against the run. 

    If the Vikings are able to acquire a QB to make some plays for them, they might stand a chance, but last year, the Bears defense proved too strong for the purple and yellow. 

    Prediction: Bears over Vikings.

Week 7: Oct. 23, 2011: Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers

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    DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 07:  Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers poses with the MVP trophy after speaking to the media during a press conference at Super Bowl XLV Media Center on February 7, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Ima
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Champs come to town in Week 7. 

    Green Bay was in danger of not making the playoffs in 2010, and with a record of 10-6, they barely squeaked in to a wild-card spot. They rallied through many injuries and went on to become the Super Bowl XLV Champions. 

    The Packers are loaded on both sides of the ball, and young. They will be a tough team to compete with for many years. 

    Aaron Rodgers led a passing attack that finished fifth in the league in 2010. WR's Greg Jennings and James Jones are big targets to cover. 

    The Pack hasn't had a very strong run game in a few years, and with Ryan Grant out most of 2010, they finished 24th in rushing. 

    The Packers' defense is a very strong one, CB's Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson are some of the best outfielders in all of football. Pass-rusher Clay Matthews has become the new face of the Packers' defense. They have a decent, yet not spectacular rush defense, landing them 18th against the run and fifth against the pass.

    The Champs will be too much for the Vikings to handle.

    Prediction: Packers down the Vikings.

Week 8: Oct. 30, 2011: Vikings @ Carolina Panthers

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Jimmy Clausen #2 of the Carolina Panthers against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Vikes visit Carolina in Week 8 of 2011. 

    The Panthers were the laughing-stock of the league in 2010, finishing last in the league with a record of 2-14. 

    Their passing game was invisible in 2010. They finished 32nd with rookie QB Jimmy Clausen and very disgruntled WR Steve Smith, who will likely seek a trade once mediation concludes. 

    RB's DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart helped the Panthers to finish 13th in the run game, but their one-dimensional offense was not enough to help them win ball games in 2010. 

    Carolina's defense has suffered a little bit with the loss of DE Julius Peppers to Chicago, and they finished 11th against the pass and 23rd against the run. 

    The Panthers have the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, which is just a week away, but I don't think there is any one player who can be an overnight fix for all of Carolina's problems. 

    Prediction: Vikings over Panthers.

Week 9: Bye Week

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    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 02:  Interim head coach Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings looks on from the bench while playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 20-13.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Gett
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    In Week 9, the Vikings get a much-needed bye week before they face the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. 

    Because of the Monday night game, coach Leslie Frazier will get an extra day to prep his team for their second time facing with the defending champs. 

Week 10: Nov. 14, 2011: Monday Night Football, Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Charles Woodson (R) #21 of the Green Bay Packers congratulates Nick Collins #36 after COllins scored a touchdown on an interception return against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Monday Night Football, Vikings vs. Packers in front of a sure sold out crowd at Lambeau—does it get any better than this?

    This historic rivalry is always a fun one to watch and on prime-time television? All the better.

    Just like in their previous meeting, the Packers will be a tough opponent for the Vikings. And this time it will be on their turf. That equals no bueno for the Vikings who were swept by the Packers in 2010 and will likely see a similar finish in 2011. 

    Prediction: Packers over Vikings.

Week 11: Nov. 20, 2011: Vikings vs. Oakland Raiders

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Jason Campbell #8 of the Oakland Raiders hands off to the running back in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on January 2, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Tim Umphrey/Getty Image
    Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

    In Week 11, the Vikings come home to the dome where they will face the Oakland Raiders

    In 2010, they finished with a record of 8-8.

    Oakland will likely lose star CB Nnamdi Asomugha, who has helped give them a dominant pass defense over the years. In 2010, they finished second against the pass. 

    RB's Darren McFadden and Michael Bush have both been a pleasant surprise for the Raiders, who finished second in rushing in 2010. 

    They too, have almost no answer at QB, finishing 23rd in passing. Their WR's have trouble making plays as well. 

    Their rush defense finished 29th in the league, and Vikings RB Adrian Peterson should have no problem moving the ball against them. 

    The loss of Nnamdi Asomugha will be too much for the Raiders, who have no first-round pick in the draft this year. Their defense will continue to crumble, and the Vikings will march down the field in front of a home crowd. 

    Prediction: Vikings over Raiders. 

Week 12: Nov. 27, 2011: Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15:  Mike Peterson #53 of the Atlanta Falcons leads his team in a pregame huddle against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Vikes head down to the Dirty South in Week 12 to face the Atlanta Falcons

    In 2010, the Falcons finished first in the NFC South with a record of 13-3, second only in the entire league to the New England Patriots. The Falcons fell in the playoffs to the Super Bowl Champion Packers as well. 

    QB Matt Ryan, TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Roddy White lead an explosive pass offense that finished only 15th in the league in passing yards. RB Michael Turner helped them to reach a ranking of 12th in rushing yards. 

    While the Dirty Birds are relatively strong against the rush, finishing 10th in the league, they do struggle a little bit against the pass. Aaron Rodgers proved that for us. They finished 22nd in the league in opponents' passing yards in 2010. 

    The Vikings will have their hands full against the Falcons. They may not be that great statistically, but they can flat-out win. 

    Prediction: Falcons down the Vikings.

Week 13: Dec. 4, 2011: Vikings vs. Denver Broncos

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos looks to deliver a pass against the San Diego Chargers at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    In Week 13, the Denver Broncos ride into Minneapolis.

    The Broncos were another team with an embarrassing finish in 2010 with a record of 4-12. 

    New head coach John Fox will try to fix many of the problems that Denver had on both sides of the ball. 

    While the Broncos finished seventh in the league in passing, they still have some uncertainty at QB with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow competing for the starting job. 

    Their running game, on the other hand, was disappointing for Denver in 2010. Knowshon Moreno only helped them to a 26th place finish in rushing yards. 

    Their defense has been anything but spectacular as well. They finished 25th against the pass and 31st against the run in 2010. 

    Though they have the second overall pick in the draft, I don't think there is a quick fix for Denver.

    Prediction: Vikings over Broncos.

Week 14: Dec. 11, 2011: Vikings @ Detroit Lions

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    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 02: Maurice Morris #28 of the Detroit Lions tries to get around the tackle of Jared Allen #69 of the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on January 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 20-13.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The Vikings head to the Motor City to face the Lions for a second time in Week 14. 

    The Lions will likely put up quite a fight in front of their home crowd. 

    Should they stay away from injuries, the Lions should be running strong by this time in the season. 

    They have continued to improve their squad over the years, but they don't have much of an answer stopping the pass. 

    The Vikings will be determined to prove that they are not the worst of their division in 2011. 

    Prediction: Vikings over Lions.

Week 15: Dec. 18, 2011: Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 08:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints calls a play against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    In Week 15, the Vikings continue their rivalry with the New Orleans Saints

    This rivalry started in 2009, when a controversial victory allowed the Saints to move past the Vikings in the NFC Championship to the Super Bowl.

    Drew Brees is one of the most consistent passers in the NFL. His Saints finished the 2010 season with a record of 11-5 and a passing yard ranking of third.

    Their run game was a little embarrassing, however. They could not keep a steady starter at RB and could possibly look to the draft to improve in this area before the 2011 season.

    The Saints have an elite pass defense, ranked fourth in the league. Former Viking safety Darren Sharper and CB Tracy Porter are just some of the great players who New Orleans have in their secondary.

    Their rush defense is not too shabby either. They finished 16th in the league, but as shown in Week 1 of 2010, the Vikings have trouble running on the Saints.

    The Vikings are due for a win over 'Nawlins, given that they are 0-2 in the last two meetings. But I don't see them rising above the Saints, who simply seem to have the Vikings' number. 

    Prediction: Saints over Vikings.

Week 16: Dec. 24, 2011: Vikings @ Washington Redskins

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 26:  Ryan Torain #46 of the Washington Redskins dives for a touchdown over Don Carey #22 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on December 26, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Gett
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Vikings travel to our nation's capital to take on the Redskins in Week 16. 

    The Redskins have quite a bit of QB concern just like the Vikings. 

    They finished last in the NFC East in 2010 with a record of 6-10.

    They finished eighth in passing yards in 2010, but QB Donovan McNabb is likely on his way out of Washington, interestingly rumored to Minnesota. 

    They finished in the bottom 10 teams in almost every other major statistical category. 

    Washington has a lot of holes to fill this offseason. I don't think that the 10th overall pick will be enough to save the franchise in 2011. 

    For Christmas, Santa gave the Vikings an easy win.

    Prediction: Vikings over Redskins.

Week 17: Jan. 1, 2012: Vikings vs. Chicago Bears

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Caleb Hanie #12 of the Chicago Bears runs out of the tunnel to take on the Green Bay Packers during the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Happy New Year, folks! One of the first games of 2012, Week 17 the Vikings will take on the Chicago Bears to finish the regular season at home. 

    The Vikings will be riding a win streak that will keep them competitive in January. 

    Jay Cutler showed the world that he's too much of a Nancy Boy to play in January in 2010. 

    I think that the Bears' offense will be having plenty of problems by this time in 2012. They have virtually no receiving options and a QB who could get beaten up on a middle school playground. Their defense won't be able to carry them much longer. 

    I say the Vikings split the series with the Bears in 2011.

    Prediction: Vikings over Bears.

Schedule Analysis and Playoff Questions

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 22:  Minnisota Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier answers questions from the media during the NFL Annual Meetings at the Roosevelt Hotel on March 22, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite a NFL owners imposed lockout in effect sin
    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    The Vikings have a good balance of strong and weak opponents. They can't afford to take a week off, but should be in a position to win some games in 2011. 

    My prediction for the Vikings final record in 2011: 10-6

    This could be enough to help them fight for a wild-card spot in 2011. Unfortunately, I don't see them winning any more NFC titles for a few years with how good the Packers are. The Vikes could very well make the playoffs in 2011, but only if the get their answer at QB. They will also need to make sure that their defense is at top condition going into 2011. 

    They will look to the draft to improve their personnel, to fill some needs including QB, OT, CB, S, DT.  

    If the Vikings are not able to hold onto WR Sidney Rice, they will need to get some big plays out of Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and new addition CFL star receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux to stay competitive in their division. 

    I think the Vikings could surprise a lot of people in 2011, leaving 2010 as a mere speed bump in the team's history. 

    Hopefully, Favre will stay retired, and Vikings players will stay out of jail. If they can do that, there's no reason they can't be in a position to win in 2011.