Thursday, April 19, 2012

Will the Vikings Improve on 3-13 in 2012?

In today's NFL free agency era, teams can make dramatic turnarounds in a very short period of time. Unfortunately, our 3-13 Vikings flunked free agency. While they're certain to get an instant contributor with the third pick in the draft, it's hard to argue with online casinos that have pinned the Vikings (100/1) with the second longest Super Bowl odds (Cleveland's at 150/1).

A quick look at the Vikings' last-place schedule shows some very winnable games, especially early. Without going into depth, here's my first impression of the wins, losses and wild cards.

Week 1: vs. Jacksonville
Week 2: at Indianapolis

Week 3: vs. San Francisco
Week 4: at Detroit

Week 5: vs. Tennessee
Week 6: at Washington
Week 7: vs. Arizona
Week 8: vs. Tampa Bay
Week 9: at Seattle

Week 10: vs. Detroit
Week 12: at Chicago
Week 13: at Green Bay

Week 14: vs. Chicago
Week 15: at St. Louis

Week 16: at Houston
Week 17: vs. Green Bay

Clearly, there will be some tightly contested matchups, and the five-game stretch from Weeks 5-9 will go a long ways in defining the season. At first glance, I can see the Vikings finishing anywhere between 2-14 and 9-7, which means—BREAKING NEWS—the Vikings have no chance of making the playoffs.

If I were playing blackjack, I'd split my eights and put the Vikings on a 6-10 record. Amongst the wild card games, I'd give the team home victories over Tennessee (Week 5), Arizona (Week 6), Tampa Bay (Week 8) and Chicago (Week 14). I don't think any of these opponents have the aerial firepower to take advantage of Minnesota's defunct secondary, the protection to slow a fierce pass rush or the maturity to overcome hostile road environments. I have a low opinion of Josh Freeman, and while Chicago is tricky, I think there's a good chance they'll have imploded by Week 14.

Conversely, I see the Vikings losing the three road wild card games at Washington, Seattle and St. Louis. Each of these teams should be much-improved, with the Redskins and Seahawks sporting new signal callers, and Jeff Fisher, Cortland Finnegan and (potentially) Justin Blackmon bringing credibility to the Rams.

The talent gap between the Vikings and each of these wild card teams is very slim, and to be honest, I feel like 6-10 may be too generous. So go ahead, call me a homer, there's a first time for everything!

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