A (Slightly Less) Insanely Early Look at the Vikings' Schedule, Part Four

Yes, only two months or so after the third installment of our look at the Vikings' schedule, I'm finally getting around to finishing it.  Pretty awesome, huh?  (Damn your black heart, Brett Favre.)  I apologize for not having a lot of stuff on here outside of Favre this and Favre that recently, but. . .well. . .that's about the only Vikings-related thing there's been to talk about recently.  News coming out of OTAs has been few and far between, the StarCaps case is still on hold. . .and Anthony pretty much has the Favre situation on lockdown.  Behind the scenes, I'm still organizing the Podcast and stuff like that. . .it's going to be a live format, but I'm still working on dates, times, that sort of thing.  As soon as I have everything figured out, it will be up here for everybody to access.

However, now it's time to look at the fourth quarter of the Vikings' 2009 schedule.  The Vikings should have some solid momentum going their way at this point, and based on their first 12 games, I think there's a very good chance they could be looking at an 8-4/9-3 kind of mark before we head into the home stretch.  If you need to review the previous three articles to remind yourselves where we're at, they're right here.

What will that last quarter hold?  Let's take a look!

The Fourth Quarter - Elevation (See what I did there?  U2 song titles.  Why?  Because U2 is awesome, that's why.)

 

The thirteenth game of the 2009 season will have the Beloved Purple playing host to the Cincinnati Bengals.  Now, contrary to what a couple of folks I know think, I don't have the feeling that the Bengals will be that great this year.  Even with the return of Carson Palmer, their offense is a mess, and Chad Johnson Douchenozzle Ochocinco is liable to go off at any time.  Even if he's not in Bellevue by the time the Vikings and Bengals meet up, it's going to be a little bit rougher for him, as he'll no longer have T.J. Houshmandzadeh lined up on the other side of the formation.  Chris Henry may or may not end up in jail again, too. . .really, you never know.

Cedric Benson is the #1 running back in town.  Yeah, that Cedric Benson.

(pauses long enough to allow the laughter to subside)

I guess what I'm saying is that the Bengals should have trouble scoring against the Minnesota defense, to put it mildly.

The Vikings, on the other hand, should have no such problem.  While the Bengals were #12 in the league in total yards allowed in 2008, they were 21st against the run.  They were also a blistering 1-7 on the road.  There are no easy wins in the National Football League. . .but I would be pretty surprised if Minnesota didn't handle this one with some level of ease.  The final three games of the 2009 season, however, should be pretty tough.  They're winnable football games, but they definitely won't be easy wins.

It starts out with what (as of now) is projected to be the first of two consecutive prime-time games for the Beloved Purple, as they travel to Bank of America (insert new name here) Stadium to take on the Carolina Panthers.  I say projected to be consecutive prime-time games, because this game is on NBC's Sunday Night schedule, which means it could get "flexed" if there's another more compelling matchup out there.  However, if these two teams play the way they're capable of, I wouldn't expect this game to get moved.

Now, we all remember the 2008 game between these two teams, with Antoine Winfield crushing Jake Delhomme and the defense completely dominating the second half as the Vikings won 20-10.  The Panthers have one of the best one-two rushing tandems in the NFL in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.  However, as we all know, this plays right into Minnesota's strength, and in last year's matchup the Viking defense limited Williams and Stewart to 42 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.  Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor fared slightly better against Carolina's defense, combining for 121 yards on 28 carries.  Considering that Carolina finished 3rd in the NFL in rushing yardage in 2008 (behind only the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons), holding their backs to those sort of numbers again would be a tall order. . .but if any defense would be capable of it, it would be Minnesota's.

The outcome of this game could depend on whether we see "good" Jake Delhomme. . .and Delhomme has the capability to be pretty good when he's given sufficient time in the pocket. . .or whether we see the Jake Delhomme that showed up in the NFC Divisional Playoffs in January that used Arizona Cardinal defenders for target practice.  If Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and company can get after Delhomme the way they did in Minneapolis last year (where they registered five sacks), "bad" Delhomme could be out in full force (along with the boobirds) in Charlotte.  This is one of the more interesting games on the schedule, though, and it could really go either way.

The final road game of the year will definitely occur in prime time, as the Vikings will travel to what should be a cold and blustery Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears.  Last year's game at Soldier Field was a nightmare, with Gus Frerotte throwing four interceptions, Chris Kluwe being awful, and the special teams just being generally terrible.  Despite all of that, the Vikings managed to stay within a touchdown of the Bears and put up their highest scoring output of the year in a 48-41 loss.  Since I can't imagine the Vikings' special teams being that awful again, and I can't envision that many turnovers, this game could easily go the other way.

This will be the one game the Vikings play all season where weather should have any significant effect. . .and if it's anything like it usually is in Chicago in December, it's going to be a display of power football on both sides, and both defenses should be amped up and ready to go for this one.  If that's the case, the easy choice is Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor over Matt Forte and Kevin Jones, I think.

"But what about Jay Cutler," you might say.  The thing is. . .the next time Jay Cutler carries his team in a big situation will be the first time.  He was terrible down the stretch in 2008, and has never won a single NFL game that actually meant anything when there was any sort of pressure on him.  Since this game could very easily be for the division title, it wouldn't surprise me one single bit to see the diva fall apart again, this time on national TV.  I know it's a division game and you can throw the records out and all those other cliches. . .but if you could rest your team's chances of winning on the shoulders of either Adrian Peterson (who has put a team on his back before and carried them when they needed it) or Jay Cutler (who has really done no such thing). . .who are you taking?  I know who I'm taking.  Unfortunately, this is far from an automatic win. . .but it is winnable.

The season finale will be the same as the 2008 season finale, as the Vikings will play host to the New York Giants at the Metrodome.  Yes, we heard all the crap last year. . ."the Vikings only beat the Giants' backups.  The Giants starters would have destroyed the Vikings."  Blah blah blah.  The Vikings did enough in their first 15 games to put themselves in a situation where they could have a game against a team that had nothing to play for with a playoff spot on the line.  The Bears had a game against a team that had nothing to play for with a playoff spot on the line, too. . .and they would have gotten in, had they beaten the Houston Texans.  But, they didn't, so they got to sit at home and watch us in the post-season.

(Oh, and when the Giants pulled their starters, the Vikings were winning the football game.  Minor thing, but I thought it should be mentioned.)

There's a good chance that one or both teams will be resting players for this one if there's nothing on the line.  I can hope that the Vikings are in a situation to rest players, unless there's a first-round bye to be had or something like that.  So, I'm not going to project this one too much, since we don't really know who's going to be on the field for either team at this point.  However, if the season goes the way I've projected it for the first 15 games, there won't be as much concern for Game #16 as there will be for Game #17.

And that's the final look at the 2009 schedule, ladies and gentlemen!  Despite what many of the "experts" are thinking at this point, I don't see any reason that this team can't be in the 10-6/11-5 range and celebrating their second consecutive NFC North division crown on or before 3 January 2010.

What do you think, folks?  Agree?  Disagree?  Discuss it here!

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