FanPost

Looking Ahead - Vikings 2013 Schedule

I've been reading some season previews for the Vikings lately that use a lot of general and subjective terms (i.e. lazy research and lack of analysis) in forecasting the upcoming season for the Vikings. It comes from the usual suspects, is not particularly surprising, and, leads to the same poor forecasts for the Vikings that we have seen in recent years. Most of the analysis begins and ends with a poor view and outlook for Christian Ponder and statements like, "regression to the mean," "Vikings got lucky last year" and "the Vikings face a tougher schedule this year." "Regression to the mean" in this case applies uniquely to Adrian Peterson, after his MVP season last year, but is not used for any other player at any other skill position in the league. "the Vikings got lucky last year" is perhaps a poor explanation for their highly inaccurate forecast for the Vikings last year, which like this year's, focuses mainly on two players- AP and Ponder. As for the Vikings having a tough schedule this year, it doesn't appear to be any tougher than last year's, with the possible exception of having a "home" game in London.

So, rather than throw out some generalities and consensus viewpoints regarding a couple players and their prospects, and generally building a forecast around that, I thought I'd start with a brief analysis of the Vikings, some likely themes for the season, and then a break-down of each game. Here we go:

ANALYZING THE VIKINGS:

2012 Rankings:

Record: 10-6 | vs. NFCN: 4-2 | Home: 7-1 | Away: 3-5

Offense PPG / YPG: 14th / 20th | Pass O (YPG): 31st (172) | Run O (YPG): 2nd (165)

Defense PPG / YPG: 14th / 16th | Pass D (YPG): 24th (244) | Run D (YPG): 11th (106)

Special Teams: 1st | Net Turnovers: 18th (-1) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 14th

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When Christian Ponder looks around the huddle this year, he'll see a majority of pro-bowl and pro-bowl caliber players. Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph, Matt Kalil, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt all rank in that category. Together with new or improved receivers Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerome Simpson, he'll have a formidable line-up capable of executing everything asked of them. The weak links entering the season, other than quarterback, are both guard positions. Continuity of scheme and offensive linemen will be a plus, however.

With Ponder, having 4-5 receivers able to take the lid off the defense in Wright, Patterson, Simpson, Jennings and even Webb, expect more deep balls this year. Ponder likes taking a chance with these- but didn't have many opportunities last year. He'll have more this year. But with the reigning MVP at RB and an improved receiver corps, opposing defenses will likely focus on Christian Ponder as the perceived weak link- particularly in the passing game. Ponder struggled against the blitz last year, and will likely face more blitzes in passing situations. As the opposing defenses become aware of the speed and ability of the receiver corps, expect fewer plays with 8-9 men in the box.

Defensively, an improved secondary and still stout defensive line will cause opposing offenses to target the middle of the field and a perceived weaker LB corps. 3-4 wide sets will be used - challenging Josh Robinson as well, new to the nickel-back role. But a healthy secondary will be much improved in pass defense over last year, despite the loss of Antoine Winfield. New-comer Xavier Rhodes will be a welcome addition to the base defense opposite Chris Cook. Safeties Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford could become one of the stronger tandems in the league. The improvements in the secondary will have a compound effect on the Viking's defense. First, better coverage will allow for more sacks from a very good, and healthier, defensive line. Secondly, they will allow for more man/zone hybrid coverages schemes out of the traditional Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings run as a base defense. The more aggressive and varied coverage schemes, combined with improving talent, will combine for an improvement in takeaways over last year.

The biggest question marks on defense for the Vikings this year come at the MLB and WLB positions. Both are in transition, but it seems likely that Erin Henderson will move to MLB this year and Desmond Bishop, if healthy, will start at WLB. Rookie draft picks Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, both top performers last year at Penn St, could compete for playing time, as well as Audie Cole or Marvin Mitchell, as the year progresses. In any case, focusing on that area of the field maybe a theme for opposing offenses throughout the year in an attempt to exploit a perceived weakness. Other than the two LB positions, NT remains a weak link with Letroy Guion and Fred Evans likely sharing reps there. Nevertheless, run defense has been a strong suit for the Viking defense in recent years, and that is unlikely to change this year either.

Special teams will continue to be very strong, and demand extra attention from opposing teams. Failure to do so will result in losing the field position battle dramatically, and potentially giving up points and turnovers as well. Blair Walsh is coming off a pro-bowl rookie year, and appears poised for another good year. His leg remains strong, which will likely lead to another year near the top of the league in touch-backs and field goal efficiency. New-comer Jeff Locke replaces Chris Kluwe as the Vikings punter this year, and will bring a couple new twists to the Vikings punt game. First, he's left footed- which results in the ball having a different spin and trajectory in the air. Secondly, Locke can also punt the ball Australian-style, with an end-over-end spin. Adventures fielding punts for opposing punt-returners could be a season-long theme this year- if they get the chance. Locke is also very proficient inside the 20 and can punt for both distance and long hang-times. Expect the Vikings to have the advantage in starting field position most of the time.

The Vikings will continue to be very tough to beat at Mall of America Field.

WEEK 1 - AT DETROIT LIONS

2012 Rankings:

Record: 4-12 | vs. NFCN: 0-6 | vs. Vikings: 0-2 | Home: 2-6 | Away: 2-6

Offense PPG / YPG: 17th / 3rd | Pass O (YPG): 2nd (308) | Run O (YPG): 23rd (101)

Defense PPG / YPG: 27th / 13th | Pass D (YPG): 14th (223) | Run D (YPG): 16th (118)

Special Teams: 30th | Net Turnovers: 30th (-16) | 8/13 SI Power Ranking: 17th

What's Changed:

The Lions had significant player turnover during the off-season, particularly in the trenches, with new faces at both DEs and both OTs, losing proven vets and replacing them with younger and/or uncertain new-comers. Detroit also added Reggie Bush during the off-season, who should provide a good outlet for Matthew Stafford. Detroit also has a new special teams coach, after having one of the worst units last year, and both a new kicker (David Akers likely) and punter.

Match-ups / Insight: With so many new faces on the offensive line, the Lions will have a hard time protecting Matthew Stafford against a stout Viking D-line. Stafford to Megatron will still be the featured play on offense for Detroit, which the Vikings have been able to limit enough in the past to come out on top. Reggie Bush should provide some added offensive production for the Lions, but this is unlikely to make up for short-comings on the O-line. Defensively, Detroit has strength at a number of positions, but not consistently among position groups. So, while Suh and Fairly will likely combine for a sack and a couple TFLs, top draft pick Ansah and old-timer Idonije are unlikely to prove too troublesome for Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt. Similarly, while Stephen Tulloch remains solid at MLB, the supporting cast outside is weak. In the secondary, Houston has proven reliable, as has Delmas at safety when healthy, but outside of these two the supporting cast remains suspect. The Vikings should be in better position this year to take advantage of a mediocre secondary, while continuing to do well in the power run game outside against a weak linebacking corps.

This game will carry more weight than usual as an important gauge for the Lions at the start of the year. Most are expecting the Lions to be much improved in this pivotal year for head-coach Jim Schwartz, and fans will be enthusiastic at home.

Line / Prediction: Lions are 3 point favorites. The Lions, likely coming off another undefeated preseason (LOL) should have more of a home field advantage in their home opener than they typically do later in the year, but I also expect their offensive line and defensive secondary to struggle out of the gate. Vikings will show some hints of a stronger passing game, and passing defense, while the power running game remains a mainstay. Lions have some success with Reggie Bush out of the flat, and Megatron will get his yards, but its not enough. Vikings win, 30 - 24.

WEEK 2 - AT CHICAGO BEARS

2012 Rankings:

Record: 10-6 | vs. NFCN: 3-3 | vs. Vikings: 1-1 | Home: 5-3 | Away: 5-3

Offense PPG / YPG: 16th / 28th | Pass O (YPG): 29th (187) | Run O (YPG): 10th (123)

Defense PPG / YPG: 3rd / 5th | Pass D (YPG): 8th (214) | Run D (YPG): 8th (102)

Special Teams: 9th | Net Turnovers: 2nd (+20) | 8/13 SI Power Ranking: 18th

What's Changed:

New head coach, new OC/OL coach, new offensive system, several new offensive linemen and TE for the Bears this year. Expect the Bears offense to get of to a shaky start as a result of all the changes. Defensively, the Bears remain solid up front with Peppers, Melton and McClellin, with a decent secondary, but more suspect this year at LB. While Briggs remains a stalwart, the other 2 spots are in transition. Secondary remains good, but not necessarily the speediest. They are much better with the ball in front of them and can be beaten over the top.

Match-ups / Insight: Bears lost nickel-back Kelvin Hayden for the season and 2012 6th round pick Isaiah Frey will likely be starting only his 2nd game as a pro.

Unlike many who expect the Bears to be improved this year under new head coach Marc Trestman and his new offense, I suspect the Bears will start poorly as they attempt to incorporate and fine tune the new offense and new, but not necessarily improved, offensive line while at the same time facing a brutal front-loaded schedule of tough opponents. With playoff hopes evaporating fast, new coach under fire, and 20+ players in contract years, I expect the Bears to fold the tent early this year. 6-10 would not surprise me. Things will not have unraveled yet for the Bears by week 2, but familiar problems will persist. Weak offensive line. No one to throw to except Marshall. Cutler inconsistent, and with some occasional miscues with the new offense. Defensively the Bears will remain solid, especially up-front, but unable to carry the offense as much with turnovers. They will likely be successful limiting the Vikings intermediate passing game, but Tilman shows he can get beat deep, and does.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings get behind the Bears defense a couple times, are helped by some unforced errors from the Bears offense, win the special teams/field position battle and come away with a heartening win for the first time in many years at Soldier Field. 27-17.

Week 3 - Cleveland Browns

2012 Rankings:

Record: 5-11 | Home: 4-4 | Away: 1-7

Offense PPG / YPG: 24th / 25th | Pass O (YPG): 19th (215) | Run O (YPG): 24th (100)

Defense PPG / YPG: 19th / 23rd | Pass D (YPG): 25th (245) | Run D (YPG): 19th (119)

Special Teams: 14th | Net Turnovers: 13th (+3) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 29th

What's Changed:

Not much. The Browns are hoping for improvement from Weeden and Richardson, but didn't do much to help them. Defensively, the Browns appear to be moving to a 3-4 scheme defensively, despite the relative success of their 4-3 personnel - who are returning from last year to the new scheme.

Match-ups / Insight: Browns simply are not good enough to beat the Vikings at home. There is not a significant match-up advantage for the Browns in any key area. Vikings, fresh off of two big road wins against division opponents, ride the momentum in a home opener blowout.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings win 34-17.

Week 4 - Pittsburgh Steelers at London

2012 Rankings:

Record: 8-8 | Home: 5-3 | Away: 3-5

Offense PPG / YPG: 22nd / 21st | Pass O (YPG): 14th (237) | Run O (YPG): 26th (96)

Defense PPG / YPG: 6th / 1st | Pass D (YPG): 1st (185) | Run D (YPG): 2nd (91)

Special Teams: 22nd | Net Turnovers: 24th (-10) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 20th

What's Changed:

The Steelers are in the process of replacing aging veterans on defense, which will be strong again this year. But with the loss of Mike Wallace, and now Plaxico Burress, the Steelers lack legitimate outside receiving threats. Steelers also have some question marks at OT who will be tested early and often by the Vikings DEs. Steelers also drafted Le'Von Bell in the 2nd round to provide some stability in the run game, but he's unlikely to be a big factor in this game.

Match-ups / Insight: Vikings defensive line matches up well against the Steelers O-line, particularly on the outside, and that creates problems for Big Ben and Co. Special teams will be a bigger factor as field position will make a big difference for struggling offenses. Vikings have the advantage here. Steelers defensive does well preventing big plays by the Viking offense, but good field position and modest success running the ball allow the Vikings to kick more field goals, which prove to be the difference.

Current Line / Prediction: Ponder struggles against a tough Steelers defense, but Big Ben can't ring the bell. Special teams help the Vikings eek out a close one in London. 23-16.

Week 5 - BYE WEEK

Week 6 - Carolina Panthers

2012 Rankings:

Record: 7-9 | Home: 3-5 | Away: 4-4

Offense PPG / YPG: 18th / 12th | Pass O (YPG): 16th (230) | Run O (YPG): 9th (131)

Defense PPG / YPG: 18th / 10th | Pass D (YPG):13th (223) | Run D (YPG): 14th (110)

Special Teams: 32nd | Net Turnovers: 16th (+1) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 24th

What's Changed:

Panthers have a new OC in Mike Schula, Cam Newton's former QB coach, and brings a new system. The Panthers revolve around Cam Newton and there is hope Newton will bounce back after a sophomore slump. Trouble is, Newton has few legit weapons downfield, which is something his fellow 2011 draft alumnus Christian Ponder knows all too well.

Match-ups / Insight: Newton may be the more potent weapon at QB, but Ponder has a much better team around him. Ponder has a career day passing against a poor Carolina secondary.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings win 38-23.

Week 7 - at NY Giants (Monday Night Game)

2012 Rankings:

Record: 9-7 | Home: 6-2 | Away: 3-5

Offense PPG / YPG: 6th / 14th | Pass O (YPG): 12th (239) | Run O (YPG): 14th (116)

Defense PPG / YPG: 12th / 31st | Pass D (YPG): 28th (254) | Run D (YPG): 25th (129)

Special Teams: 7th | Net Turnovers: 4th (+14) | 8/13 SI Power Ranking: 12th

What's Changed:

Giants added Justin Pugh in the draft, who'll likely start and be an improvement at RT. Other than that, not a lot of personnel changes that are likely to have a big impact for the Giants this year. Instead, the Giants are looking for a stronger year from the defense and receivers whose performance declined as the year went on last year.

Match-ups / Insight:

Vikings match-up well against the Giants. The Giants defense is suspect at both LB and DBs, and little was done in the off-season to improve those areas. Defensive line is also inconsistent at best outside of Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants hope to have added some improvements there during the off-season, but against a solid Viking O-line, are unlikely to be that disruptive. Giants will likely blitz Ponder to force the issue as they cannot rely on their secondary to cover, but don't have the answer for Adrian Peterson, who has a big game.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings bring a tough power game to the Giants, who will not have seen it so far. Giants have a relatively easy schedule the first six weeks, and the power and physical play of the Vikings in the trenches will overpower the Giants. VIkings win 31-23.

Week 8 - Green Bay Packers (Sunday Night Game)

2012 Rankings:

Record: 11-5 | vs. NFCN: 5-1 | vs. Vikings: 1-1 | Home: 7-1 | Away: 4-4

Offense PPG / YPG: 5th / 13th | Pass O (YPG): 3rd (296) | Run O (YPG): 31st (79)

Defense PPG / YPG: 11th / 11th | Pass D (YPG): 11th (218) | Run D (YPG): 17th (119)

Special Teams: 12th | Net Turnovers: 10th (+7) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 5th

What's Changed:

The Packers drafted a couple RBs to jump-start their running game. Offensive line has been reshuffled, but starting LT Brian Bulaga was lost for the season. Defensively the Packers are hoping the addition of Datone Jones and return of Nick Perry will improve their defensive front 7, while existing DBs are able to improve their game. The Packers lost Woodson and Jennings most notably, although both were injured most of the year and didn't have as big an impact for the Packers last year. The Packers are counting on Randall Cobb to continue his ascent, and Jermichael Finley to step-up his play. Beyond that, the Packers are also hoping a bunch of late-round draft picks prove they can be quality starters, particularly on the offensive line.

Match-ups / Insight: The Vikings maintain a big advantage in the trenches on defense. This, along with an improved secondary, and a Packer receiving group not as strong as in year's past, combine to make it tougher for Aaron Rodgers to bail them out offensively. The Packers may benefit more from Franklin catching balls out of the backfield than either him or Lacy running the ball. Defensively, the Packers will likely be improved up front, but with weak spots in their LBs and DBs, against both run and pass. With an improved Viking receiver corps, and still strong power run game, the Packer defense will give up some big plays.

Current Line / Prediction:

No one saw this coming. A banged-up Packer team comes out flat and gets blown away, 41-24, in their farewell to the Metrodome.

Week 9 - at Dallas Cowboys

Record: 8-8 | Home: 4-4 | Away: 4-4

Offense PPG / YPG: 15th / 6th | Pass O (YPG): 29th (187) | Run O (YPG): 10th (123)

Defense PPG / YPG: 24th / 19th | Pass D (YPG): 19th (230) | Run D (YPG): 22nd (125)

Special Teams: 17th | Net Turnovers: 27th (-13) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 15th

What's Changed:

Monte Kiffen DC, going from a 3-4 to a Tampa-2 4-3 defense. Drafted Travis Frederick (G) to bolster their interior OL.

Match-ups / Insight:

The Cowboys have a pretty good passing game with Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten at TE. But their running game is poor and not likely to have improved, and the offensive line, despite the addition of Frederick, remains suspect. While the Cowboys have a good set of CBs and LBs, their safeties are a weak link. The Dallas passing game will challenge the secondary, but the Vikings defensive line will have the upper hand against both run and pass. Special teams favor the Vikings.

Current Line / Prediction:

Cowboys give up a couple big plays and turnovers which, combined with a solid power running game by the Vikings, prove too much for the Cowboys to overcome at home. Vikings 31-24.

Week 10 - Washington Redskins (Thursday Night Game)

Record: 10-6 | vs. Vikings: 1-0 | Home: 5-3 | Away: 5-3

Offense PPG / YPG: 4th / 5th | Pass O (YPG): 20th (214) | Run O (YPG): 1st (169)

Defense PPG / YPG: 22nd / 28th | Pass D (YPG): 30th (282) | Run D (YPG):5th (96)

Special Teams: 31st | Net Turnovers: 3rd (+17) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 8th

What's Changed:

Having given up their best picks to acquire RGIII last year, the Redskins were not able to upgrade the team around him much. And, while RGIII will be up and running week 1, his durability remains a concern.

Match-ups / Insight:

RGIII, Alfred Morris and a decent OL will challenge the Vikings strength on defense, but the Skins passing game will be more limited with less than stellar receivers against an improved Viking secondary. Offensively, the Vikings will have good success passing against a weak Redskin secondary, leading Ponder to a banner Thursday night performance.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings prove better at converting in the red zone at home than last year at FedEx Field, while RGIII is unable to repeat his stellar performance. Vikings win, 30-20.

Week 11 - at Seattle Seahawks

Record: 11-5 | vs. Vikings: 1-0 | Home: 8-0 | Away: 3-5

Offense PPG / YPG: 9th / 17th | Pass O (YPG): 27th (189) | Run O (YPG): 3rd (161)

Defense PPG / YPG: 1st / 4th | Pass D (YPG): 6th (203) | Run D (YPG): 10th (103)

Special Teams: 5th | Net Turnovers: 5th (+13) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 2nd

What's Changed:

Not as much as you think. The Seahawks seemingly "won" the off-season with a series of acquisitions- including Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield, Cliff Avril, among others. But Harvin will miss most of the season, including this game, and Winfield and Avril will have marginal impact on an already solid Seahawk defense. Lots of buzz last year about how good Russell Wilson was as a rookie QB sensation. But look again at the Seahawks passing offense last year - ranked 27th.

Match-ups / Insight:

This is likely to be a very tough battle. Seattle will play the Vikings receivers tough, but better talent over last year will yield more production. Russell Wilson will likely provide more on the ground in key situations than in the air, while both team's running games pound away at each other. Special teams evenly matched. This game could come down to one key turnover.

Current Line / Prediction: Seattle defense proves just good enough at home. Seattle wins 24-23.

Week 12 - at Green Bay Packers

Record: 11-5 | vs. NFCN: 5-1 | vs. Vikings: 1-1 | Home: 7-1 | Away: 4-4

Offense PPG / YPG: 5th / 13th | Pass O (YPG): 9th (253) | Run O (YPG): 20th (106)

Defense PPG / YPG: 11th / 11th | Pass D (YPG): 11th (218) | Run D (YPG): 17th (119)

Special Teams: 12th | Net Turnovers: 10th (+7) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 5th

What's Changed:

Green Bay has a chance to re-group after the losing convincingly in Minneapolis week 8. They need this game to stay with the Vikings in the division hunt.

Match-ups / Insight:

Green Bay comes out strong at home following a tough game at the Meadowlands.

Current Line / Prediction: Green Bay puts it all together for a tough win. 31-27.

Week 13 - Chicago Bears

Record: 10-6 | vs. NFCN: 3-3 | vs. Vikings: 1-1 | Home: 5-3 | Away: 5-3

Offense PPG / YPG: 16th / 28th | Pass O (YPG): 29th (187) | Run O (YPG): 10th (123)

Defense PPG / YPG: 3rd / 5th | Pass D (YPG): 8th (214) | Run D (YPG): 8th (102)

Special Teams: 9th | Net Turnovers: 2nd (+20) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 18th

What's Changed:

The Bears come in with little chance of making the playoffs, and many of the 20+ players at the end of their deal this year looking to the future.

Match-ups / Insight:

While not a mail-it-in performance, the Bears are clearly have lost motivation, and it shows on the field.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings capitalize on a demoralized Bears team at home. 31-20.

Week 14 - at Baltimore Ravens

Record: 10-6 | Home: 6-2 | Away: 4-4

Offense PPG / YPG: 10th / 16th | Pass O (YPG): 15th (234) | Run O (YPG): 11th (119)

Defense PPG / YPG: 12th / 17th | Pass D (YPG): 17th (228) | Run D (YPG): 20th (123)

Special Teams: 3rd | Net Turnovers: 9th (+9) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 4th

What's Changed:

Lots of turnover at key positions for the Ravens after their Super Bowl win. Boldin, Lewis, Reed, Birk- the list of losses is long. But Ravens still maintain a solid defense. The loss of Pitta to injury, along with Boldin are tough ones for Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense.

Match-ups / Insight:

Vikings defensive secondary matches up well against the Ravens receivers- Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, while the D-line and LBs are up for a tough challenge with the Ravens O-line. Offensively the Vikings have too many weapons in a balanced attack for the young Ravens defense to handle.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings defense shines in road win over the Ravens, while Flacco struggles. Vikings win 24-17.

Week 15 - Philadelphia Eagles

Record: 4-12 | Home: 2-6 | Away: 2-6

Offense PPG / YPG: 29th / 15th | Pass O (YPG): 13th (237) | Run O (YPG): 13th (117)

Defense PPG / YPG: 29th / 15th | Pass D (YPG): 9th (217) | Run D (YPG): 23rd (126)

Special Teams: 28th | Net Turnovers: 31st (-24) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 25th

What's Changed:

New head coach in Chip Kelly, new offense, probably a new defensive scheme too. Lots of question marks including who starts at QB.

Match-ups / Insight:

While schemes may be difficult to predict for the Eagles at this point, the personnel are not. The Eagles have a lot of holes to fill and will be looking at a weak secondary and defense this year, and likely inconsistent QB play as well. They appear to want to run the ball more, but it remains to be seen what sort of year McCoy will have.

Current Line / Prediction: 41-20.

Vikings defense is able to limit the Eagles both on the ground and air, while the offense dominates the Eagles at home, who are looking to next year.

Week 16 - at Cincinnati Bengals

Record: 10-6 | Home: 4-4 | Away: 6-2

Offense PPG / YPG: 12th / 22nd | Pass O (YPG): 17th (224) | Run O (YPG): 18th (109)

Defense PPG / YPG: 8th / 6th | Pass D (YPG): 7th (213) | Run D (YPG): 12th (107)

Special Teams: 2nd | Net Turnovers: 11th (+4) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 10th

What's Changed:

Cincinnati continues to build on its strong and young roster. Andy Dalton remains a question mark, but the team around him continues to improve.

Match-ups / Insight:

The Bengals match-up well defensively against the Vikings strong run-game, forcing Ponder to deliver in the air. Offensively, the Bengals have an improved OL, and better weapons in the passing game, but the run game is still average.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings unable to take advantage of passing opportunities, lose a close one on the road 27-24.

Week 17 - Detroit Lions

Record: 4-12 | vs. NFCN: 0-6 | vs. Vikings: 0-2 | Home: 2-6 | Away: 2-6

Offense PPG / YPG: 17th / 3rd | Pass O (YPG): 2nd (308) | Run O (YPG): 23rd (101)

Defense PPG / YPG: 27th / 13th | Pass D (YPG): 14th (223) | Run D (YPG): 16th (118)

Special Teams: 30th | Net Turnovers: 30th (-16) | 8/13 Power Ranking: 17th

What's Changed:

The Lions, out of playoff contention, mail it in on the road against the Vikings in what could be Jim Schwartz' last game as head coach.

Match-ups / Insight:

The Vikings need a win here to ensure their playoff seed and a first round bye, while the Lions have little to play for.

Current Line / Prediction: Vikings finish out the regular season with a routine victory over the hapless Lions. 34-20.

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OK, that gets the Vikings to a surprising 13-3 finish after going 9-0 to start the year. I would not have said that prior to analyzing each game individually, and how it came out surprised me. Of course the big variable is injuries, and this forecast does not include any injuries other than those already known, for either the Vikings or their opponents.

One thing I found very difficult to predict is the Vikings getting blown out. They really only had one blow-out (depending on how you measure that) last year- at home against Tampa Bay- which was a poor match-up for them. I don't see any of those this year, given the improvements in the Viking secondary and receiving corps.

On the other hand, there are some good teams the Vikings play this year that they match-up relatively well against. I wouldn't have said the Vikings would beat the Giants on the road, for example, until I looked at the match-ups.

Overall, I have the Vikings going 8-0 at home (including the London game) and 5-3 on the road. I have the Vikings basically splitting close games. The toughest games to predict were against Seattle, Baltimore, Cincinnati and the Steelers.

In some ways, I think the most important games for the Vikings are the first two on the road against the Lions and Bears. Those two games will test the Vikings and provide a good barometer for the rest of the year. Last year I felt the same way about the first two games against the Jags and Colts, which I thought they'd win them both and establish some momentum before losing to SF. As it turned out, the SF game was the real momentum builder, but with such a poor outlook this time last year, the early win against the Jags and narrow loss against the Colts provided enough confidence to surprise the Niners and set the tone for the year. A couple wins against division opponents on the road- especially at Chicago- will establish some pretty good momentum that will likely continue at home against the Browns and even to London against the Steelers and into the bye week.

In any case, we'll see how close I am as the season progresses. I figured 10 or 11 wins last year, so I hope I'm that close again this year.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a <em>community</em>, that view is no less important.

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