1500 ESPN's Tom Pelissero has gotten the early look at the Vikings schedule for 2012, and it looks something like this:
Home Games: Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Arizona, San Francisco, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.
Road Games: Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Washington (again), St. Louis (WOO HOO Vikes in person WOOOOO), Seattle, Houston and Indianapolis (WOO HOO, Wife's HOMETOWN MIGHT GET TO SEE THEM TWICE WOOO HOOO).
TP also mentioned that one or more of the road games could be flipped to a home game, and vice versa, so although this isn't 100% in concrete, it is a 90% solution.
Let's look at this, after the jump.
My initial reaction is...other than San Francisco and Houston, this is a very generous schedule. Yeah, the Vikes are terrible this year, but c'mon, as I look at it now I see a scenario where playoff contention isn't ridiculous to contemplate. Let's break down the home games:
Green Bay (L), Chicago (L), Detroit (W), Arizona (W), San Francisco (L), Tennessee (W), Jacksonville (W), and Tampa Bay (W).
Now, keep in mind I didn't say that the Vikings are going to the playoffs, I said I think they can seriously contend for a wildcard spot. Green Bay is going to be tough to beat, as is Chicago assuming Matt Forte is healthy and re-signed. Detroit is good, but not nearly as formidable as I thought they would be. The purple already stomped Arizona this year, so why wouldn't they again next? San Francisco will be a tough game, but Tennessee can be had. The Vikes should've ebaten Tampa Bay earlier this season, and they could beat Jacksonville now. That's a 5-3 home schedule.
The road games break down like this:
Green Bay (L), Chicago (L), Detroit (L), Washington (W), St. Louis (W), Seattle (W), Houston (L), and Indianapolis (L).
Again, the division games don't match up for the good guys very well, especially on the road. Leslie Frazier has never lost at Washington as a head coach, and they'll still be a hot mess next year. St. Louis? HA! Terrible. Seattle is a very winnable game, but if it's late in the year the weather will be a factor. Assuming Mat Schaub and Andre Johnson are healthy, Houston could be an ugly game, and if Peyton Manning is back, the Colts will be tough to beat at their place.
That gives me a kneejerk reaction 8-8 record, and of course this will fluctuate as we head into the off season with the draft, free agency, and coaching changes that are sure to come.
Maybe I'm a glass is half full guy, and maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I don't think this 3-12 record means the Vikes are perpetually a 3-12 bad. They've been competitive, and with a little infusion of talent, this schedule sets up for a nice rebound year for the good guys.
Depending on what happens, I'm thinking 8-8 is realistic, and with a couple of lucky bounces, a wildcard spot isn't necessarily a pipe dream.
Granted, it's a long shot, but not as long as one would think.