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The Road Ahead

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After hitting the bye week at an encouraging 2-2, the Vikings schedule over the next month looks favorable. Can they take advantage of it?

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

One month into the season, and the Vikings have a few emerging truths about them:

1) Legitimate defense: For three straight games the Vikings have put up a solid defensive performance, for the most part. They have a disruptive line that is usually difficult to run against, a good secondary, and linebackers that are fast, athletic, and flow to the ball. I think it's premature to call them a top ten unit right now, but I think they will be by the time the season ends.

2) Adrian Peterson is, well, Adrian Peterson: If anyone thought Peterson might be finished after a year off and hitting the age of 30, they're mistaken so far. He entered the weekend as the NFL's leading rusher, and is once again one of the most dominant runners in the NFL.

3) Teddy Bridgewater keeps improving: Bridgewater's numbers aren't eye popping, but Bridgewater keeps getting better each week. I'd still call him a game manager, but he's not going to be a guy that makes a dumb mistake to cost you a football game. When you add that to the rejuvenated Peterson, you have an offense that can score points, eat the clock, yet still have the ability to win the game if they have to play from behind.

4) Field goal kicking is questionable: This is the one potential cog in the system that could derail a strong kick (no pun intended) out of the bye. Walsh missed a field goal last week at Denver, and the Vikings lost by three points. It wasn't the reason the team lost, but a 38 yard field goal needs to be made in games like that. It feels like Walsh is getting a little bit better, but I'm still leery of the Vikings having to depend on Walsh to make a 45 yarder to tie or win a game with two seconds left.

When you add those things together, and you look at the schedule over the next four weeks coming out of the bye...other than point four, the Vikings have a very favorable road ahead. Let's take a look at their schedule, and see how the rest of the division is shaping up over the next four games:



Division Record

Next Four

Green Bay



San Diego


@ Denver

@ Carolina





Kansas City

@ Detroit

@ Chicago

St. Louis




@ Detroit



@ San Diego

@ St. Louis






@ Kansas City


@ Green Bay

Looking at these schedules, and a couple of things pop out at me. The Packers have a couple of really tough games ahead of them, and Aaron Rodgers hasn't been superhuman the last two games. Is it conceivable that they could lose both road games to an undefeated Carolina and an undefeated Denver? Yes, it is. I'm not saying they will, but 2-2 or 3-1 over their next four games doesn't seem unreasonable.

Now, let's look at the Vikings schedule a little bit more in depth. This weekend they face the Chiefs at home, and after Jamaal Charles went out, the Kansas City offense was anemic. It allowed the Bears to come back and win a game Kansas City had in the bag well into the fourth quarter. You have to think the Vikings will win this Sunday, so that's 3-2. After that, they hit the road to a Detroit team that just got obliterated by the Cardinals, and saw Matthew Stafford pulled for Dan Orlovsky. If the Vikings lose that game, all talk about making a playoff run needs to immediately cease, so let's count that as a win and the record goes to 4-2.

After Detroit, they travel to Chicago. The Vikings have beaten the Bears in Chicago exactly once in the last 273 years, and not even Brett Favre in his 2009 deal with the devil year could beat the Bears on the road. I think that this year, the Vikings can do this. They've come close the last couple years, and I think with the full offense available to them and another year under the belt for Bridgewater, they get over the hump. That gets them to 5-2. They round out the first half of the season with a home game against the Rams, and I like their chances in that game. That's 6-2. Assuming the Packers lose just one game, that puts them solidly in second place, and in the thick of post-season talk. If the Packers lose both their road games we talked about earlier, they're tied for first. But they almost have to beat the Bears in Chicago to set themselves up for a serious second half run.

As for the Bears, they have a chance to make a move as well. With two division games, one of which is an historical gimme, and winnable games against the Rams and Chargers, three wins out of four gets them into second place at 5-4, and the early season troubles will be replaced by wild card talk. That's pretty incredible when you think about it, as we were discussing the Bears having a fire sale and folding their tent after they traded Jared Allen to Carolina.

Finally, Detroit. Oh, Detroit. They aren't going to the playoffs, because even if they win their next four games...they'll be 4-5. It's a hole they aren't going to climb out of, because it looks like they have come unglued both on and off the field. You cannot overlook the Lions though, because they're still a good enough team that can play serious spoiler.  If they can snipe the Bears at home...or if they snipe the Vikings at home, then the Pursuit Of Green Bay takes a catastrophic turn for either the Bears or Vikings. Or both the Bears and Vikings, if Detroit gets them both.

In all honesty, if you had told me before the season the Vikings would get to the bye at 2-2, I would have taken it. Now, with each of the next four games eminently winnable, we find out what kind of team Mike Zimmer has molded. Is it the mentally and physically tough team he has been preaching about, and molding into his own image, or will it be the same old Vikings?

We'll find out starting this Sunday.