2013 Vikings Preview

After a surprising 10-6 season and a near record breaking year for Adrian Peterson the expectations for the Vikings are as high as they\’ve been in some time. Will 2013 be a year where the Vikings take that next step, or will they regress?

But before we look ahead, let’s look back at last season.

I nailed the first two picks with the prediction of a close win over Jacksonville and a loss to the Colts. However, the victory over the 49ers was surprising, but it is worth noting that this was the Alex Smith led 49ers. Followed by a win at Detroit the Vikings suddenly looked good and were 2 wins above my prediction. I believe it was at this point that I bet the other Wade that the Vikings would win 9 games. He took me up on the bet and I could already taste that 6 pack of delicious Bohemia beer!

I nail 3 of the next 4 games… I still can\’t believe that the Vikings got killed by Tampa Bay at home. Shameful loss to a terrible team. The main thing I missed on last year was Detroit, I really thought they would continue being better than the Vikings (note: I did not say \”good\”), but I was wrong. After getting swept by Detroit in 2011, the Vikings return the favor in 2012!

The Vikings also surprisingly split against their other NFC Norris Division opponents. Ending the season with a thrilling game against the hated Packers. However, Ponder gets his elbow destroyed in that game and Joe Webb is forced into playoff action the following week against Green Bay (again), but this time in Green Bay. Even with Joe Webb throwing as well as a high school QB the Vikings actually stay in the game. A healthy Ponder would have made it interesting.

How did the Vikings get it done last year??? It wasn\’t smoke and mirrors, but it wasn\’t quality QB play either. The defense played well enough to keep the Vikings in the game. Only in the final game against Green Bay did the defense give up more than 24 points in a win. In 6 of the 10 wins the defense gave up 14 points or less. Add to that nearly 2100 rushing yards by Adrian Peterson, and the 1959 Minnesota Vikin… er, 2012 Minnesota Vikings were able to stun the NFL and reach the playoffs.

So was last year an aberration? The pythagorean win/loss for the Vikings was 9-7, so they really didn\’t overachieve that much. Vegas has set the over under for the Vikings at 7.5 for this season. Let\’s take a look at the games and see how close they are!

Week 1: Sun, Sep 8 at Detroit
I really dislike starting out on the road, and I really dislike only having 1 game in Minnesota during September (more on that shortly). It\’s still warm. It\’s perfect for tailgating. Anyway, Detroit… I have no idea what to expect out of Detroit this year. Reggie Bush is no improvement at RB, and if he rushes for over 50 yards in this game I\’ll eat my hat (note: my hat is made of nachos). This game should actually be a good test for the Vikings defense. Can they pressure Stafford, and keep Megatron in check. Megatron will catch two touchdowns, but I think AP scores 3 touchdowns of his own. Vikings win by 6. 1-0

Week 2: Sun, Sep 15 at Chicago
Great, another road divisional game to start the season. I also have zero idea about what Mark Trestman will bring to Chicago besides his creepy smile. The Vikings have not won in Chicago since 2007; which was a thrilling Tavaris Jackson vs. Brian Griese showdown… actually, it was the Vikings holding on and kicking a FG with time running out to cap a close 3 point victory in which AP ran for 224 and 3 TDs. Before that you have to go back to the 2000 Vikings coached by Denny Green and the thrilling Daunte Culpepper vs. Cade McNown showdown… wow… The point of going down memory lane is 1) Chicago has found (some) success (at home) with terrible QBs, and B) the Vikings don\’t win in Chicago (or Champaign) often. Vikes lose by 4. 1-1

Week 3: Sun, Sep 22 Cleveland
Cleveland? They still have a team? Brandon Wheeden may be better than Ponder, but the rest of the team is still a mess. Should be a comfortable win by 8 points. 2-1

Week 4: Sun, Sep 29 Pittsburgh
This is a \”home\” game for the Vikings in jolly old England! Even if this game was in Metrodome, there would likely be more Steelers fans than Vikings fans. Steelers embarrass the Vikings in front of 10,000 Londoners and a bunch of drunk Americans. Vikings lose by 13. 2-2

Week 5: BYE
I don\’t care for the early bye week. Two years ago it was week 4, this isn\’t much better. However, if things are really off course, at least is a chance to try and get back on the rails early on. On the other hand, there are plenty of excuses to be made if the Vikings are 1-3 or even 0-4. Three \”road\” games. The travel to London. Matt Cassell is actually worse than Ponder, and possibly worse than Joe Webb.

Week 6: Sun, Oct 13 Carolina
Cam Newton will throw for 3 TDs, but the Carolina defense gives up 3 to AP, and makes Ponder look good. Vikings by 10. 3-2

Week 7: Sun, Oct 21 at New York (Giants)
Eli Manning and company still have some weapons, but are starting to fade a little bit. But at home they should still have the bullets to take down the Vikings. Vikings lose by 7. 3-3

Week 8: Sun, Oct 27 Green Bay
It was surprise that the Vikings played so well against the Packers. Assuming AP is still running well, and has around 1100 yards at this point, I think he runs wild (again) all over this terrible Packer defense. This game will come down to Gunslinger 2.0 against the Vikings secondary. Vikings win by 1. 4-3

Week 9: Sun, Nov 3 at Dallas
The Vikings “should” win this game, and if it were at home I’d be certain, but it’s so hard to win on the road in National Football League! Since I was so positive about the last game, let\’s be negative here. Vikings lose by 1 on a terrible no-call (offensive pass interference on Dez Bryant). 4-4

Week 10: Thu, Nov 7 Washington
The Vikings with RGIII would likely be going to a Superbowl. But instead the Vikings lose ugly, at home, in front of a national audience, by 15. 4-5

Week 11: Sun Nov 17 at Seattle
Really NFL Scheduler? We get Seattle… IN Seattle two years in a row? Eff you… Vikings lose by 9. 4-6

Week 12: Sun, Nov 24 at Green Bay
The record in Green Bay isn\’t much better than Chicago. Three wins this millennium. I don\’t see that changing. Vikes lose by 6. 4-7

Week 13: Sun, Dec 1 Chicago
Vikings rebound and get off the schneid. Win by 10. 5-7

Week 14: Sun, Dec 8 at Baltimore
Then fall right back on the schneid. Is that a valid saying? If not, it should be. While Baltimore certainly won\’t repeat as champs, they are a better team, especially at home. Why couldn\’t the Vikings have gotten Cleveland on the road and Baltimore at home. At least they\’d have a shot in that case. But in this case they lose, by 6. 5-8

Week 15: Sun, Dec 15 Philadelphia
Good lord, if they can\’t beat what should be a hot mess of an Iggles squad, lord help us. Vikings win by 14. 6-8

Week 16: Sun, Dec 22 at Cincinnatti
Some folks expect Cinci to be good this year. I am not one of those folks. Vikings edge Cinci in a shoot out by 3. 7-8

Week 17: Sun, Dec 29 Detroit
The final game in the Metrodome. The Vikings will be playing for a possible wild card berth, but will need several things to go their way. They find a way to beat Detroit (who will be playing for nothing) by 15. The Vikings go out with a bang, but miss the playoffs. 8-8

Looks like I\’ll take that over on the 7.5. But barely. As usual there are a few keys that can sway this record dramatically.

1) Christian Ponder: He finally took that step forward late last year. It wasn\’t a leap, but it was a step. If he can build on that and take another step (avoiding turnovers would be nice… or maybe hitting a couple of receivers more than 20 yards downfield). If Joe Flacco can lead a team to a superbowl victory… ok, even Flacco is better than Ponder… but you get my point.
2) Offensive Line: The line played \”fair\” last year. They were great on run blocking, but below average/acceptable on pass blocking. For Ponder to succeed, these guys need to give him time. More time than a normal QB, but thems the breaks. Time to step up fellas.
3) Receivers: The Vikings actually won\’t miss Harvin (methinks Seattle will be missing him more… ha ha-ha ha-ha #gerbschmidt), but they\’ll need all of their receivers to step up (Jennings, Webb, Simpson, Rudolph, Carlson… AND AP… he\’s really got to find a way to catch a swing pass).
4) The entire defense: Even playing hurt Jared Allen still had double digit sacks. 12 is a long way from 20, but expect Jared to get around 15. If Kevin Williams doesn\’t have a messed up knee (thanks for the cheap shot 49ers O-lineman!!!) he\’s playing for a new contract and last chance at a big payday. Fast Freddy Evans is looking good, and Brian Robison looks like he\’s ready to be an every down lineman. The LBs are a step up from last year, so once again it\’ll come down to the defensive backfield which has as much talent as it has had in years.

Last year I wrote: \”Well, it may not be a fun year, but it should be an interesting year and give us Vikings fans hope for 2013 and beyond.\” I think the fan base will be very frustrated with Ponder. He does not appear to be a starting NFL QB. His mechanics are a mess, and his line doesn\’t do him any favors. He\’s at his best with short passes, and taking off after 4.5 seconds if the easy throw isn\’t there. He\’ll be shielded by the best running game in the league (sorry Redskins, RGIII won\’t be rushing for 800+ yards again), but he\’ll make more head scratching rookie-type mistakes. I wouldn\’t be surprised if this team went 5-11 or 10-6, but 7.5 wins feels just about right. There\’s a reason Vegas makes money… they know their stuff. I\’m looking forward to this final season in the Metrodome. Not necessarily for the play on the field, but to say goodbye to a place that has held so many good (and bad) memories. It\’s time for a new chapter in Vikings football, but first and interlude. See you in 2014 at The Bank!

Skol Vikings!