With the preseason in the books, NFL teams are beginning to look forward to their regular season Week 1 matchups. After shocking the world and qualifying for the playoffs back in 2012, the Minnesota Vikings put together a dismal 5-10-1 season in 2013, which ultimately led to the firing of Leslie Frazier and the hiring of new head coach Mike Zimmer. While the Vikings are not expected to make the playoffs this year, a talented roster coupled with a strong preseason has given reason for optimism.
The Vikings better be ready to go when their season gets underway against the St. Louis Rams on Sept. 7. With the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers on the schedule for Weeks 2 through 5, the Vikings’ season could potentially be over before the midpoint of the NFL season. The Vikings should be able to get wins on the road in St. Louis and at home against the Falcons, getting out of the most difficult stretch of their schedule with a 2-3 record.
Following this difficult stretch of games, the Vikings will play the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins in consecutive weeks. This will be a defining point of the season for a Minnesota team that has a talented enough roster to contend for a playoff spot. Expect the Vikings to tame the Lions at home, defeat the Bills on the road and dismantle the Redskins. While I project the Vikings to finish this four-game stretch with a 3-1 record, a 5-4 overall record, it would not shock me if the Vikings were able to take all four of these games.
After a Week 10 bye, the Vikings will play the Chicago Bears in Chicago. The Vikings will then travel home to face the Packers, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets in Minnesota. With two key divisional matchups listed in Weeks 11 through 14, this will be a make-or-break portion of the schedule for the Vikings. Expect the Vikings to lose both of these divisional matchups, but salvage this part of the schedule with a victory over the Jets. Losses to the Bears, Packers and Panthers give the Vikings a 6-7 overall record going into the final three weeks of the season.
With playoff hopes dwindling, the Vikings lose a Week 15 matchup against the Lions, but win in Week 16 against the Miami Dolphins. Needing plenty of help to make the playoffs as it is, the Vikings lose to the Bears in Week 17, finishing the season with a 7-9 record, failing to qualify for the playoffs for the second year in a row.
While I do not expect the Vikings to qualify for the playoffs this season, it should not come as a complete shock if a few of these losses ended up swinging in their favor. It should be an exciting year for Vikings fans, as Zimmer should make this team competitive once again.