The Vikings front office has started looking to the future as the team plays out the 2011 schedule hoping to build momentum and not put themselves in the record books as the worst teams in terms of record in Vikings history.
Seeing as the organization is looking forward, maybe it’s time we do as well. As the Vikings look to climb out of the primordial ooze from which they’re currently drowning, the best thing to do is look forward. So who will the Vikings play in 2012?
Let’s take a (really) early look.
We already know 14 games and locations. At home, the Vikings will play division rivals Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit, as well as St. Louis, Arizona, Tennessee and Jacksonville. On the road, they will play at Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle, Indianapolis and Houston.
That leaves just two teams on the Vikings schedule – a game against the last place teams in the two divisions in the conference the Vikings don’t play – the NFC East and South. That list has been downsized to four possibilities. In the NFC East, if the Vikings beat Washington next week, they can all but assure they will meet again next year. In the NFC South, Tampa Bay currently is in last place with a 4-10 record after losing to Dallas Saturday night. The Carolina Panthers (4-9) also remain in the mix.
Things are looking pretty bad right now for the Vikings, but, considering where things stand right now, a first glance at the 2012 schedule has be viewed as promising – giving hope that 2012 is a good sight better than 2011.
VIKINGS-SAINTS BY THE NUMBERS
New Orleans has the top-rated offense in the league (8th rushing, 1st passing) and the 27th-ranked defense (15th rushing, 30th passing). The Vikings have the 16th-ranked offense (4th rushing, 26th passing) and the 18th ranked defense (9th rushing, 26th passing).
The Saints are averaging 448 yards a game (325 passing, 123 rushing). The Vikings are averaging 337 yards a game (191 passing, 146 rushing).
The Vikings defense is allowing 350 yards a game (249 passing, 101 rushing). The Saints are allowing 378 yards a game (268 passing, 110 rushing).
The Vikings are second in the NFL in average gain per rush attempt (5.18 yards), trailing only Philadelphia (5.20).
The Vikings are 27th in the league in sacks allowed per pass play. Fortunately, the Saints are 26th on defense.
The Vikings are third defensively in sacks per pass play. The Saints are third on offense per pass play in allowing sacks.
The Vikings are second in the league in kickoff return average. The team is averaging 27.8 yards per return, highlighted by Percy Harvin. He has only returned 12 kicks, but is averaging 37.1 yards per return.
The Vikings are 11th in third-down offense, converting 40.9 percent (72 of 176). The Saints are first in the league on third downs, converting 53.7 percent (94 of 175). The league average is 38 percent.
The Vikings are 29th on third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 43.7 percent of their opportunities (76 of 174) . The Saints defense is sixth, allowing just 55 of 166 conversions (33.1 percent).
Don’t be stunned if there are no interceptions today. The Vikings defense is 31st in interceptions per pass with just six interceptions on 431 opponent passes – and on a current record-setting drought. The only team worse? The Saints, who have picked off just seven of 508 opponent passes.
The Vikings are 30th in the league in points allowed (364). The only teams worse are the Buccaneers and Colts.
No offense has more first downs than New Orleans (321).
The Saints are second in the league in scoring with 415 points, trailing only Green Bay, which has scored 466 points.
The Saints are 29th in the league in defensive rushing average, allowing opponents to average 4.9 yards per rushing attempt.
New Orleans is 18th in the league in giveaway/takeaway ratio at minus-2 (12 takeaways, 14 giveaways). The Vikings are 25th at minus-6 (16 takeaways, 22 giveaways).
The Saints are tied for last in takeaways with 12 – tying them with 0-13 Indianapolis.
The Vikings are 11th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 54.8 percent of red zone possessions (23 of 42). The Saints are 13th at 53.4 percent (31 of 58).
The Vikings red zone defense is tied for 11th place at 47.8 percent of touchdowns allowed (22 TDs on 46 drives). New Orleans is 28th, allowing touchdowns on 20 of 32 drives (62.5 percent).
Drew Brees has 10 300-yard passing games this year. Christian Ponder has one.
The Saints have allowed six 300-yard passers. The Vikings have allowed three.
New Orleans has nine 100-yard receiving games – four from Jimmy Graham, two each from Marques Colston and Devery Henderson and one from Robert Meachem. The Vikings have two – one each from Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins.
The Vikings have allowed seven 100-yard receiving days. The Saints have allowed six, despite allowing twice as many 300-yard passers as the Vikings.
The Vikings have four 100-yard rushing games – three from Adrian Peterson and one from Joe Webb. The Saints have yet to have a 100-yard rusher.
The Vikings have allowed two 100-yard rushers, while the Saints have allowed three.
Brees is first in the NFL in attempts (543), completions (385), completion percentage (70.9) and passing yards (4,368). He is also third in touchdowns (32) and passer rating (105.9).
Brees leads the NFL in third-down passer rating at 117.0. Ponder is 23rd with a passer rating of 73.3.
After missing time with his ankle injury, Peterson is down to 15th in rushing with 873 yards. Mark Ingram leads the Saints with 474 yards, which is only 37th in the league and he won’t play today. Teammates Darren Sproles is 38th with 463 yards and Pierre Thomas is 39th with 435 yards.
Graham is second in the league in receptions with 80, trailing only Wes Welker (100). Harvin is tied for eighth with 69 receptions.
Graham is fifth in receiving yards with 1,101 yards. Colston is 20th with 826 yards. Harvin leads the Vikings with 779 yards – 25th in the league.
Darren Sproles in tied for third in the league in third-down receptions with 23. Graham is tied for 14th place with 18. Harvin and Colston are tied for 23rd with 15 receptions.
Despite missing three games, Peterson is still tied for fourth in scoring among non-kickers with 72 points (12 touchdowns).
John Kasay is fourth in the league in scoring among kickers with 123 points. Ryan Longwell is tied for 22nd with 80 points.
Punter Thomas Morstead is the best kickoff specialist in the league with 50 touchbacks on 82 kickoffs. Longwell has 15 touchbacks, which ties his for 27th place in the league.
Harvin now has more yards from scrimmage (1,073) than Peterson (997).
Harvin is averaging 37.1 yards per kick return, but doesn’t have enough returns to qualify for the league leader board. He is averaging almost five yards more than league leader Joe McKnight of the Jets.
Jared Allen leads the league with 17.5 sacks – 2.5 sacks more entering the 14th game of the season than Philadelphia’s Jason Babin and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. Ware had one sack Saturday night against Tampa Bay.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.