‘Easy' part of Vikings' schedule is over

Leslie Frazier (Joe Robbins/Getty)

The Vikings faced two non-playoff teams from last year out of the gate. While the next five games include some other 2011 non-playoff teams, the warm-up act is over.

The Vikings officially have the "easy" part of their schedule over. Now comes the hard part.

Over the next five games, the steps the Vikings have taken to improve their roster will face its acid test. The 49ers come into the Metrodome Sunday and will provide the first playoff-quality test for the Vikings. But, after that, the hits just keep on coming.

The Lions will be next in Detroit, where the Vikings have enjoyed their share of success, but where the Lions have established a significant home field advantage over the last year-plus. The next three games will be against Tennessee, Washington and Arizona – all teams that didn't make the playoffs in 2011, but have high hopes to make the postseason this year.

The Titans missed the playoffs last year due to losing out on a tie-breaker with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Redskins finished last in the NFC East, but Robert Griffin III has energized the fan base and brought a distinctive new look to the Washington offense. The Cardinals finished 8-8, but they won seven of their last nine games. Given their 2-0 start this season, the Cardinals have won nine of their last 11 games – tied for the best record in the NFL in that span.

With five division games in the final seven games of the season, the Vikings won't be able to take their foot off the gas the rest of the way, but, as difficult as those games may be, it can be argued the stretch of games between now and the last week of October may be as difficult as any they will face.

If the Vikings have made the progress those within the organization believe they have, these next five games will be the test to see how far that progress has advanced. It's unclear how the Vikings will fare in those games – two wins in those five might be viewed as a moral victory for the franchise – but the one thing that seems clear is that the easy part of the Vikings schedule is over.


  • Russell Wilson has made a big splash in Seattle, allowing the Seahawks to make former Viking QB Tarvaris Jackson and former Seahawk as well and make former Packer Matt Flynn an expensive free agent backup. But, prior to drafting Wilson in April, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll sought the advice of one of his mentors – Vikings Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant. Carroll was the defensive backs coach under Grant when Bud made his return to coaching in 1985 and the two have maintained a relationship since. Given Grant's success with undersized QB Fran Tarkenton, he gave Carroll the endorsement that may have provided the confirmation Carroll needed to draft Wilson.

  • The Vikings have yet to see any production from their two Arkansas wide receivers. Greg Childs was lost for the season after tearing both of his patellar tendons and Jarius Wright hasn't seen the field – having been deactivated in both games. Given that both were expected to have roles in the Vikings offense this year, it could help explain why the team has had some difficulty moving the ball through the air.

    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.

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