COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Vikings are looking to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons after securing a wild-card spot on the final game of the 2012-13 season.
With a new season comes new expectations. While Vikings fans have high expectations for team, a majority of media have the Vikings winning eight games or fewer.
Here are the key additions and key losses from last season to this season:
Key Additions: Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop, Xavier Rhodes, Cordarrelle Patterson, Sharrif Floyd, Matt Cassel
On paper, the additions look a lot better than the losses, outside of losing the veteran leadership of Antoine Winfield.
Let's take a look at the Vikings' 2013 schedule and break it down:
Week 1, Sept. 8: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: The Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions have opened up the regular season against each other four times. The Vikings hold a 3-1 advantage in those opening games. Expect a lower-scoring game, as both offenses will still be trying to jell and won't be close to midseason form.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Lions 17
Week 2, Sept. 15: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: The Vikings are lucky they will be playing at Soldier Field so early in the season with what should be relatively nice weather. The field won't be slop yet, allowing Peterson to make all his cuts. The Bears' offense will still be removing minor kinks and the Vikings squeak out a surprising 2-0 start.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Bears 23
Week 3, Sept. 22: Cleveland Browns at Minnesota Vikings: The Browns are no longer a team to sleep on. In the first home game of the season, the Minnesota Vikings will come out ready to take control on the ground. This game could come down to the wire, but the Vikings should walk out on top.
Prediction: Vikings 24, Browns 20
Week 4, Sept. 29: Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings (London, England): The Steelers still have Ben Roethlisberger and still play a hard-noised style of football. That said, they lost Mike Wallace and James Harrison. Minnesota surprises the league by starting the season undefeated heading into the bye.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Steelers 23
Week 6, Oct. 13: Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings will have to make sure they contain Cam Newton and his running ability, something the Vikings tend to have issues with. Minnesota will be recovering after a long trip to England and back. The Panthers take this game behind the run-stuffing ability of Jon Beason and Luke Kuechly.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Panthers 28
Week 7, Oct. 21: Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants: This is the start of a brutal stretch (on paper) for the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are notoriously bad on national television. That said, the Giants ranked 25th in the league is rush defense last season, meaning Adrian Peterson could have a big day against the Giants. In the end, the Giants' offensive attack will outlast the Vikings' rushing attack.
Prediction: Giants 31, Vikings 24
Week 8, Oct. 27: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: The last regular season game between the Packers and Vikings at the Metrodome will be rocking. Expect a similar atmosphere to the final game of the regular season last year.
Prediction: Vikings 34, Packers 28
Week 9, Nov. 3: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys: The Dallas Cowboys are poised to have a much better season this year. Linebacker Sean Lee is healthy again and the Cowboys' offense is equipped with an aerial attack the Vikings will struggle against.
Prediction: Cowboys 35, Vikings 27
Week 10, Nov. 7: Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings: Another prime time game against a mobile quarterback equates to major problems for the Vikings in recent history. The Vikings will be coming off a short week as they try to contain Robert Griffin III and the Redskins. The last Thursday night game was a disaster for the Vikings, and that trend could easily continue.
Prediction: Redskins 31, Vikings 20
Week 11, Nov. 17: Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks: Will Percy Harvin be healthy by Week 11 to face the Vikings? Either way, the Vikings are going to have a huge challenge trying to beat the Seahawks, a potential Super Bowl team, on the road. The shutdown secondary will create nightmares for Christian Ponder, if he is still the quarterback at his point, and Adrian Peterson can't match the Seahawks' offense.
Prediction: Seahawks 38, Vikings 23
Week 12, Nov. 24: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers: The Vikings have struggled in recent years at Lambeau Field. After the Vikings beat the Packers earlier in the year, the Packers even the season series at one game apiece.
Prediction: Packers 31, Vikings 20
Week 13, Dec. 1: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: Jay Cutler is 1-2 against the Vikings at the Metrodome in his career. The Vikings will look to win the battle of the trenches and dominate the Bears' revamped offensive line as the Vikings sweep the season series against the Bears.
Prediction: Vikings 28, Bears 20
Week 14, Dec. 8: Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens: The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens will be a tough task for the Vikings, but without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Vikings can win this game. The Ravens will be utilizing Ray Rice and Torrey Smith to keep the Vikings guessing on defense, but Adrian Peterson will help run the Vikings to a Blair Walsh game-winning field goal.
Prediction: Vikings 23, Ravens 20
Week 15, Dec. 15: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings: It's hard to guess who will be the starting quarterback for the Eagles at this point in the season, but that shouldn't matter too much. The last meeting between the two teams was a Tuesday night game in which the Vikings, led by Joe Webb at quarterback, defeated Michael Vick and the Eagles 24-14.
Prediction: Vikings 27, Eagles 20
Week 16, Dec. 22: Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are poised to make the playoffs in the 2013 season led by A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. The Bengals also added James Harrison to an already improved defense. The Vikings will have to go on the road in what could be a must-win game.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Vikings 17
Week 17, Dec. 29: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: This game could have a similar implications to the Vikings vs. Packers final regular season game from last season. With the crowds pumped in what could be the final game at the Metrodome, the Vikings come out on top.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Lions 23
Dennis Parsons is a Minnesota-area sportswriter covering the Minnesota Vikings for Vikings Central. He previously covered all Minnesota professional sports teams for Minnesota Sports News Nightly. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @Parsons_VC.
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