“Things would have to go very poorly for the Vikings in the first half of the season in order for us to feel fully eliminated from the playoffs heading into week 10. Of the last seven games of the season, five of those will be played against divisional opponents. Beating our NFC North foes is the best way to climb into playoff contention, so hope is likely to cling for quite some time this season.”

A very wise blogger wrote that paragraph back in April when the 2012 schedule was announced.  A very foolish blogger, however, forgot to heed his own warning and tossed the idea of a “rebuilding team” aside and fully embraced the idea that this Vikings team was (cliché alert!) “for real.”

It was far too easy to get swept away by the Vikings success after putting the week two loss to Indy in the rear view mirror and placing that unexpected beat down of the Niners on the forefront of our minds.

Say what you will about strength of schedule analysis and how inaccurate such thinking is, but there is no doubt that the Vikings were able to take advantage of a weak schedule early on, struggled against tougher opponents of late, and have yet to face their toughest opponents.

It duped some of us, including me.

The early success of the Vikings has created confusing feelings and opinions amongst the fanbase, as the team suddenly went from “project” to “contender” and are well on their way to being labeled “pretenders.”

The Vikings themselves are partially to blame, as their job is to sell their product, and they had no problems pointing out their successes on the field in order to generate some excitement.

The truth, as we have found out here lately, is that this team never actually became anything other than a project.  In the end, their win total is only going to be a gauge to measure how far this project has to go before they can legitimately be considered a contender.

Am I throwing in the towel?  Absolutley not.

I will still cheer and shout, curse and yell, as my team suits up on future Sundays.  However, I have had to give myself the reality check that many Vikings need and remind myself that this is a young team, with plenty of positives to point out, that is still in the process of growing into what will one day be a consistently dominant force.

Luckily for us Vikings fans, our expectations are now so low that they don’t really need to be managed, and Leslie Frazier’s team can really only overachieve from here on out in the eyes of their most critical observers.