[Note: This is the continuation of a series where I attempt (that word is extra important) to make predictions regarding the Minnesota Vikings 2012 season. The previous two iterations (Part One and Part Two) take an in-depth look at the Vikings first half of the regular season. Today, we move onward to the third quarter of the schedule.]

Since the 2012 schedule was released, I’ve maintained that the Vikings, in my opinion, have an incredibly favorable schedule. There was a caveat though: the daunting string of games where we play division opponent after division rival after division opponent. This series of games will be the Vikings true test of the 2012 season and will ultimately determine where they stand when all is said and done Week 16.

This intimidating chain of games though doesn’t really begin until Week 12 when the Vikings travel to Soldier Field to square off with the Bears. Positive matchups in Weeks 9 and 10 (followed by a bye in Week 11) are crucial for the Vikings to get ahead far enough to brace themselves for the following brutal, division battles.

So without further delay, let’s look at Week 9 when the Vikings face off with the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

Week 9: @ Seattle

There are tons of story lines for this game: Will Tarvaris Jackson still be the starting quarterback after the addition of Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson during the offseason? If so, how will he perform against his old team? Will ex-Vikings receiver Sidney Rice scorch the Vikings young secondary? Will the Vikings new tight end John Carlson show-off for his previous employers? Will Harrison Smith be juked by TJ’s infamous jump pass?

Interesting storylines aside, I expect both the Vikings and Seahawks to perform well and for this to be a close game… Maybe falling on the shoulders of rookie kicker Blair Walsh. Why do I say that? Well, I think the Vikings and the Seahawks are very similar teams who will be at somewhat of a stalemate against each other. The Seahawks have a sleeper defense, a strong rusher in Marshawn Lynch, an unproven quarterback(s), a weak receiving core, etc… etc… See the resemblance?

If Tarvaris Jackson is the starter when we play the Seahawks in Seattle, I think the Vikings win this game.

If someone other than TJ is throwing the rock, I’m not so sure. Just too hard to say not knowing what Matt Flynn can bring to the table.

Vikings win taking another step in the right direction as smiles start to make their way back on to the faces of fans across Minnesota. (For now.)

(6-3)

Week 10: Detroit

I don’t care how much people think the Vikings suck or how great the Lions are perceived to be –  this is a division matchup. Any Sunday it can go either way. Now, there used to be an exception to that rule and, coincidentally, it was when we played Detroit. No more though are the days of the Lions being a door mat.

It will be interesting to see how the Vikings raw secondary does against one of the most prolific passing games in the NFL. The Lions were 4th in the NFL last year in passing yards and through an astonishing 666 passes last year. Calvin Johnson is coming off a humongous contract extension as well as being featured on the cover of this year’s new Madden so his performance this season will be intriguing.

I’m going to give the Vikings the advantage in this game as we have the benefit of being in the Metrodome. Despite the Lions ridiculous defensive line, they still have issues stopping the run and I expect Peterson to be back to full speed at this point and really terrorizing defenses. Furthermore, the Lions defense as a whole struggled last year and I think are offense will be really starting to click by this point in the season.

Another Vikings win. Is this real? No, it is not. (Darn!)

(7-3)

Week 11: Bye

Great spot for a bye week. The Vikings are feeling really good about their performance so far this season. They have time to stop, recoup and get their minds straight before heading into that nightmarish train of grueling games.

I know what you’re thinking… especially if you’re not a homer Vikings fan: “This guy is high! Seriously?! 7-3? Right…”

But I whole-heartedly believe that with the Vikings schedule, such a good record at this point is not completely out of the question.

Either way, don’t worry, the Vikings are coming back down to Earth shortly.

Week 12: @ Chicago

Well, here we go. It starts off with a game in late-November at Soldier Field. How fun!

As an Architect, I have dreams about going to Chicago and getting to experience all the architecture the historic city has to offer. As a Vikings fan, I have nightmares about going to Chicago and playing games outdoors in the frigid air.

The Vikings track record over the last 11 seasons against the Bears at Soldier Field is not a good one having only won one contest since 2001. (Although, I would like to point out that the one game we did win was a glorious one where Adrian Peterson absolutely demolished the Bears defense in 2007.)

It is just incredibly difficult for us to win in the Windy city.

While the Bears offensive line still remains a glaring weak spot and I expect the Vikings defensive line to put a whooping on Jay Cutler, I think the Bears leave this game victorious.

Vikings Lose

(7-4)

Week 13: @ Green Bay

I’m not going to say it’s hopeless… But it is definitely not pretty. And that is something I absolutely despise saying when it comes to games against our cheese head friends.

The Packers put a ton of effort through the draft into upgrading their defense. While I do expect it will pay off, I don’t think it will be immediately. Or even make that big of a difference this season. Their defensive line will definitely be improved with the addition of Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy but their secondary still remains vulnerable.

The Packers defense ranked last in the NFL last year in total yards allowed and passing yards allowed. Not trying to make any particular point there, it just makes me feel better about the fact that we’ll very likely lose this game.

Vikings Lose Again.

(7-5)

Almost There!

There are four more games left to address. And while the Vikings are still in a pretty good position at 7-5, they have some rough games in the fourth quarter of the season. Will the Vikings have a decent enough record to potentially make the playoffs? Will they finish the season above .500?

We’ll answer these questions next time. Until then, share your own predictions and opinions in the comments below.