We’re about two months away from the official start of the 2012 season. The Vikings will travel all the way to San Francisco to face off with the 49ers to kick-off their preseason schedule. I’m considering preseason the “official start” of football because I’m desperate for things to begin and don’t want to admit that the real start probably isn’t actually until a month later when the regular season commences.

With football right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to start making some predictions about the 2012 season. Who will win key battles, what players will have breakout years, what games we will win and lose, what our record will be, etc… So today, I’m going to kick off this series by looking at the first quarter of the 2012 season and making a win/loss prediction for each game.

Dislaimer: Don’t put too much weight in these predictions. My ‘predictions’ in the past have, let’s just say, not always been spot on. Just ask anyone that was around here for our draft coverage and live draft chat – I was off on just about everything. It’s also still really early. We don’t even have a final roster set in place yet. Nevertheless, making these types of predictions are fun for everyone and typically start good conversation.

Also, on a side note, I want to sincerely apologize for not being around much lately. All I can say is that sometimes the “real world” can just get in the way. More specifically, the wife and I just purchased our first home. Between dealing with the builder, lendor and actually doing the moving, things have been very busy to say the least. We’re settled in to our new place now though and I plan on picking up my contributions around here more again. It should be said that Adam has done an awesome job of keeping fresh new content up during a time where there really isn’t much (Post-draft/Pre-season).

Alright, so back on topic. Join me after the jump to dive right in to the Vikings 2012 season.

No one needs to be reminded that the Vikings had a pretty bad 2011 season. It was one of the worst in Vikings history. With 13 losses and only three wins, the whole thing was just really difficult to watch. If you’re like me, though, you had this feeling the entire time that, “this team is better than this.” Maybe it’s the fact that we’re all just homers and love to believe our favorite team is better than they actually are. The refusal to accept things as they are and admit that we’re simply just not good.

I don’t think that was it, though. (Exactly what a homer would say.) There were times last year where the Vikings looked pretty good. Looked like they could hang with the best of them. Only four games were lost by more than a touchdown – two of which were division games. That’s not bad in our tough division and with a relatively difficult schedule overall. Especially when you consider the team was being lead by a rookie quarterback, who had no offseason to learn, dealing with injuries. On top of that, our star running back was unavailable at times as well.

I guess my point is that, although last season shows up really bad on paper, I don’t think we are in as dismal a position as many think. While this team is young and in “rebuilding” mode, there is still tons of talent. And because of the Vikings horrible record last year, we were able to have an excellent draft and add some great new talent at positions of need.

In my opinion, one of the biggest things in our favor for the 2012 season is our very favorable schedule. I saw a stat from a similar article to this one on Bleacher Report that states the Vikings have the eighth hardest schedule in the league this year. “Their opponents have a combined 131-125 record from last season…”

Once you remove our division opponents though, which I believe can always go either way, you’re left with some match-ups that could easily go in our favor. Yes we are in a tough division, but I refuse to believe that we will not win one of those six games. Division match-ups are almost always close. Of the six division games last year, only two were decided by more than six points. (Of course, it should be noted that if we end up having a fantastic season this year, I will declare it was on top of the fact that we had the eighth hardest schedule in the NFL!)

So, with all that being said, let’s look at the games in the first quarter of the Vikings season and predict where we’ll be come week 5.

Week 1 – Jacksonville at Minnesota

We cannot lose this game. Period. End of story.

Losing this game, at home, against a struggling Jacksonville team could really set the tone for another bad season.

The Jaguars finished the 2011 season with a record of 5-11. Their offense struggled to produce and Blaine Gabbert made Christian Ponder look like he was an NFL veteran.

As it is the first game of the season, I expect both teams will be raw and make a few mistakes, but I still see the Vikings walking away from this one with the first win of the year.

And, mind you, this is without Adrian Peterson. For the purpose of these predictions, I am going to assume he’ll be back after the first quarter of the season. I believe he could probably play by game 1 because Peterson is an alien, but the Vikings will give Toby Gerhart the nod for a few games just to play it safe.

1-0 (Undefeated!)

Week 2 – Minnesota at Indianapolis

The Vikings and the Colts have only faced five times since the Colts relocated to Indianapolis and have won the latest three of those meetings.

In only the second week of the season, one of the major story lines will undoubtedly be how Andrew Luck is fairing at the helm of the Colts offense. I think it’s fortunate that the Vikings match against the rookie QB is very early in the season before he’s found his bearings.

The Colts were horrendous last year. And it is highly unlikely that the addition of a rookie quarterback is going to change that right away, especially early in the season, regardless of how good Luck is believed to be.

Our defensive line will cause nightmares for the young quarterback and I see the Vikings walking away with another win here.

2-0 (Still undefeated!)

Week 3 – San Francisco at Minnesota

I think everyone remembers the last time the Vikings and 49ers played each other. It was a magical game with a phenomenal ending.

I wouldn’t expect it to be so magical this time.

The Niners are the team we aspire to be this year. In 2010, they had a losing record of 6-10 and fired head coach Mike Singletary. The next year they managed to go 13-3 and are expected by most to be major contenders for the Lombardi Trophy in 2012. If the Vikings can even come close to resembling that type of rebound, the season should be considered a success.

While I don’t think the Vikings will be blown out here because I think they match-up well against the Niners, I highly doubt we walk away from this one with a “W”. In the end, I think the 49ers relentless defense and new, dangerous receiving core (now touting every Vikings fans favorite receiver – Randy Moss) will be too much for the Vikes to handle.

First loss of the season.

2-1

Week 4 – Minnesota at Detroit

I may be alone in this, but the Lions still don’t really scare me. I don’t know what it is. I guess after years and years of looking past them, they still haven’t managed to stand out to me as a team the Vikings should be intimidated by.

With that being said, I think this game, although very close will be the Vikings second straight loss of the season.

If the game is in Minnesota, I think we have a good chance of walking away with a win. But, in Detroit, I think the Lions high-powered offense will be too much for the Vikings new, young secondary to handle.

It’s okay, we’ll see them again in a month or two – and I expect the outcome to be different the second time around once Adrian Peterson is healthy and ready to go.

2-2

Check back!

Make sure to check back soon for predictions on the next four games. The second quarter of the season has some very favorable games for the Vikings and I predict by the halfway mark we’ll be above .500 (gasp!).

For the time being, share your opinion on the above predictions and make predictions of your own in the comments.