Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule Analysis

The Athlon staff breaks down each and every schedule for the 2012 NFL season.

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Minnesota Vikings 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Jacksonville
Week 2: at Indianapolis
Week 3: San Francisco
Week 4: at Detroit
Week 5: Tennessee
Week 6: at Washington
Week 7: Arizona
Week 8: Tampa Bay (Thur.)
Week 9: at Seattle
Week 10: Detroit
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at Chicago
Week 13: at Green Bay
Week 14: Chicago
Week 15: at St. Louis
Week 16: at Houston
Week 17: Green Bay

- Vikings fans should have plenty to cheer about in the first two weeks of the season. Opening with games against Jacksonville at home and on the road against the Colts provides Minnesota with a chance to start 2-0. The Jags defense will test Adrian Peterson’s reconstructed knee but Blaine Gabbert hardly scares anyone in purple. And rookie Andrew Luck will be making his first home start of his career while the Colts' defense won’t put up much of a fight against All-Day. Both are winnable and if the Vikes want to improve on their three wins from 2011, starting with at least one win will be key.

- Playing the NFC West is a blessing as well. With Arizona (Week 7), at Seattle (Week 9) and at St. Louis (Week 15) offering three of the few chances for the Vikings to get wins in 2012. Obviously, the home test against the Niners will be a tall order for Christian Ponder and company. The road trip to the Rams couldn’t come at a better time, either, as the last six games of the Vikings' 2012 slate is going to be downright vicious.

- That is because the Purple People Eaters will have to face Chicago twice, Green Bay twice and Houston in five of their final six games (Rams). And four of those six games will come on the road. Certainly, the Vikes play much better against the NFC North at home, but it is hard to see anything but 1-5 for Minnesota over the final month and a half.

- The NFC North might be the best division in the NFL and not getting to face the Vikings — because they ARE the Vikings — makes getting wins that much more difficult. Five of the final seven games will come within the division and all six division games could come against playoff teams. At one point, the horned warriors from the Twin Cities will face four straight NFC North teams (Week 10 to Week 14), including road trips to Soldier and Lambeau Field. Finishing the season with Green Bay at home following a road trip to Houston is about as tough a finish as there is in the NFL.

- As tough as the end of the schedule looks, the heart of 2012 could offer a few chances at victory. Following two tough bouts with the 49ers and Lions in Week 3 and 4, the Vikes play five straight teams that did not make the playoff last fall. All five could be improved but if Leslie Frazier expects to show improvement, his squad will have to make waves in the middle of the year.

- Additionally, should the Vikings improve on their three-win season a year ago, it is likely to assume a win or two in the pair of floating NFC games. Minnesota will face two “last-place teams” in Washington (road) and Tampa Bay (home) this fall. These have to be looked at as opportunities. 

Fantasy Focus: All eyes will undoubtedly be on Adrian Peterson at the start of this season as the Vikings' All-Pro running back will be returning from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 16 last season. Peterson promises he will be ready to go Week 1, but even if he is able to make it back to the field, fantasy owners need to be patient with him. Besides coming back from a serious knee injury that required extensive surgery and rehabilitation, the schedule is filled with some potentially tough match ups for Peterson and his backup, Toby Gerhart. Yes, the Vikings have Tampa Bay, who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs in 2011, along with Indianapolis (3rd-most) and Tennessee (6th), among their first eight games of the season. However, they also have San Francisco, who allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2011, in Week 3. Jacksonville, who Minnesota opens the 2012 season against, allowed the 10th-fewest, and Arizona (11th-fewest), Detroit (13th) and Washington (14th) also ranked among the top 16 stingiest teams in that respect.

- by Braden Gall

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2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

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