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Start will be key for Vikings

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By PFW staff

The Vikings have a chance to jump out to a strong start in 2012, as they have just three games vs. ’11 playoff opponents before their Week 11 bye.

The slate starts out vs. the Jaguars at home and with what could be Andrew Luck's Indianapolis debut in Week Two. Those teams combined to go 7-25 a year ago, and are both teams Minnesota could beat if QB Christian Ponder takes the next step in his development. The Vikings have started 0-2 each of the past two years, so a strong start would be a nice change for the franchise.

Matchups with two of last year’s playoff squads come next. Minnesota hosts the 49ers in Week Three and goes to Detroit in Week Four. Both are sure to be tough games, as both foes have strong defenses.

The Titans, Redskins, Cardinals and Buccaneers are the next four games on the slate, and all four games should be competitive. Of the four, only Washington is on the road, and the game vs. Tampa Bay is on Thursday night — the only primetime game on the Vikings’ schedule. Before the bye, Leslie Frazier’s team goes to Seattle and faces the Lions again.

Things get much tougher at the end of the season. Four of the team’s final six games are on the road, and the stretch also includes all four intradivisional meetings with the Bears and Packers. Also mixed in are visits to the Rams and another playoff team from a year ago, the Texans.

The PFW Spin

The Vikings' chances of a playoff trip appear slim. However if the team can get off to a strong start behind an improved Ponder, and if RB Adrian Peterson is healthy after suffering an ACL tear in December, anything is possible. Having  all the games vs. Chicago and Green Bay late in the season may be a good thing if the Vikings are chasing those teams in the NFC North. However it may be bad if both those teams are strong.

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