Every year the NFL schedule comes out and we make quick decisions on how a team's slate stacks up based primarily on how its opponents fared the previous season.
But as we know in the NFL, things change quickly. The Vikings are a prime example, having gone from 12-4 to 6-10 to 3-13 to 10-6 and now an 0-2 start in successive seasons.
Of that 0-2 start, it is tempting to think the sky is falling, or at least that the roof is drooping.
While the Vikings have had many flaws exposed already, there are some things that break more favorably in the weeks ahead than previously thought.
The Vikings should win their home opener Sunday against the woeful Browns, who have scored just 16 points total in their first two games.
The following week, they play the Steelers in London. Pittsburgh went 8-8 last season -- a tie for its worst record since 2003. The Steelers have been a rock, a model franchise. That is changing this year. They are flat-out awful, and they shouldn't be much better by Week 4.
That gives Minnesota prime chance to go into the bye week 2-2. Beyond that are five games that will make or break the season, many of which look more favorable after seeing their opponents play this season. The stretch goes:
Home against Carolina; at the Giants; home against the Packers; at Dallas; home against Washington.
If the Vikings play the way they did for most of the second half against the Bears, that can be a 4-1 stretch. Carolina is flawed. The Giants can't stop anybody. The Packers have the same strengths and weaknesses they had a year ago, when the Vikings beat them in Minnesota; Dallas continues to have multiple identities; and Washington is in a major funk.
At Seattle and at Green Bay follows, which is a brutal two-game stretch, increasingly lost season notwithstanding.
But the Bears, Ravens, Eagles, Bengals and Lions close things out, three of them at home (Bengals and Ravens away). Baltimore gave up 49 points in the opener to Denver. The Eagles are intriguing, but it's better to catch them late in the year with a chance to adjust to Chip Kelly's offense. The Bengals are solid, but not spectacular -- they are last year's Texans, beatable in any game but likely to win more than they lose. The Bears and Lions are flawed even though they have already beaten the Vikings. Home field should even those series out.
In short: We're still, overall, down on the Vikings. We think 6-7 wins is a very real possibility. But we like the way the schedule breaks from here on out much more than we did before the season started.