The schedule: The '72 Vikings had a tougher schedule than '71. They lost their first two home games to Washington and Miami, the Super Bowl participants that year. The '18 Vikings play both of last year's Super Bowl teams on the road.

Injuries: Injuries contributed to the '72 defense finishing 11th in points allowed after leading the league three consecutive years. Last year's top-ranked Vikings defense had only two starters miss a total of three starts because of injuries.

Finish games: The '72 team started 2-4, but the four losses were by a combined 10 points. Of their seven losses, five were by three points or fewer. They lost to Miami by two points and Washington by three.

Avoid costly turnovers, Kirk: There's no doubt Fran Tarkenton solved the Vikings' quarterback needs when he returned in '72. But he made more mistakes than he would later on. In the team's seven losses, he threw 11 picks.

Mark Craig