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Updated: June 28th, 2014 3:59pm
Zulgad: Dire predictions for Vikings' finish in 2014 are best ignored

Zulgad: Dire predictions for Vikings' finish in 2014 are best ignored

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The lesson was learned in 2012. It hasn't been forgotten.

The Vikings were coming off a 3-13 finish in 2011 and it did not appear that enough improvement had been made to make them much better team the following season.

Thus, the prediction from this end, if memory serves, was for the rebuilding Vikings to again be near the bottom of the NFL and finish at 4-12.

There were two major flaws with this thought process.

One, the NFL standings are almost impossible to predict because every year a few teams you think are going to be really good will be disappointments and a few teams that you think will be really bad turn around things.

This leads to the second point. There is really no such thing as a rebuild in the NFL, unless you are a team that can never get it right. But that means you are spinning your wheels on a yearly basis more than you are building anything.

The Vikings haven't been one of those teams. They proved that in 2012.

Despite returning Christian Ponder as their quarterback, the Vikings went 10-6 as Adrian Peterson rebounded from knee surgery to rush for more than 2,000 yards. The Vikings finished second in the NFC North and lost to division champion Green Bay Packers in the opening round of the playoffs.

So things were looking up for Leslie Frazier's team, right?

Nope.

Last season, the Vikings, and Ponder, took a big step backward and went 5-10-1. That finish cost Frazier his job and led to general manager Rick Spielman hiring Mike Zimmer as his coach and making several moves with the roster.

Despite the changes, at least two national publications aren't optimistic about the Vikings' chances in 2014.

The Sporting News preview has the Packers winning the NFC North followed by the Bears, Lions and Vikings. Minnesota is 28th in the power rankings, ahead of only Jacksonville, Tennessee, Cleveland and Oakland.

Athlon magazine has the same order for the NFC North as The Sporting News.

Given that these previews are worked on in the spring and published more than a month before training camps open, it's not a surprise the Vikings were picked to remain in the cellar.

But if you think about it, given how much things change in the NFL, being safe with the majority of your preseason picks lacks creativity and almost certainly dooms you to be wrong.

Let's make one thing clear: This in no way means that I think the Vikings are headed to the Super Bowl or will even make the playoffs.

But are they destined to finish last in the NFC North? Absolutely not.

Not with all the changes made on what turned out to be an extremely disappointing defense and the fact that a long-time and well-respected defensive coordinator is now running the show.

One has to think the Vikings are going to get better quarterback play, whether that comes from Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater, and the offensive line also should be more consistent. Then there's the expectation that offensive coordinator Norv Turner is going to find far more ways to use his skill-position players than Bill Musgrave did.

It's impossible to know how Zimmer and Turner's schemes are going to work in their first season in Minnesota but, in this case, I can't endorse the predictions that this will be another lost season for the Vikings.

As was learned here a few years ago, making that type of assumption early in the summer can be very dangerous. 

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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