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Updated: April 17th, 2012 8:25pm
Zulgad: Early forecast of schedule calls for more tough times in 2012

Zulgad: Early forecast of schedule calls for more tough times in 2012

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by Judd Zulgad

The Vikings will attempt to rebound from a 3-13 season by playing a 2012 schedule that includes six games against four teams that made the playoffs in 2011 and they will finish with four of their final six on the road.

That's some of the bad news.

However, the Vikings open at home against a Jacksonville Jaguars club that went 5-11 last year, and then hit the road the following week to face an Indianapolis Colts team that was 2-14 in 2011.

Granted the Vikings will be going against quarterback Andrew Luck, who is expected to be the first-overall pick in this month's draft by Indianapolis, but it certainly seems within reason that they could win one of those first two games.

Things get tougher after that in September with games against 2011 playoff teams in San Francisco and Detroit. The reality is that with the Vikings in rebuilding mode, it's hard to find many victories on this schedule.

Here's a game-by-game look at the Vikings' schedule for the upcoming season. (Nice work by the Vikings' public relations department to provide much of nuts-and-bolts information. The analysis is all me.)

Sept. 9 vs. Jacksonville: The Vikings are 17-7 all-time when opening the season at home and starting with a victory over the Jaguars and new coach Mike Mularkey seems very possible. The Vikings, who lead the Jaguars 3-1 in the series, haven't opened at home since 2007 when they beat the Atlanta Falcons. This game will feature Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert, two quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2011 draft. The Jaguars did sign former Miami Dolphins starter Chad Henne this offseason, but he's expected to be Gabbert's backup. Gabbert was taken 10th overall and Ponder went 12th. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings win, 1-0

Sept. 16 at Indianapolis: Luck is expected to make his home debut as he takes over for Peyton Manning. No pressure there. It will be the Vikings' first-ever regular season trip to Lucas Oil Stadium and the visiting team will be looking for its first win in that city. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 1-1

Sept. 23 vs. San Francisco: Randy Moss returns to the Metrodome for the first time since he was released shortly into his second stint with the franchise. This should be fun. The Vikings will be looking to extend their four-game winning streak against the 49ers at home. San Francisco, which lost to the New York Giants in the NFC title game, hasn't won in Minnesota since 1992. Sorry folks, but that streak ends. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 1-2

Sept. 30 at Detroit: The Vikings are 30-20-1 all-time against the Lions in Detroit and have won 15 of their past 18 road games in this series. The only problem is the Lions used to stink. They don't anymore. This time it's the Vikings that are trying to retool. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 1-3

Oct. 7 vs. Tennessee: This will mark just the 12th game between the Vikings and a franchise that spent many years in Houston before moving to Tennessee. The Titans played at the Metrodome in 2001 and 2004, with the Vikings winning both of those games. Titans quarterback Jake Locker was the eighth-overall pick in 2011. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 1-4

Oct. 14 at Washington: The Vikings and coach Leslie Frazier have won two games in a row in FedEx Field - Frazier's first victory after replacing Brad Childress came in this stadium -- but this also is the place where Adrian Peterson tore up his knee last December so not all the memories are good. Will the Vikings' extend their streak to three victories in three seasons in Landover, Md.? Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 1-5

Oct. 21 vs. Arizona: The Cardinals haven't won in Minnesota since 1977 when the franchise was based in St. Louis and the Vikings played at Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings' winning streak at home against the Cardinals is at six games. By the way, if it seems like the Vikings and Cardinals play each other a lot, that is the case. They have met every season since 2008. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings win, 2-5

Oct. 25 vs. Tampa Bay: The Vikings will host their first Thursday night game since the 2000 season. They are 5-6 all-time on Thursday nights and lost, 14-9, at New Orleans in the 2010 NFL season opener. The Buccaneers are coming off a 4-12 finish and are now coached by Greg Schiano, who had been at Rutgers. One of the Bucs' 2011 victories occurred in Week 2 against the Vikings at the Metrodome; Tampa Bay trailed 17-0 at halftime before rallying for a 24-20 victory. Will the Vikings get their revenge? Zulgad's prediction: Vikings win, 3-5

Nov. 4 at Seattle: The Vikings cruised to a 31-13 victory over the Seahawks in Seattle under first-year coach Brad Childress in 2006. Who will be the Seahawks' quarterback in this game? Will it be former Viking Tarvaris Jackson or newcomer and former Green Bay Packer Matt Flynn. Considering Flynn received a three-year, $26 million contract that includes $10 million in guarantees it's a safe bet Flynn will be under center. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 3-6

Nov. 11 vs. Detroit: Remember what we said about the Lions being bad for a long time but that no longer being the case. Well, the Vikings have lost only one home game to Detroit since 1998 - that happened last season -- and are 36-13 at home all-time against the Lions. History is a great thing but sometimes it means nothing. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 3-7

Nov. 25 at Chicago: This comes after the Vikings' bye week and is their first meeting of the season against either the Packers or the Bears. The Vikings haven't won at Soldier Field since 2007, when Ryan Longwell's 55-yard field goal lifted them to a 34-31 victory. It's a bit difficult to be optimistic that streak is going to end in 2012 against a Bears team that should have Jay Cutler throwing passes to Brandon Marshall. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 3-8

Dec. 2 at Green Bay: The Packers have taken a 53-48-1 lead in this series and these teams will be meeting twice in December for the first time. Back-to-back games against the Bears and Packers doesn't figure to be easy, especially when you follow the Cutler-Marshall combination with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his many receiving options. The Vikings will be looking to win at Lambeau Field for the first time since Brett Favre beat his former team in 2009. Hard to believe it will happen. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 3-9

Dec. 9 vs. Chicago: The Vikings are 31-21 at home against the Bears and will be trying to earn their fourth win in the past six games against Chicago at the Metrodome. Here's a question for the league? I know they like late-season divisional games, but why have the Vikings playing the Bears, Packers and Bears again? Wouldn't it make more sense to put the Vikings in Chicago or Green Bay earlier in the season when the weather conditions are better? Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 3-10

Dec. 16 at St. Louis: Back in 2009, when Favre was playing at a near MVP level and the Vikings were cruising to a 12-4 regular season and an appearance in the NFC title game, the Vikings defeated the Rams, 38-10, at the Edward Jones Dome. Sigh. It seems like a long, long time ago. The Rams, like the Vikings, were terrible in 2011, going 2-14. However, Jeff Fisher has taken over in St. Louis and is a quality coach. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings win, 4-10

Dec. 23 at Houston: The Vikings are 2-0 all-time against the Texans and won 34-28 in overtime at Houston in 2004. That was two years after Houston came into the league. The Texans won the AFC South with a 10-6 record in 2011. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 4-11

Dec. 30 vs. Green Bay: This will be the fifth time these teams have met in the season finale and the first time since 1996. The key here is what will this game mean to the Packers? Who knows how much success Green Bay will have, but if they are in control of the NFC North at this point do they start resting players? This is difficult one to call but let's assume for now both teams use their top-line guys the entire game. Zulgad's prediction: Vikings lose, 4-12

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 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