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Updated: September 20th, 2013 5:20pm
Zulgad: Schedule offers huge breaks next few weeks for winless Vikings

Zulgad: Schedule offers huge breaks next few weeks for winless Vikings

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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The Cleveland Browns' decision to bail on the 2013 season could not have come at a better time for the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings opened the season with back-to-back road losses to Detroit and Chicago and there were some indications this week of growing tension at Winter Park.

In other words, the Browns will be welcomed with open arms this weekend at the Metrodome.

While the Vikings might be winless, there remains a feeling that mistakes can be corrected.

The Browns also are winless, but their optimism seems to reside in the fact that they have a chance to lose as many games as possible this season, setting up a favorable draft position, and accumulate picks at a rapid rate.

Long term, it's not the worst strategy, but the Browns sent this message to their players on Wednesday: Why don't you go ahead and call it a season.

Now, four days after No. 3 quarterback Brian Hoyer was told he would start over backup Jason Campbell and running back Trent Richardson, the third pick in the 2012 draft, was dealt to Indianapolis, Cleveland will serve as the Vikings' opponent for their home opener.

The Browns have a good defense, but how motivated do you suppose players are going to be at this point? Richardson was a face of this franchise and yet the new power structure in Cleveland thought so little of him that he was jettisoned two games into his second year.

With starting quarterback Brandon Weeden out for Sunday's game because of a sprained right thumb, it came as a surprise initially that coach Rob Chudzinski announced he would start Hoyer over Campbell.

Hoyer has started one game in four-plus NFL seasons; Campbell has 71 starts in eight-plus seasons.

Once Richardson was traded later in the day, the Browns' plan became clear. Just lose, baby.

That means the Vikings have been given a game that they shouldn't be able to toss away no matter how they perform.

This also will start a favorable run of games for a Vikings team that finished 10-6 last season and was hoping for better things this year.

Leslie Frazier's club will have no excuses if it doesn't enter its bye week with a 2-2 record. That's because after playing the Browns, the Vikings will travel to London to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The initial thought was the Vikings had made a major blunder by giving up a home game to appease the NFL and play a tough opponent overseas.

There was only one problem with that assumption. These aren't the typical Pittsburgh Steelers. Not even close.

They have injury issues, are getting old and have no real playmakers. Anyone who watched the Steelers drop to 0-2 with a loss Monday night in Cincinnati realizes the Vikings should end up having a grand time in Jolly Old England.

Coming out of the off week, the Vikings will play host to Carolina before traveling to New Jersey to play the Giants. Both those teams also are off to 0-2 starts.

That means at this point the Vikings are set to face four teams that, like Minnesota, have yet to win a game this season. At least three wins in this four-game stretch seems very reasonable. If that doesn't happen, that growing tension that was felt around Winter Park might turn into some real finger pointing.    

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
In this story: Leslie Frazier
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