But two games into it, Minnesota appears to be on the verge of a mid-season collapse that soon could leave Brad Childress' team playing for next year. The Vikings latest setback was a 23-17 defeat against the visiting Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
That left Minnesota with a three-game losing streak and tied with Green Bay at 4-5 in the NFC North. "You can say that we've still got seven games to go," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "But you could (also) say that, looking at our schedule, these are games that we should have won."
It is now obvious the Vikings can no longer count on victories against foes that not long ago they might have considered inferior. Next up is a meeting Sunday with Miami (3-6) at Dolphin Stadium; the Dolphins are coming off a three-point victory over Kansas City and two weeks ago beat the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears.
While the Vikings continue to struggle to put together a consistent offensive attack, a new concern has crept up. This one involves the defense. Opponents — realizing that trying to run against a defensive line that includes tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams is for the most part futile — are now picking on a pass defense that is proving to be suspect.
On Sunday, Packers quarterback Brett Favre passed for 347 yards and two touchdowns. This came two games after New England's Tom Brady passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots' 31-7 victory over the Vikings at the Metrodome.
"When you play against quarterbacks like Favre and Brady you have to be on your ‘A' game, period," safety Dwight Smith said. "They are going to find any weakness. You get what I mean? If you are out of position two or three yards, they are going to exploit. Us as a defense, especially us on the back end, we have got to look at ourselves. Up front they are going above and beyond their duty."
But that wasn't necessarily all together true against the Packers. The Vikings gave up only 47 rushing yards, but their pass rush did not get a sack for the first time since the season opener at Washington.
It didn't help matters in the secondary that veteran cornerback Fred Smoot did not play in Sunday's game because of a family tragedy. That meant rookie Cedric Griffin had to start in Smoot's place and Ronyell Whitaker was forced back into the nickel role after being benched from that assignment the week before at San Francisco.
Safety Darren Sharper called the pass coverage "terrible," and said the Vikings, "didn't make plays." The Vikings entered Sunday with the sixth-ranked defense in the NFL but that was largely based on having the NFL's top run defense. The pass defense was 18th.
It's nearly certain the latter number will have dropped after Packers receiver Donald Driver had 191 yards receiving, including an 82 yards catch and run for a touchdown, on six catches. "We don't think we should allow any receiver to go for over 100 yards," said Sharper, a former teammate of Driver's in Green Bay. "But he made plays and we didn't. That's what it came down to."
The Vikings season likely will come down to their ability to get things turned around in a hurry.