Fan view: Lulled to sleep?

The Vikings looked like one of the best teams in the league early in the season, but did their level of competition lull them – and their fans – into thinking it would all be that easy?

The Vikings had a few difficult games while forging a 7-1 record at mid-season. They had two wins against the arch-rival Packers and also split tough games with AFC teams Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Vikings won some easy road games, beating Cleveland and Detroit to start the season and later beat St. Louis.

At 7-1, the Vikes got their bye week and prepared for an easy stretch of home games. Three straight games against inferior opponents Detroit, Seattle and Chicago ran their record to 10-1. None of the games were competitive.

At 10-1, football analysts spoke at length about Brett Favre's MVP candidacy and his mastery of the offense and how the Vikes were too balanced to defend; the early-season issues of failing to put bad teams away was solved. The pass defense looked better than it had early in the season. All was good in Valhalla.

Heading into the game at Arizona on Dec. 6, some analysts predicted the Vikings would go into Arizona and win easily. Not so fast. The Cardinals exposed the Vikings secondary and offensive lines as being below average and trounced the Vikes. Injuries in that game also weakened the team for the stretch run. Where the Vikes had been very fortunate in the early part of the season, suddenly they are hurting at several key positions. Losses on the road against losing teams in Carolina and Chicago in recent weeks have shown that the Vikes don't play well on grass.

The overall softness of the Vikings' schedule and the extended home streak in November may have caused this team to be overconfident and overrated. They've looked unprepared, unmotivated and outcoached in recent weeks, playing well less than half of the time while losing three out of four games. It was never going to be easy to go deep in the playoffs, and the Vikes may have had it too easy for too long.

Can they right the ship? Or will this season go down as another late-season collapse for the Vikes? Maybe the early-season lesson will pay off in the playoffs, or maybe they have been exposed. We won't know for sure for a few more weeks.

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