The Vikings are not better than their record
Often a bad or mediocre team will still have one thing that it is very good at. Maybe it's a good run defense. Maybe it's good special teams. It's something that isn't enough to win a ton of games, but it's something you can at least look at and say there, there's a part of the game at which this team performs at a high level.
Tell me what aspect of football the Vikings are good at right now.
The Vikes have a great field goal kicker, and they have gotten a good number of turnovers. But the offensive line has not blocked well for the run or the pass. They haven't been able to run the ball. They don't pass with big plays or efficiency. They don't finish drives with touchdowns well (Darren explored this earlier in the week: the Vikes are terrible at throwing TDs to WRs). They might be able to stop the run, but they're not exceptional at it anymore. They don't rush the passer (if you weren't looking for him, you didn't see Jared Allen last week. If you were looking for him, he was hard to see engulfed entirely underneath Joe Thomas). They don't defend the short passes well at all. They give up a lot of long passes. They give up too many special teams yards and have given up some killer special teams fakes. And they aren't being well-coached: they show little creativity or flexibility in scheme, and they make many questionable decisions.
It's not just that the Vikes don't have a unit performing well; they don't have a unit performing well in any aspect of the game.
If Christian Ponder were being evaluated by any standard other than "We sunk a first round pick on him," he wouldn't be starting for the Vikings right now--he's never done anything to actually justify starting other than being a first round pick. But again, this isn't a Super Bowl contender held back by Ponder. Matt Cassel would help (Ponder can't get the ball to WRs; Cassel hasn't been great, but he did once throw 15 TDs to a WR in one season. This really happened!), but when you can't identify a strength of this team on offense or defense, it will take more than a journeyman to turn this around (Gus Frerotte isn't walking through that door! And if he did, these aren't the 2008 Vikes, a team with a dominating pass rush and dominating run game). They don't stop the run, rush the passer, stop the short pass, stop the long pass, run, pass short, pass long, or stop people on special teams. They can't do anything! They're either average or clearly terrible at just about every aspect of football right now.
It means little that the Vikings could have won either or both of their last two games, that they held the lead very late in the fourth quarter. If you've been watching the NFL for years, you know that every week there are lots of games that end within one score of going the other way, that there are many games that come down to one late score, that there are many games that end dramatically. That's the NFL: several teams aren't that far away from each other, and they often play each other close. If the Vikes lose those close games due to coaching errors, due to defensive collapses, due to the inability of an offense to finish drives, that is an indication of their badness, not an indication that they're almost good.
And the schedule is not favorable. Settle in, Viking fans.
When you look at the 0-3 Steelers, there are a lot of reasons to think that they are way better than the 0-3 Vikings. You see some of the same familiar faces wearing the same familiar logos and think they're a good team. They might not be. The average Steeler loss this season is with a 25.3-14.0 score; the average Viking loss this season is with a 32-27 score. The Bear team that beat us by one point at Soldier Field went to Pittsburgh and beat them by 17. The matchups might be favorable, too: teams have killed the Vikings with passes to TEs and RBs this year (in their three games, TEs/RBs are averaging 14 catches for 162.3 yards against the Vikes), but those sorts of passes aren't really the Steelers' game (Steeler TEs/RBs are averaging 68 receiving yards per game). Football Outsiders' DVOA says the Steelers are just a little better than the Vikes.
The key for both teams will be pressure on the quarterback. The Viking defensive line has not been rushing the quarterback very well, but pass protection is not a strong point of the Steelers, either. If Ben Roethlisberger is given time to find open receivers downfield, he will; if the Vikings are pressuring him so he doesn't have time, or making him pay for holding the ball too long (Roethlisberger takes sacks like it's fun), the Vikes have a shot. And if Dick Lebeau's defense is able to put pressure on a bad QB for whom you can apply any of the adjectives typically applied to a bad QB, the Steelers will make the Vikings look very bad. If both teams get that pressure, it will be low scoring and likely turnover filled. If one team gets pressure and the other doesn't, it could be a commanding win. If neither team gets pressure? Ben Roethlisberger is more likely than Christian Ponder to perform well, and the Vikings probably lose.
Other Interesting Games
Week 4 Games
Chiefs-Giants. The Giants have become a weekly intrigue. I see Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin and you can't imagine this team is as bad as they've played, and so I expect them to eventually come around to play well, but what if they are just as bad as they've played, and that means they might continually, weekly, crash in spectacularly watchable fashion.
Colts-Jaguars. The Colts either just had a nice game against the 49ers, or they're building something worth watching. Remember when the Vikes beat the 49ers in Week 3 last season? It was both an indication that the Vikes could compete, but was also not indicative of the team much at all (they won behind solid quarterbacking but mediocre running).
Seahawks-Texans. How good are the Seahawks? This looks like a team that does everything well. I can't think of a single "If an opponent stops X, they're in trouble" or "Somebody is going to be able to exploit them with" scenario. It doesn't mean they can't be beat, of course, but that they don't have a clear weakness.
Bengals-Browns. After watching what Brian Hoyer, Jordan Cameron, and Josh Gordon just did to the Viking defense, you can despair further about the Vikings by watching a good Bengal defense completely crush them. The signs for Hoyer's problems were there last week: he threw interceptions when he didn't see a defender who wasn't covering the "open" receiver but was close enough to take the ball. He'll probably keep doing that.
Bears-Lions. The winner sits atop the NFC North after a quarter of the season. Big-armed, slightly erratic QBs going against tough guy defenses. Viking fans, do you care who wins? I always...dislike the Packers, but when they aren't playing the Vikes, I sort of enjoy the Bears (Chicago is a tough guy town after all) and am indifferent to the Lions. Who's going to win this game? Don't caaaaare.
Jets-Titans. When I was a kid I loved the offenses and I loved the passing game. I still do, but there are so many proficient passing offenses today, that I really get a kick out of teams that are willing to grind it out with tough defense.
Eagles-Broncos. One team's stated philosophy is to run a lot of plays by limiting time in between plays. The other team runs an incredible no-huddle offense. There's not going to be a lot of waiting around for excitement here.
Dolphins-Saints. 3-0 v. 3-0 on Monday night! This is a chance for intrigue. I still don't believe in the Miami offense at all and still believe in the Miami defense quite a bit.