Vikings open Power Rankings in 26th place

MINNEAPOLIS -- Coming off a 5-10-1 season, with a new coach, a well-traveled quarterback and a revamped defense, the Minnesota Vikings weren't likely to generate much preseason buzz. They've largely been picked to finish last in the NFC North in national preseason publications, ranked in the bottom third of the league in most power polls and given an over-under of six wins by the Las Vegas Hotel.

The first edition of ESPN's NFL Power Rankings isn't much kinder to the Vikings. They open the season ranked 26th in our poll, behind every other team in the NFC and eight spots behind the next team in the NFC North (the Detroit Lions).

I've heard from a number of Vikings fans who feel the team isn't getting enough attention for its efforts to upgrade the defense under new coach Mike Zimmer, its weapons on offense and its 4-0 preseason. Those are valid reasons for optimism, and the Vikings might provide more of them if they can weather a tough early schedule (for the record, I've got them going 7-9). In a national sense, though, the burden of proof is still on the Vikings to show they're deserving of more attention. Until then, gloomy preseason predictions are unfortunately part of the business -- and if the Vikings become a surprise playoff team, like they did two years ago, you'll all have plenty of fodder for I-told-you so speeches.