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Vikings' 2016 Schedule Not Projected To Be As Strong As 2015

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We know that a lot will change between now and the start of the 2016 NFL season, but at first blush the Minnesota Vikings' schedule for the upcoming season is not nearly as strong as their schedule from this past season.

Based on the 2015 records of their 2016 opponents, the Vikings have the 18th-toughest schedule in the National Football League next season. Their opponents had a combined record of 125-131 next season, or a .488 winning percentage.

The Vikings will have just six games in 2016 against teams that had winning records in 2015. They will play four different division winners in the Carolina Panthers (15-1), the Arizona Cardinals (13-3), the Washington Redskins (9-7), and the Houston Texans (9-7). They also have two games against the Green Bay Packers (10-6), and those six games are the only games they have against teams that had winning records in 2015.

The Vikings' remaining schedule in 2016 will feature two games against the Detroit Lions (7-9), two games against the Chicago Bears (6-10), contests against NFC East opponents Philadelphia (7-9), the New York Football Giants (6-10), and Dallas (4-12), as well as inter-conference match-ups with the Indianapolis Colts (8-8), Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11), and Tennessee Titans (3-13).

The other teams in the NFC North are all projected to have weaker schedules than the Vikings are. The Detroit Lions are tied for the 27th-toughest schedule in the NFL (119-137, .465), while the Chicago Bears are tied for the 30th-toughest (118-138, .461). Finally, as a reward for finishing second to the Vikings in the NFC North, the Packers are currently projected to have the NFL's weakest schedule (117-139, .457). As the article from Vikings.com points out, that's largely the result of the Vikings getting to play the Panthers and Cardinals next season (combined 2015 record: 28-4) as opposed to getting to play the Falcons and Seahawks (combined 2015 record: 18-14).

The two teams that are tied for the toughest schedule in the NFL next season, at this point, are the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers (142-114, .555).

Going into last season, the four NFC North teams were ranked from 12th to 15th on the strength of schedule list, with the Vikings projected to have the hardest 2015 schedule and the Lions projected to have the weakest.

While the Vikings' 2016 schedule looks significantly weaker than their 2015 schedule, it's tough to read too much into it at this point. There are going to be surprise teams and disappointing teams every season, and we don't know which teams will fall into which category at this point. However, with the way the Vikings have positioned themselves at this point, it's hard to imagine them not being among the NFL's best teams next season, regardless of who they line up against on a weekly basis.