For those of you that missed it. . .and, seriously, shame on you if you missed it. . .the 2017 schedule for the Minnesota Vikings (and 31 other less important NFL teams) was released at 7:00 PM Central time. That means it’s been out for a couple of hours, so this is a perfect time to break things down a little bit.
This season, the Vikings are only going to have three games in “prime time,” and only one of those will come after Week 5. They’ll start the season on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints, marking the first time they’ve opened the season at home since 2012 (and only the third time since 2006). Their other prime time game in the first half of the season will be in Week 5 at their personal house of horrors, Soldier Field in Chicago, when they play the Bears on Monday Night Football.
The only currently scheduled prime time contest for the purple in the second half of the season is at the tail end of the year. In Week 16, when they will face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field for Sunday Night Football (which will actually take place on a Saturday, but it will probably be called “Sunday Night Football: Saturday Edition” because branding and such). The Vikings currently are not scheduled for a game on Thursday Night Football, as the only Thursday game they’re scheduled for this season is their second consecutive trip to Detroit for Thanksgiving. This will mark the first time the Vikings have played on Turkey Day in consecutive years since 1987 (when they played the Dallas Cowboys) and 1988 (when they played Detroit).
The Vikings’ schedule looks to be very favorable early on. Five of their first eight games are at the friendly confines of U.S. Bank Stadium, and one of the three road games before the bye is their trip to take on the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium in London, England. The bye comes at just the right time, in my opinion, right at the season’s halfway point. . .and the Vikings are going to need it, because the second half of the schedule is markedly tougher than the first.
The roughest part of the schedule, as far as I can see, comes from Weeks 11 through 14. The Vikings will take on a Los Angeles Rams team that should be improved in Week 11, and will then embark on a three-game road trip that will take them to Detroit for Thanksgiving (on short rest), then to the home of the defending NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons, and finally to Carolina to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers. Thankfully, the Vikings will get a bit of a “mini-bye” between the Detroit and Atlanta games, which can only help them.
Of the Vikings’ eight home games this season, only two will be against teams that made the playoffs in 2016. . .their division rivals from Green Bay and Detroit. All-in-all, the Vikings only have six games against playoff teams from last year (the Packers x2, the Lions x2, the Steelers, and the Falcons). Based on the way things stand right now, they are tied for the 27th-toughest schedule in the league. Of course, basing this sort of thing off of last year’s records is a bit of a fool’s errand, particularly since we haven’t even reached Draft Weekend yet. But, at least by that metric, this year’s schedule isn’t that intimidating. Not on paper, anyway.
Mike Zimmer is going to get a crack at his former team late in the season as well. In Week 15, the Vikings’ return to U.S. Bank Stadium after the aforementioned three-game road trip, the Vikings will host the Cincinnati Bengals. The last time these two teams met in 2013, Zimmer was running the defense for Marvin Lewis, and the Bengals were putting up 40+ points on a terrible Minnesota defense. I have a feeling that things might be a little different this time around. I hope so, anyway.
Finally, for the third time in four years, the Vikings will conclude the season by hosting the Chicago Bears. One of these days, the NFL is going to strike fear into the hearts of all Vikings fans by making them play Week 17 in Chicago. . .since the format with division rivals facing off in Week 17 came about, the Vikings have hosted all three of their NFC North rivals and played road games in both Detroit and Green Bay, but have not yet had to play the last game of the season at Soldier Field. That’s a bit surprising, I think.
That’s a quick look at the Minnesota Vikings’ 2017 schedule, folks. How favorably or unfavorably do you think it breaks down for our favorite football team?