On Thursday night, the complete 2020 NFL schedule was announced. Now we know where and when the Minnesota Vikings will be playing during the upcoming season with 100% certainty. Yessir, all 16 games are completely set in stone. Not one thing could get in the way of thousands of fans packing stadiums across the country this Fall. Book all those flights and hotels now—here comes another completely normal season of NFL football!
OK, so there might be a bit of uncertainty surrounding the 2020 slate of games. For instance, we’re not sure whether the games will be actually be played, which has caused the league to explore lots of different contingency plans. If the games are played, we’re not sure how many fans will be allowed in the stadiums—if any. Everything surrounding sports is currently more up in the air than an errant Josh Freeman New York pass. Nobody knows for certain when and how the 2020 NFL season will unfold.
But if the league is willing to plow ahead and release the schedule as normal, then dammit, we’re going to predict the results of each and every game with the same abandon. For this exercise, let’s just pretend that the pandemic cloud of gloom isn’t hovering over everything. After all, we’re Vikings fans—we can produce enough gloom on our own!
For each game on the 2020 slate, I’ll give you reasons why the Vikings could be title contenders after vanquishing that week’s foe. I’ll also give reasons why the season could basically be over after grasping defeat from the jaws of victory in true Vikings fashion. There will be no room for any middle ground; either the Vikings are Super Bowl bound or the sky is falling each week. Just like Vikings Twitter!
Super Bowl, homie: The Vikings plow through the preseason 4-0. It looks like Gary Kubiak has made all the right tweaks to the offense. Most of the draft picks look like they’re going to make an immediate impact. The offensive line looks like it might not be the team’s Achilles heel for what seems like the tenth straight season.
Season’s over: Barring catastrophic injuries to key players, there is no huge downside here. Mike Zimmer has a sterling 20-5 career preseason record to uphold! Worst case, they go 3-1. With not one but two regular season opponents on the preseason slate this year, expect Zim to lay the smack down extra hard to set the tone. Also, expect your favorite sleeper pick to make the final roster to get cut the day after his amazing performance in the preseason finale.
Week 1 vs. Packers
Super Bowl, homie: The 2020 draft grades come to fruition right out of the gate. The Vikings dispatch the defending division champions at home with an insurgence of youth at key positions while Aaron Rodgers’ frustration with his lack of weapons spells trouble in Packerland throughout the season. The FOX cameras continuously cut to shots of Jordan Love on the sideline while the Green Bay offense sputters. The tone is officially set—the Vikings will be a force to be reckoned with for the 2020 NFC North title.
Season’s over: The game is played, but with no fans, which means negligible home field advantage. We get a repeat of the Week 16 embarrassment at U.S. Bank Stadium. Za’Darius Smith takes up residence in the Vikings backfield yet again and a woefully inexperienced secondary allows Rodgers to shred them to pieces. The Vikings are immediately behind the 8 ball in the division, and the Zimmer Even Year Curse is back in full force.
Week 2 at Colts
Super Bowl, homie: The Vikings see the exact same Philip Rivers they saw in Los Angeles last year: a well-past-his-prime turnover machine that can’t evade the pass rush because of the giant fork sticking out of his back. The Vikings leave Indianapolis with a comfortable win. Rumors start swirling that Rivers may retire early to start coaching high school football in Alabama.
Season’s over: Unlike last year with the Chargers, Rivers actually has an offensive line in Indy. Quenton Nelson and his cohorts keep the Minnesota pass rush at bay, allowing the veteran QB to find T.Y. Hilton for huge gains. DeForest Buckner annihilates the unsettled Vikings interior line just like he did with the 49ers. The Vikings drop their first of three straight inter-conference games. Serious doubts start seeping in about the competitiveness of Minnesota’s roster.
Week 3 vs Titans
Super Bowl, homie: Ryan Tannehill turns back into a pumpkin after his improbable 2019 run. The addition of Michael Pierce keeps Derrick Henry in check while Dalvin Cook grounds Tennessee’s defense to a pulp down the stretch. The Vikings get a big win against last year’s surprise AFC runner up.
Season’s over: Tannehill avoids becoming Case Keenum 2.0 and continues his great play. A.J. Brown and Corey Davis get open for big plays on the young Minnesota secondary to spot the Titans an early lead and Henry slams the door shut late. MyCole Pruitt scores a late touchdown just to rub salt in the wound.
Week 4 at Texans
Super Bowl, homie: Bill O’Brien the GM has finally sabotaged Bill O’Brien the coach beyond the point of no return. All the ill-advised trades have reduced Houston to a one-man show, and Deshaun Watson can’t do it all by himself. Zimmer’s defense is looking impressive with all the new pieces. Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson hook up several times to put the Vikings wide receiver on the map for rookie of the year talk.
Season’s over: Watson doesn’t have Nuk to throw to, but he’s still Deshaun Freaking Watson. The Texans quarterback pulls enough rabbits out of his hat to keep beating Minnesota’s defense while J.J. Watt proves that he’s all the way back from his injuries. David Johnson makes the trade with Arizona look a little less terrible and the Texans record their franchise’s first victory over the Vikings. Minnesota’s season is going in the same direction as the AFC division they just played for three straight weeks—South.
Week 5 at Seahawks
Super Bowl, homie: The Minnesota coaching staff figures out how to solve Seattle’s seemingly unbeatable strategy of putting an additional offensive lineman out there. Pete Carroll’s apparent disdain for modern analytics catches up with him and he insists on pounding the rock instead of letting Russell Wilson cook. The Vikings get over the Seattle hump by finally staying out of their own way and finishing off a winnable game against the Hawks.
Season’s over: C’mon. It’s Seattle. On the road. In a prime time game. We all know how this one ends. Even if the Vikings get off to an extremely promising start through the first four games, they’re still going to lose this one.
Week 6 vs. Falcons
Super Bowl, homie: The Vikings don’t need the crazy good start they had in the 2019 season opener to replicate the result. Adam Thielen has a huge game against Atlanta’s suspect secondary and they cruise to another stress-free home win over the Falcons. The Vikings head into their bye week feeling like a real NFC contender.
Season’s over: Grady Jarrett makes Garrett Bradbury’s life a living hell. Atlanta’s defense isn’t ravaged by injuries this time around, so Cousins & company can never get going. Julio Jones finally has a huge game against the Vikings—guess it was Xavier Rhodes all along! The demise of Todd Gurley proves to be exaggerated. Laquon Treadwell scores a touchdown, which leads to thousands of broken televisions across the state of Minnesota. The Vikings head into their bye week feeling like all hope is lost with ten games still to play.
Week 8 at Packers
Super Bowl, homie: The Vikings leap into Lambeau with tons of confidence and sweep the season series. The articles questioning a quarterback change in Green Bay become more abundant. For the first time in 2020, Vikings fans start cautiously daydreaming about possible playoff scenarios, because they seem to be in charge of the division.
Season’s over: Hey, guess what? It turns out that Rodgers is still good, and Cousins still stinks when he’s forced to improvise. And he’s forced to improvise a lot due to more shoddy pass protection. Just like the season itself, this game is out of hand by the halfway point and it doesn’t look like the Vikings will be able to recover.
Week 9 vs. Lions
Super Bowl, homie: The Lions remain the doormat of the NFC North as pundits wonder whether Matt Patricia will be the first coach fired this season. The Vikings take care of business with a tidy wire-to-wire home win over their division rivals.
Season’s over: Detroit is surprisingly frisky in 2020, led by Matthew Stafford’s Comeback Player of the Year campaign. Patricia finally has the roster pieces in place to mimic the defense he led in New England, and the Lions surprise the listless Vikings at US Bank Stadium. Instead of playoff prognostications, Vikings fans are wondering aloud whether #TankForTrevor is the best thing for the team going forward.
Week 10 at Bears
Super Bowl, homie: The Nick Foles Experiment turns out to be a lot more Jacksonville than Philadelphia, and Matt Nagy’s apparent play calling genius falters again. None of Chicago’s 14 tight ends make a difference and the Cousins mercifully gets off his Monday night schneid.
Season’s over: Vikings. Bears. Soldier Field. Monday night. Kirk Cousins. Mix those ingredients together, and what do you get? An absolute disaster, if history has taught us anything. Allen Robinson finally has his first competent quarterback, and he destroys the Vikings corners while the Bears defensive line destroys Cousins. The longstanding Monday nightmare continues.
Week 11 vs. Cowboys
Super Bowl, homie: In their 2019 matchup, Dak Prescott performed incredibly well but the Vikings were still able to steal a road victory. With the Cowboys quarterback’s contract situation a constant media distraction, the Vikings defend their home turf and continue their charge toward the postseason.
Season’s over: Jason Garrett proves to be the ultimate addition by subtraction. In 2019, Dallas had the pieces but couldn’t get out of their own way. In 2020, they’re steamrolling their way to an NFC East title while vomit-incuding “Is America’s Team Back?” articles pollute our Twitter timelines. The Vikings rebuilt defense is no match for the Cowboys’ high flying offense, and Dallas returns to Jerry’s World with an easy W.
Week 12 vs. Panthers
Super Bowl, homie: David Tepper’s scatterbrained approach to team building has yet to come to fruition. Christian McCaffrey is still putting up big numbers, but Carolina’s disappointing season has stoked the raging fire of the “running backs don’t matter” crowd. Cook fights back against the theory with a huge game against an unproven Panthers defense that’s still struggling to find their identity post-Luke Kuechly.
Season’s over: Teddy Bridgewater dominates in U.S. Bank Stadium, just like so many of us dreamed about before the 2016 season. Problem is, he’s doing it in the wrong uniform. Teddy soundly outplays Cousins, which sparks a months-long Vikings Twitter Civil War that ends in hundreds of thousands of
casualties blocks and unbearable comment threads.
Week 13 vs. Jaguars
Super Bowl, homie: Minshew Mania turns out to be the NFL’s version of Linsanity. The Jaguars are once again an also-ran. Rumors of a permanent move to London prove to be much more interesting than the actual game, in which Jacksonville never puts up much of a fight and the Vikings cruise to victory.
Season’s over: If it really comes to losing at home to Jacksonville late in the season...let’s just be glad that there isn’t relegation in the NFL.
Week 14 at Buccaneers
Super Bowl, homie: The party at Gronk Beach is already over in Tompa Bay. Father Time finally catches up with the goat, Rob Gronkowski can’t stay healthy, and the Bucs are sputtering to a forgettable .500 record with Tom Brady. With COVID-19 well in the rear view, Raymond James Stadium is packed with purple-clad fans taking a December sabbatical in sunny Tampa. After 20 years and six attempts, the Vikings finally beat Brady.
Season’s over: The new-look Bucs are actually living up to the hype while the Vikings are living up to our worst fears. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin run rampant against Minnesota’s corners while Gronk eats up every mismatch in the middle. Tampa Bay is storming toward an exciting playoff run and Minnesota is resigned to playing out the stretch. Brady improves to 6-0 all-time against the Vikings.
Week 15 vs. Bears
Super Bowl, homie: For the fifth straight season, the final home game of the year is against the Bears. Even if the Vikings take their traditional tumble in Chicago, they’re usually much better at home against their division rivals. If the season is going as well as we hoped for, this game could put the Bears down for hibernation and start to put the finishing touches on a Vikings playoff berth.
Season’s over: If everything goes sideways in 2020, this game could put the final nail in the coffin of the Zimmer and/or Rick Spielman regimes. The Vikings don’t lose to the Bears at home very often, but when they do it’s usually in excruciating fashion. Seeing Foles leave our stadium victorious would bring up way too many painful memories.
Week 16 at Saints
Super Bowl, homie: For whatever reason, the Vikings have specialized in handing the Saints heartbreaking losses in important games lately. Nothing would be sweeter than giving New Orleans a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings, especially with playoff seeding on the line. Another tough defeat at the hands of the Vikings has beat writers wondering whether Drew Brees’ legendary career will end with only one bounty-tainted Lombardi.
Season’s over: Revenge is a dish best served as an ass kicking. The Vikings ruin our Christmas with a pathetic performance and the Saints pummel them into submission. Instead of sugar plums, visions of obnoxious fans screaming “WHO DAT?!” in a Creole accent dance through our heads. To make things even worse, we have to endure a barrage of braggadocious Michael Thomas tweets for days after the game.
Week 17 at Lions
Super Bowl, homie: Even when wearing your most purple-tinted glasses, it’s hard to imagine the Vikings resting starters with only one team in the stacked NFC earning a first-round bye this year. Instead, this game serves as a final tuneup before what we hope is a deep playoff run. We’re totally ready to be hurt again. Nothing can go wrong this time!
Season’s over: Zimmer’s tenure in Minnesota ends with a thud in Detroit. Despite winning 60% of his games through his first six seasons, he doesn’t survive Black Monday. Wholesale changes throughout the team are abound as the team goes into a full rebuild. Except of course with Cousins, who’s owed roughly eleventy billion dollars guaranteed over the next two years with a salary cap severely shrunk by COVID. The Vikings are doomed to toil in cap purgatory for most of the decade before they can even think about righting the ship.
So there you have it. The Vikings are going to be either a bona fide title contender or complete dumpster fire.
Or, maybe somewhere in between.
Actually, somewhere in between is much more likely.
There are a lot of questions on a lot of different levels that must be answered before we have a good idea of how the 2020 Vikings season might go. But to me, my gut reaction immediately after the draft and schedule announcement tells me that this iteration will be somewhere around the 9-7 range, perhaps fighting for the first-ever 7 seed in the NFC.
No matter where you happen to fall on the scale of optimism regarding the 2020 Vikings, there’s one thing we can all agree upon: we’re hoping like hell that we get as much NFL football as possible this Fall.
Stay safe, everyone. Skol.