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What is the pivotal stretch of the upcoming season for the Vikings?

What is this year’s make it or break it stretch?

TJ Hockenson rambles through the pitiful bears’ defense during the regular season finale.
John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A few weeks ago we at Daily Norseman published our annual “Way too early” season prediction, and now, we’ll continue our schedule analysis by looking at what is shaping up to be the most crucial 4-game stretch of the year for the Minnesota Vikings.

As a refresher, here is the schedule:

Week 1 vs Tampa Bay, Week 2 @ Philadelphia, Week 3 vs San Diego, Week 4 @ Carolina, Week 5 vs Kansas City, Week 6 @ Chicago, Week 7 vs San Fransisco, Week 8 @ Green Bay, Week 9 @ Atlanta, Week 10 vs New Orleans, Week 11 @ Denver, Week 12 vs Chicago, BYE, Week 14 @ Las Vegas, Week 15 @ Cincinnati, Week 16 vs Detroit, Week 17 vs Green Bay, and Week 18 @ Detroit.

In the previously mentioned “Way too early” piece, I predicted a 10-7 season with a wildcard birth with losses to Philly, Carolina, Kansas City, LV, Cincinnati, and Detroit x2.

This Vikings’ schedule looks to take the identity of a good film or book: All the action is at the beginning and the end, with the end of the middle section of the schedule dedicated to honing identity. Will these be the Vikings that drop a predicted “gimme” game? This is where we find out).

Regardless of what their record will end up being this upcoming season, I would be shocked if the Vikings don’t determine their postseason chances closer toward the end of the season.

With that in mind, the obvious choice is the final 4-game stretch, 3 of which games come against division rivals, and the other against AFC opposition that lies in a somewhat similar spot to the Vikings in their conference.

Is there another stretch in the Vikings’ schedule that will be more crucial, even considering that the stakes at that time will be less clear?

Weeks 2 through 5 (Eagles, Chargers, Panthers, Chiefs) seem to be the toughest stretch of the year going by the strength of the opposition teams, but I wouldn’t call it the most crucial as there are no division opponents.

The Week 5-8 (two divisional games) stretch seems to offer the most balance of tough opposition and divisional implications.

And, of course, we have the final 4 games of the season, in which the Vikings will know what they will have to do to extend their season.

Importantly, the 4 (or maybe even 6) weeks prior to the final stretch seem to be the easiest out of the schedule, where the Vikings might be able to pull some starters late if they jump out to some (not exactly unreasonable to predict) big leads against a low level of competition.

To sum that all up: The toughest stretch could be weeks 2-5, the most interesting stretch weeks 5-8, and the most dramatic weeks 15-18.

With how close the division title will be this year, I’ll argue that while a tight determination, it will all come down to the last 4 games of the schedule, just because half of the Purple and Gold’s inter-divisional play will occur in the last 3 weeks.

What do you guys think?