The Vikings have been forced to go on the road more than their fair share in prime time and it hasn't been favorable to them. See the numbers that show the damage, and also the stats to compare the Vikings and Bears.
When the NFL releases its schedule, one of the fun aspects for fans is finding out when your favorite team is going to play in prime time. Whether it's Monday night, Sunday night, Thursday night or Thanksgiving Day, being the focus of national football attention is something fans look embrace.
Last Monday night's game in Detroit showed how much the NFL national spotlight can invigorate an entire city/region. It had been a decade since the bright lights came to Detroit Rock City and the fans responded like it was a holiday.
Unlike the Lions, the Vikings have been a popular target team for a prime time game (or two or three) consistently. The Vikings had a whopping six prime-time games in 2010 – at New Orleans on a Thursday, at Green Bay on a Sunday, at the New York Jets, a home game vs. the Giants at Detroit and a home game vs. Chicago played outside and, thanks to Chicken Little snow apocalypse forecasts in Philly, the first Tuesday night NFL game since World War II. But, in what has become an increasing trend, when the sun goes down and NFL fans tune in to the only show in town, the Vikings are consistently on the road.
It's hard to remember the days when decibel meters became cliché in terms of describing the noise level in the Metrodome. It became its own mini-myth/mini-legend. Perhaps the networks don't like the sparks that fly when they plug into the antiquated facilities at the Metrodome and therefore the Vikings have been forced to be prime time road warriors, whether by coincidence or intentionally.
The Vikings had six prime-time games (only four of them scheduled) last year because there was little to no doubt that following his epic 2009 season, Brett Favre couldn't walk away from the game. He could smell the Super Bowl over the jambalaya in New Orleans and had some unfinished business. Although he spoke in generalities, the NFL knew he was coming back, but they were going to make him go on the road. Three of the four Vikings prime-timers were scheduled for road games.
In 2009, the Vikings went 12-4. Three of their losses came in three road games in prime time. Any time other than Sunday or Monday night, the Vikings were 12-1 (13-1 if you count the Dallas playoff win). When they played deep into prime time, they were 1-3 (1-4 if you count New Orleans) – the prime-time home game against the Packers shattered records for viewership. But almost every time a national audience saw the Vikings, it was on the road.
The team played three prime time games in 2008 – two on the road. The Vikings are scheduled for two prime time games this year and, you guessed it, both are on the road – at Chicago tonight and at Green Bay following the bye Nov. 14.
If you include the two games on this year's prime-time schedule, since 2008 the Vikings will have played 13 games in prime time – only two of those at the Metrodome. Two have been at neutral sites (Ford Field and TCF Bank Stadium) and nine have been on the road. The Vikings are 2-7 in those nine road games.
As much as teams talk about the home-field advantage, it would seem the NFL has something in for the Vikings. Either that or, like just about everybody else, they don't want to watch a football game in the Metrodome anymore.
VIKINGS-BEARS BY THE NUMBER
The Vikings have the 24th-ranked offense (3rd rushing, 31st passing) and the 14th-ranked defense (tied for 4th rushing, 25th passing).
The only team with fewer passing yards than the Vikings is Jacksonville.
The Bears have the 23rd-ranked offense (21st rushing, 23rd passing) and the 29th-ranked defense (28th rushing, 27th passing).
The Vikings offense is averaging 316 yards a game (160 rushing, 158 passing). The Bears are averaging 318 yards a game (217 passing, 101 rushing).
Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 348 yards a game (272 passing, 76 rushing). The Bears are allowing 420 yards a game (284 passing, 136 rushing).
So much for the importance of the giveaway/takeaway numbers. The Vikings and Bears are both tied for sixth at plus-3. The Vikings have seven takeaways and four giveaways, while the Bears have eight takeaways and five giveaways.
The Bears are 23rd in the league in rushing yards, but are fifth in the league in average per carry at 4.7 yards. The Vikings in third in yards and rushing average (5.4 yards per carry).
The Vikings have struggled on third downs, but nothing like the Chicago offense. The Vikings offense is 19th in third-down conversions at 35 percent (21 of 60), but the Bears are 30th, converting just 18 of 63 opportunities (28.6 percent). The league average of third-down conversions is 39 percent.
Defensively, the Vikings have allowed teams to convert on 45.3 percent of their chances (34 of 75), well above the league average of 39 percent. The Bears are better than the league average, allowing opponents to convert 24 of 66 third downs (36.4 percent).
Both teams have proved dangerous on punt returns. The Vikings are fifth in the NFL in punt-return average (15.2 yards), while the Bears are second (18.2 yards).
The Bears are last in the league in run defense, allowing 5.7 yards per opponent rushing attempt. The Vikings are fifth, allowing just 3.3 yards per rush.
The Bears defense ranks 28th in the league in sacks per pass attempt, a stat the Bears historically have been among the league leaders in.
The Bears are tied for 13th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 50 percent of their red zone possessions (six touchdowns in 12 possessions). The Vikings are 17th, scoring touchdowns on 47.4 percent of their red zone possessions (nine of 19).
Defensively, the Vikings are second in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just six of 18 possessions (33.3 percent). The Bears are tied for 14th at 50 percent, allowing TDs on nine of 18 red zone possessions.
In a record-setting year for passing yards, Donovan McNabb has yet to have a 300-yard game as a Viking. Jay Cutler has had two. Both teams have allowed two 300-yard passers through five games.
The Vikings haven't had a 100-yard receiving day and the only Bear to have one is running back Matt Forte. The Bears have allowed four 100-yard receivers and the Vikings have allowed three.
Both Forte and Adrian Peterson have two 100-yard rushing games. The Vikings haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher. The Bears have allowed two 100-yard games.
McNabb is near the bottom of every passer ranking. While he is 20th in passer rating, 28th in attempts, 27th in completions, 27th in completion percentage, 29th in yards and 27th in touchdown passes.
McNabb is rated 18th in fourth-quarter passing, with a passer rating of 79.0. Jay Cutler is 29th with a passer rating of 63.9.
Cutler is more efficient on third downs than McNabb, but neither has lit up the town. Cutler ranks 21st with a third-down passer rating of 74.4. McNabb is brutal at No. 30 with a passer rating of 55.6.
Peterson is second in the league in rushing with 498 yards, just 21 behind league leader Darren McFadden of the Raiders. Forte is sixth with 440 yards.
Peterson is tied for the league lead in third-and-1 rushing conversions, making good on all four of his opportunities.
Forte is seventh in the league in receptions with 30. Michael Jenkins leads the Vikings with 20 receptions, which ties him for 43rd place in the league.
Forte leads the Bears in receiving yards with 345, which is 21st in the league. Percy Harvin leads the Vikings with 183 yards, which is 86th in the league.
Peterson is tied for third in the league in scoring among non-kickers with six touchdowns, trailing only Detroit's Calvin Johnson (nine TDs) and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy (seven).
Robbie Gould is tied for 12th place in scoring among kickers with 43 points. Ryan Longwell is tied for 14th with 39 points.
Gould is tied for eighth in touchbacks with 16. Longwell is tied for 27th with seven touchbacks.
Forte leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 785 (440 rushing, 345 receiving). Peterson is ninth with 547 yards (498 rushing, 49 receiving).
Marcus Sherels is third in the NFL in punt return average at 15.2 yards per return. Devin Hester is averaging more than 20 yards per return but, because teams so rarely allow him to run back punts, he hasn't had enough returns to qualify.
Hester is 17th in kickoff returns, averaging 23.4 yards per return. Lorenzo Booker is eighth with a 27.6-yard average. Harvin is averaging more than 35 yards per return, but, like Hester in punt return average, hasn't brought back enough to qualify on the leaderboard.
Jared Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 8.5. Brian Robison is tied for ninth with 4.5 sacks.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.