Look forward: Conducive schedule ahead?

As a last-place team in the division, the Vikings' opponents for next year aren't quite as intimidating as this year. We look at that and the bad-weather possibilities (away from home, which will be TCF Bank Stadium).

Much of the discussion this week will be centered on the ending of an era at the Metrodome. It will be focused on looking back, not looking ahead.

As contrarians are wont to do, it's time to look forward to 2014 and the short-term relationship the Vikings will have with TCF Bank Stadium. The 2014 schedule won't be officially released until mid-April prior to the 2014 draft, but we do know who the Vikings will play and where.

The only potential the Vikings have to take advantage of an opponent less familiar with cold weather is in the off-chance the Vikings will get their homes games in December against Atlanta or Carolina.

Due to the uniform scheduling part of the NFL with 32 teams, fans can project who will play and when in perpetuity. The only question marks for 2014 these: who were the corresponding finishers going to be in the two divisions within the conference that teams play. The Vikings, clearly, will finish last in the NFC North. The opponents are done. The dates just need to be filled in.

Here is your 2014 opponent list:

HOME GAMES – Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, Carolina, Washington, New England, New York Jets.

ROAD GAMES – Chicago, Green Bay, Detroit, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Buffalo, Miami.

What makes this schedule look a lot different is that, when the 2013 schedule became apparent about a year ago at this time, fans were shaking their heads. The NFC East is always tough and the AFC North is old school and abusive. The list of projected starting quarterbacks the Vikings were going to face was an oppressive onslaught of talent.

Next year, the Vikings will draw the Panthers and Redskins. They played both this year and have played the Redskins each of the last three years. The familiarity the organization has with those teams will be a plus.

As far as the road games go, the prospect for bad weather is also limited outside of what is expected from Chicago and Green Bay. Buffalo is always dicey, because it could be played in lake effect snow, but could also be played on a Thursday night in Toronto – don't be stunned by that prospect. Make the bet. You'll get long odds for a short-odds prop.

Perhaps the biggest thing to be taken from the 2014 opponents is that there are only three playoff-caliber teams on the non-division slate – New England, Carolina and New Orleans. Two of those three are at home.

A year ago, when VU analyzed the schedule of opponents, a cold ball of sweat developed. It wasn't clairvoyance. It was having eyes and knowing the teams that were coming. The first look at this schedule says that, if the Vikings are building to something bigger, this is a schedule conducive to getting good things done. They're not heading into the Legion of Doom of road stadiums. There aren't going to be many playoff teams on the schedule.

One thing's for certain. The Vikings are going to see a lot more pocket passers next year.

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.

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