As the Vikings officially begin their preparation for the 2015 season with the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. this week, they do so knowing that their slate of opponents in 2015 is going to have an inordinate scheduling advantage against them – depending on how the 2015 schedule is laid out when it is announced in April.
It might not necessarily be that the Vikings play a specific team, it may be when they play them that is important.
Just about any Vikings fan can attest that teams that faced Teddy Bridgewater in October and November didn’t see the same quarterback they saw in December. Teams that faced the Vikings defense in September saw a much different group the second half of the season.
It took time for the Vikings to catch onto the schemes that Mike Zimmer brought to the defense and Norv Turner brought to the offense. By the time they fully “got it” they were in a hole too deep to dig out of for playoff consideration.
The slate of teams they’re going to face in 2015 are going to be – to differing degrees – in the same boat as the Vikings were in 2014.
Of the 16 games the Vikings will play this coming season, six of them are going to be against teams with first-year head coaches.
It wasn’t any surprise that Oakland and Atlanta fired their coaches, but there weren’t that many as late as early December that could have envisioned that Denver, San Francisco and Chicago would find themselves in similar situations.
But, given the current lay of the land, the Vikings will play two games against John Fox (Chicago’s new head coach), as well as games against Gary Kubiak (Denver), Jack Del Rio (Oakland), Jim Tomsula (San Francisco) and a coach to be named later in Atlanta.
That’s a lot of new systems and a lot of new terminology players are going to have to learn. Granted, if Peyton Manning is back, Kubiak takes the same deferential treatment he always did with G.M. John Elway during their playing career. But, even so, there are changes coming in Denver and they make take time to bud out from the seed.
Like the Vikings last year, all of these teams will get an extra two weeks of OTA work, which, given the veterans on all of those teams, could be critical to getting a new regime hitting the ground running. With the exception of the Raiders, the other first-year coach teams have been to the playoffs with the majority of the current roster. This year’s firings weren’t the standard scouring of the bottom of the NFL bucket. There were some heavy hitters that went out of the coaching ranks on Black Monday and beyond.
As Vikings opponents learned, the deeper they got into the 2014 season the Vikings they saw early weren’t the Vikings they saw late. Maybe the NFL schedule-makers will show mercy on the Vikings and give them most of their year-one regimes early on in the 2105 schedule.
As we’ve already learned, any first year for a coaching staff is going to be a grind and 2015 may be an exception to that rule. The Vikings will face a lot of quality teams in 2015, but it’s how the schedule rolls sometimes that makes the biggest difference.
If the Vikings can catch a solid percentage of the new-look teams when leaves are struggling to stay green, the 2015 season could get interesting. If they catch them late, as Vikings opponents learned as the year went on, it could be a very different story.
Vikings face 6 games with first-year coaches
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