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Minnesota Vikings’ schedule will be dramatically different in 2016

The Vikings had a rough second half of the 2015 schedule, but next year’s schedule is shaping up to be padded with the struggling teams of 2015.

Things can change pretty dramatically in the NFL, but one thing the Vikings and the other teams in the NFC North are going to have going for them in 2016 is that, if things hold true from this season, there is going to be a lot of gravy on next year’s schedule.

Typically, people don’t focus on the schedule for the following season until the year ends, but it’s a formula that any idiot can figure out. Read on we’ll prove that.

Long before a season starts and, with the symmetrical style of a 32-team league, teams know all but two teams that they are going to face the following year. They play six games within your division. They play four teams from one division in their own conference. They play four games against teams from the other conference.

That’s 14 games that can be somewhat projected out 10 years from now. Teams play a division from their own conference every three years. They play a division from the other conference every four years and the cycle continues.

Whether it’s the planets aligning or just dumb luck, as things currently stand the Vikings will play a minimum of 12 games against teams that currently have losing records.

Thanks the cyclical nature of the schedule, the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the NFC North are going to play the four teams from the NFC East and the AFC South. In both divisions, all four of the teams currently have losing records. That makes up half of the Vikings’ 2016 schedule.

The only difference between the Vikings and Packers’ schedules next season will be the two games that aren’t decided until the end of the season.

The NFC North champion is going to draw the Arizona Cardinals to a certainty of about 90 percent. The NFC North champ is guaranteed to face Carolina next year. That fact was known about a month ago.

The second-place team ends up with a 13th game against a team currently with a losing record. Thanks to Tampa Bay and Atlanta both losing Sunday, they are both 6-7 and one of them is going to finish second. Their losses gave the Vikings and Packers more breathing room as they push for the playoffs. The other opponent for the runner-up in the NFC North is Seattle, three games behind Arizona with three to go. Long odds indeed, but the Cards close out the season with Green Bay and Seattle, so beating Philadelphia on Sunday takes added importance for the Cardinals.

The Vikings’ focus, as it should be, is centered around the Chicago Bears. The Vikings will have them at home with added rest – one of the few perks of Thursday games.

But for those with a forward glance to the big picture in 2016, as the Vikings move into their new stadium next season, in all likelihood they will be coming in with a young core of in-house talent with enough cap space to bring in a few veteran mercenaries and a draft that can help stock the shelves as well.

Regardless of how the 2015 season ends, you can bet that there is going to be a ton of excitement and momentum following the Vikings to Mankato in Mike Zimmer’s third year. The X-Factor that nobody is talking about now, but everyone will be on Jan. 4 when the 2016 schedules become official, the Vikings are going to be going up against a bunch of teams that would rather forget their 2015 seasons because they lost more than they won.

The Vikings are building their own history right now and setting the groundwork for a run at a Super Bowl. Whether that happens this year or not will play out over the next several weeks, but it’s heartening to know that the building blocks being put in place for a continued rise could be largely helped by playing a bunch of teams that are currently finding it easier to lose than to win.

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