Home prime time games become a theme for 2016 Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings will be prime-time players, having been assigned four prime time games -- three of them showcasing U.S. Bank Stadium.

U.S. Bank Stadium will make its regular-season debut against the most familiar of foes in prime time, as the Minnesota Vikings open the home portion of their 2016 season schedule in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers.

The one aspect of the Vikings schedule that stands out at first glance is that the NFL is impressed with the team, giving it five stand-alone games – four in prime time and one on Thanksgiving Day at Detroit.

In recent years, the Vikings have been in prime time several times, but between the lack of sustained success, the limitations of the Metrodome – which nobody in the league was proud of – and limitations placed on the Vikings by the University of Minnesota during their brief tenancy at TCF Bank Stadium, on those occasions when the Vikings were scheduled for prime time, the games were typically on the road.

This time around, three of the Vikings four prime-time game will be at the new Bank, U.S. Bank Stadium, including their first two.

The Vikings’ home schedule starts in Week 2 against the Packers on Sunday Night Football on NBC and they follow that up Week 4 at home against the New York Giants – on Monday Night Football on ESPN.

The Vikings will also have prime-time games when they play at Chicago Halloween night to close out Week 8 on Monday Night Football, and will play Dallas on Thursday Night Football on NBC and NFL Network.

It seems clear that the Vikings are a team of interest to the NFL, especially after being flexed into prime time their last two games last year, which could again be a possibility late in the season with their final three games against Indianapolis, Green Bay and Chicago, which would add to their total of stand-alone games as the only show in town from a minimum of five and possibly higher.

Last season, the Vikings were scheduled for just two games in prime time – the Week 1 Monday night game at San Francisco and a Week 14 Thursday night game at Arizona. They were kept off the Sunday night schedule, which has become the gold standard of matchups among teams expected to be in playoff contention. With two Monday night, one Sunday night and one Thursday night game on the schedule, the country will get plenty of opportunities to see the Vikings in action in 2016.

The Thursday night game against Dallas won’t be the short week that both teams will face heading into Thanksgiving. Both the Vikings and Cowboys will meet the Thursday following Thanksgiving, giving both teams the additional rest that comes with a Thursday game the following week when the Vikings travel to Jacksonville.

The highlight (or lowlight) of the 2015 schedule was that seven-game gauntlet that ended the season and included the Packers twice, the two-time defending champion Seahawks and the Cardinals on a short week. This time around, the only 2015 playoff team the Vikings will play in December will be at Green Bay on Christmas Eve.

The Vikings once again got saddled with an early bye week, the third straight year that they have been hit with an early week of rest. The past two seasons, the Vikings had their bye in Week 5. This time around it is in Week 6.

The Vikings aren’t one of the teams that gets annually penalized with three straight road games. In fact, the Vikings have back-to-back home games just once (Weeks 4-5 vs. the Giants and Texans) and only one time with back-to-back road trips (Weeks 7-8 at Philadelphia and Chicago).

The Vikings will play six games against 2015 playoff teams – three at home (Green Bay, Houston and Arizona) and three on the road (Carolina, Washington and Green Bay).

Now that the Vikings are back to being an indoor team, the only game with cold weather potential/likelihood is the Christmas Eve game at Green Bay in Week 16. From Nov. 14 to the end of the regular season – a span of seven weeks, the only outdoor road games the Vikings will play will be at Jacksonville Dec. 11 and at Green Bay Dec. 24. The other five games will be the Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit and four at U.S. Bank Stadium.

A year ago when we looked at the slate of games, the one thing that jumped out was the gauntlet of veteran quarterbacks that were going to be on the schedule down the stretch – Aaron Rodgers twice, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler and Eli Manning. While the list doesn’t include many QB question marks this season, it isn’t quite as daunting.

The theme for this season might be that three of their first six games will be against teams with new head coaches (Tennessee, the Giants and Philadelphia) – all of which will likely still be feeling their way with their new personnel, although the Vikings were embarrassed by their season-opening performance last year against the San Francisco 49ers when they had a new head coach.

We knew for months whom the Vikings were going to play and where. Now that dates and times have been assigned, it’s clear that NFL wants to showcase the Vikings and will do it in Minnesota for a change. With five games in prime time and a couple of late games that could potentially be flexed, the NFL is going to give their fans a lot of chances to make up their own minds as to how good they think the Vikings will be in 2016.

VIKINGS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

DAY DATE OPPONENT TIME (CT) TV
Sun. Sept. 11 at Tennessee Titans Noon FOX
Sun. Sept. 18  Green Bay Packers 7:30 p.m. NBC
Sun. Sept. 25 at Carolina Panthers Noon FOX
Mon. Oct. 3 NY Giants 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Sun. Oct. 9 Houston Texans Noon CBS
Sun. Oct. 16 BYE FOX
Sun. Oct. 23 at Philadelphia Eagles Noon* FOX
Mon. Oct. 31 at Chicago Bears 7:30 p.m. ESPN
Sun. Nov. 6  Detroit Lions Noon* FOX
Sun. Nov. 13 at Washington Redskins Noon* FOX
Sun. Nov. 20  Arizona Cardinals Noon* FOX
Thurs. Nov. 24 at Detroit Lions 11:30 a.m. FOX
Thurs. Dec. 1  Dallas Cowboys 7:25 p.m. NBC/NFLN
Sun. Dec. 11 at Jacksonville Jaguars Noon* FOX
Sun. Dec. 18  Indianapolis Colts Noon* CBS
Sat. Dec. 24 at Green Bay Packers Noon* FOX
Sun. Jan. 1 Chicago Bears Noon* FOX

Home games in bold
* Subject to flexible schedule


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