With the results of games over the weekend, the Minnesota Vikings now know all of their opponents on the 2017 schedule.
As a form of creating more competitive balance when the NFL added its 32nd team and created eight four-team divisions, 14 of the games were predetermined each year.
Every three years, teams from one division plays all four teams from another division within their conference. Every four years, those same teams play all four teams from a division in the other conference.
In 2017, for the Vikings those eight games translate to the NFC South – Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay – and the AFC North – Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
Throw in the six division games and you have 14 games total. The only two remaining games to fill out the schedule are based upon teams playing the teams that finished with the same slot in the division standings.
For example, the Vikings finished first in the NFC North last season. As a result, their schedule included games with the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals – the division champions of the two divisions the NFC North wasn’t playing.
Due to results over the weekend, the Vikings are locked into the third-place spot in the NFC North, as are the teams in the other NFC divisions the Vikings don’t play in full in 2017. Those two teams for Minnesota will be the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins – completing the slate of games.
The times and dates won’t be announced until late March or early April, but the opponents for the Vikings are now set. It is as follows:
HOME: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
ROAD: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, Washington, Cleveland (in London) and Pittsburgh.
Whether you think the schedule lays out well for the Vikings or poorly given the current circumstances is up to you. When the 2016 schedule came out, it appeared as though the Vikings were penalized by landing the Panthers and Cardinals on the schedule, but the only 2015 division winners that repeated were New England – because they annually dominate the AFC East – and Houston – who won more games than the mediocre teams in the AFC South.
The schedule will likely include more Sunday games at noon local time than the 2016 schedule did because of the Vikings’ late-season collapse, but it will be fodder for the offseason to see how the Vikings address a schedule that will include the wide open offenses of the NFC South and the ground-and-pound defense-dominated teams of the AFC North.