From the time the Jan. 1 game concluded the 2016 regular season, we already knew who the Minnesota Vikings were going to play in 2017, but the NFL can create drama by exploiting the unknown mixed in with what is already known, making Thursday night’s schedule release something that already has fans thinking about the layout of the schedule and what potential pitfalls lie in front of them.
For the Vikings, 2017 is going to include the gamut of exposure on the national stage and its own set of twists and turns. They will be the only show in town in five of their 16 games – spanning from the beginning of the season until the end.
- The team opens its season at home once again under the national spotlight on Monday Night Football when they play host to the New Orleans Saints.
- In Week 5, the Vikings return to Monday night when they travel to Soldier Field to take on division rival Chicago.
- In Week 8, the Vikings make their pilgrimage back to London for the second time in five seasons – again against an AFC North opponent, this time the Cleveland Browns.
- For some reason, the NFL decided to have the Vikings play their annual Thursday game at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day for the second straight year.
- The final prime-time game may have a ton of ramifications as the Vikings head to Lambeau Field in Week 16 for a Saturday night special against the Packers.
The biggest takeaway from the Vikings’ schedule is that it is the tale of two schedules.
Five of their first seven games will be at U.S. Bank Stadium with only road games at Pittsburgh and at Chicago in the first seven games of the year. However, even that doesn’t come without its own share of problems.
In Week 2, the Vikings will have a short week of preparation before they travel to Heinz Field to face the Steelers. Three weeks later, after playing in Chicago on Monday night in Week 5, they will have a short week of preparation for their first meeting with the Packers.
The best thing about the first half of the season is that their bye week couldn’t come at a better time – at the midpoint of the season in Week. 9.
The second half of the season is a completely different story, as the shoe gets reversed. From Week 10 until Week 16, the Vikings will play five of seven games on the road, meaning that from Oct. 23 until Dec. 30 the team will only play twice at U.S. Bank Stadium.
If you include the Cleveland game in London in Week 8, the Vikings will play six of eight games on the road – one of the most grueling stretches of any team in the league.
Worse yet is the scheduling anomaly that hits two or three teams every year – a stretch of three straight road games, starting with Detroit on Thanksgiving Day and extended to long road trip to Atlanta and Carolina – the last two NFC representatives in the Super Bowl. The Vikings will have to prepare themselves for long plane rides and short preparation weeks
As far as division games go, the Vikings will be able to set their own tone for the early portion of the 2017 season with three straight games in Weeks 4-6 vs. the Lions, at Chicago on a Monday night and vs. Green Bay. They close out the season with two more division games at Green Bay and vs. Chicago. The only straggler game will be the Thanksgiving game at Detroit.
A lot can change as a season progresses, and games that look difficult on paper in September don’t look nearly as daunting in December and vice versa. But the clear indication from the layout of the schedule is that the Vikings are going to need to get off to a strong start because, after the bye week is done, things are going to be very difficult and the Vikings will need to be road warriors if they want to make the postseason.
VIKINGS 2017 SCHEDULE
Week 1: SAINTS, Sept. 11 (6:10 Monday night)
Week 2: at Steelers, Sept. 17, Noon
Week 3: BUCS, Sept. 24, Noon
Week 4: LIONS, Oct. 1, Noon
Week 5: at Bears, Oct. 9 (7:30 Monday night)
Week 6: PACKERS, Oct. 15, Noon
Week 7: RAVENS, Oct. 22, Noon
Week 8: at Browns in London, Oct. 29 (8:30 a.m.)
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: at Redskins, Nov. 12, Noon
Week 11: RAMS, Nov. 19, Noon
Week 12: at Detroit, Nov. 23 (11:30 a.m. Thanksgiving)
Week 13: at Falcons, Dec. 3, Noon
Week 14: at Panthers, Dec. 10, Noon
Week 15: BENGALS, Dec. 17, Noon
Week 16: at Packers, Dec. 23 (7:30 Saturday night)
Week 17: BEARS, Dec. 31, Noon
* Home games in CAPS