Few Weather Worries In '04

As the Vikings' decision makers split time between poring over free agent lists, scouting players at the Senior Bowl and formulating a prelminary draft board, a look to short-term need is reflected in the Vikings' 2004 schedule.

In every season, the slight quirks in the scheduling -- who you play, where you play and when you play them -- can be critical to a team's success or lack thereof in a season.

For example, every team has two games a year that aren't pre-determined. They're based on facing a team that finished in the same slot as you in other divisions in your conference. In the NFC South, defending conference champion Carolina will play the Packers and Eagles in those two games, while former defending champ Tampa Bay gets the Bears and Redskins for those two games -- creating an early advantage for the Bucs.

The schedule may play a big part in how the Vikings look to build their team. One factor that has gone unnoticed thusfar (maybe not to the inside heads at Winter Park) is that no team will play as many games in climate controlled conditions as the Vikings. Even teams that play in domed stadiums will have five, six or even seven games outside. The Vikings will have just four -- the lowest total in the league.

The only games the Vikings will play in the elements are vs. the Packers, Bears, Eagles and Redskins. Unless they are completly screwed over by the NFL schedulemakers, it is likely that no more than two of those games will come after mid-November -- about the time weather becomes a factor in the NFL.

With road games at Detroit, New Orleans, Houston and Indianapolis, even when the Vikings are on the road, they will be playing on a dry track -- where speed and precision come more into play than a potentially wind-gusted field that could be wet or even frozen. Whereas teams like the Bears and Packers are more in need of "mudders" who excel at playing in the worst of conditions, the Vikings -- more than any team in the NFL next year -- can mark up most of their X's and O's knowing that the field will be in the same condition for almost every game of the year.

And considering the Vikings' less-than-stellar record on road grass, reducing that number could be the difference in one win or one loss -- and we've learned how important that distinction can be at the end of the regular season.

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