Vikes Get No Breaks With Schedule

Red McCombs was happy to see his Vikings with five nationally televised games for the 2004 season, but Packers fans are likely much more happy to see the Vikings flying home long distances in the wee hours of the morning.

Red McCombs said Wednesday about the release of the 2004 regular season schedule that it was "made in heaven" because there are five nationally televised Vikings games.

It was made somewhere all right, but more likely somewhere a lot hotter than heaven, especially as it relates to the Vikings' hope of dethroning the Packers as division champions. The schedule makers seemingly did whatever was possible to give the Packers as big of an advantage as possible.

Let's start with the three prime time games. While it's great for TV ratings to play NFL football in prime time, they disrupt the routine for teams playing in the games – especially road teams. The work week preparing for the next game starts on Monday and ends on Saturday. When you have a night game on the road, you effectively lose not just one day of preparation, but two and the Vikes are getting the short end of that stick in a big way.

The first Monday night game comes in Week 2 at Philadelphia. The Vikings will have a tough matchup with the new-look Eagles that will run until midnight Sept. 20. They won't get back to Minnesota until nearly sunrise Tuesday, meaning that the preparation for Chicago won't start until Wednesday at the earliest, while the Bears will be in their third day of prep work for the Vikings. The team will also lose a day after traveling to New Orleans, where a practice day in preparation for the Titans will be shot.

But nowhere have the Vikings been screwed more than their matchups with the Packers. In November, the Vikings have to travel to Indianapolis for another Monday night game. As with the Eagles, the game plan for the Packers won't be unveiled to the players until the Wednesday before the game. The problem? The Packers will be coming off their bye week – rested and refreshed – while the Vikings will coming into the game with three days of preparation. By league rule, the visiting team must be in the other city the day before the game, so the Packers will have two weeks of rest and practice, while the Vikings will have three days to prepare and then go on the road.

In their home matchup, the Vikings will again be short-changed on practice time, coming back from Detroit on Dec. 19 and then forced to inexplicably play a Friday afternoon game on Christmas Eve. While the Packers will have to come here to play, they will be at home the week before and able to avoid the problems of their practice routine by traveling home after that game.

Red may think the schedule is heaven, but the smell of brimstone tells us a different story.

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