Schedule Favors Vikings

With all the changes on the Vikings roster this season, the 2005 schedule looks to be lined up well for the team to hit its stride at the right time.

With the turnaround in fortunes that NFL teams go through -- where the Panthers can go from 1-15 to the Super Bowl in two years and the Dolphins can go from No. 1 in the AFC East to No. 1 in the draft in roughly the same time period -- to look at a season schedule ahead of time can be something of a crapshoot.

That being said, the Vikings' schedule for 2005 looks to have some of the inherent advantages that were sorely lacking in 2004.

Last year, the Vikings found their way back into prime time in a big way. Unfortunately, it meant road games in Indy, Philly and New Orleans -- each proving to be very disruptive to the team's regular practice schedule, and the Colts game was followed up with a road contest with the Packers that had the Pack coming off their bye week.

This year appears to be much different. The team would appear for all indications to be an NFC South team during the first month of the season -- playing the Bucs, Saints and Falcons in the first four games. Once the team returns from the bye week, the division schedule kicks in and gives the team every reason for optimism.

Of the eight games following the bye week, the only playoff teams in the mix are seen in two games with the Packers, who look to be weaker than the Packers team the Vikings dispatched from the playoffs a year ago. Aside from those games, the only playoff teams from 2004 the Vikings play all season are the Falcons, Rams and Steelers -- and two of those three games are at home.

Further assisting the team is that, when games are critical in the final month of the season, the Vikings will have three of their final four games at home, whereas the Lions and Bears will play three of their final four games on the road and the Packers will play three of their final five games away from the home-field advantage of Lambeau Field.

While many believe the Vikings will be successful regardless of their schedule, the 2005 slate at first glance looks to be another ally for the Vikes and more reason to believe the Vikings will once again be playing into mid-January at the earliest.

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