Many of 2007 Opponents Set

The Vikings know most of their home and away opponents for 2007, and at this point it doesn't look like an easy schedule

If it's any consolation to Vikings fans now that they've officially been eliminated from playoff contention, they can look ahead to 2007. By virtue of losing to the Packers, the Vikings will finish third in the NFC North. Because of that, they will have the third-place schedule, which has 14 of 16 games already decided, one very close and one that could well be in their own hands.

Of the 14 games we already know, the home schedule is as follows: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, San Diego and Oakland. The one remaining piece to the puzzle could be decided as early as tomorrow. If Atlanta beats Carolina, the Panthers will be assured of finishing third in the NFC South. If that happens, the Panthers will be the eighth home opponent for the Vikings. If Carolina wins, it could end up being the Falcons, but that would start getting into more elaborate tie-breakers. The easiest route is Carolina loses Sunday and they fill out the slate.

The first and most obvious thing that jumps out about the home schedule is that Vikings fans will get to see Randy Moss make his Metrodome return if he's still with Oakland next year. In addition, it will be an opportunity for the home fans to get a good look at LaDainian Tomlinson and Donovan McNabb – who will be playing their first games at the Metrodome.

The road schedule is a little fuzzier, but again seven games are already set. The Vikings will go on the road to play the Bears, Packers and Lions as well as Dallas, the Giants, Denver, Kansas City and the third-place finisher in the NFC West. Because of Seattle's free fall, that could be one of three teams – the Seahawks, Rams or 49ers. The Vikings can do their part to make sure it is the Rams by beating them in Week 17 at the Metrodome. Odds are if they do that, the chances are very good that St. Louis will be on the schedule again next year.

A quick glance at the road schedule shows some potential problems. Vikings fans know how hard it is to play in Chicago and Green Bay, but the Meadowlands hasn't been a picnic, Denver and Kansas City are always difficult places to win and a lot of dreams have died at Texas Stadium. Aside from the Lions, there may not be a gimme on the slate.

The Vikings dodged a bullet in the 2006 season by getting most of their toughest non-division opponents at home. Next year, they don't look to be as lucky. But a lot can change between Christmas and next September. Just ask Mike Tice or Daunte Culpepper.

SUNDAY NOTES

  • With 10 penalties Thursday night, the Vikings lead the NFL with 118 penalties for 868 yards. One of Brad Childress' mantras was to restore discipline to a team that was undisciplined on and off the field. Last year, the Vikings had 128 penalties.

  • Many Minnesotans didn't get to see Thursday's game. While the Twin Cities ABC affiliate carried the game, unless outstate cable systems carried KSTP-TV. That wasn't the case in cities like Duluth and points west of mid-Minnesota, where they had to either have a friend with NFL Network, a sports bar that carried it or go without. Considering the outcome, they may not have been that unlucky.

  • Marcus Robinson was active Thursday but saw little playing time. Not only didn't he catch a pass, he wasn't even the target of a pass.

  • Thursday's game was the last to use the all-grass field at Lambeau. With a second game in five days in adverse conditions, the Packers spent much of the first half changing the cleats on their shoes. The field had been re-sodded in the middle, but slipping and sliding was a problem for several players – even on the good portions of the field. They're going to a surface called GrassMaster, which they already have on their practice fields. It uses more sand for better drainage and is currently in use by the Steelers, Broncos and Eagles.

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