Ouch, Babe!

The Vikings schedule was going to be tough -- we knew that -- when you have the Bears twice, the AFC West, the NFC East and playoff hopefuls in Atlanta and San Francisco. But to see the schedule laid out in order of games, the Vikings are going to have a big mountain to climb to get back into playoff contention.

While Vikings players, coaches and fans knew the 2007 schedule was going to be a difficult one, seeing it spread out over a 16-game schedule makes it look even more brutal. From an ugly road slate to start to a month of nothing but 2006 playoff teams, the Vikings are sure to have their work cut out for them.

Last year, the Vikings made a commitment to improving their defense and did so in a big way, putting together the second-best rushing defense in the modern era. That may be something they're going to need this year and, with the schedule laid out in front of them, it might affect their draft plans as the option of loading up on defense looms – especially considering what the Vikings will be facing.

The season gets underway Sept. 9 at home vs. the Falcons and Michael Vick, who remains one of the most dangerous running options in the league. After that, however, the Vikings have just one home game from the week after Labor Day until just days before Halloween. Of their next five games to start the season, four are on the road, as the team heads out to play the Lions and the Chiefs and, after their bye week in Week 5, head back on the road to play the Bears and Cowboys.

Depending on where the Vikings sit after four games heading into their bye, their season could very well be determined in the four weeks coming out of the bye. They face three division champions and four playoff teams in four weeks – including the two teams that secured home field advantage in the playoffs last year. As if road games vs. the Bears and Cowboys isn't hard enough to swallow, when they get back to the Metrodome, they've guaranteed Brian Westbrook of the Eagles and LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers running on a dry track.

What looks to be the "easy" part of the schedule doesn't look so easy from here. A road trip to Lambeau? Those haven't come off well that often. The Raiders coming in? You can bet if Randy Moss is still a Raider, he'll be looking for revenge and, if he isn't, Calvin Johnson will give fans something to shake their heads at. Then it's off to the Meadowlands to face the Giants. The Vikings haven't always fared too well out there either. December gets started with the Lions, who, if history holds, will be playoff-eliminated by that time and then travel to play the 49ers. While Vikings fans still sting from the awful performance their team put in last year at San Fran, the 49ers are going to be a much improved team that might make a playoff run. The team closes out with the Bears, Redskins and Broncos – none of whom will be a pushover.

Once the 2006 season was done, we already knew who the Vikings were going to play. But seeing it lined up and stacked on Wednesday, it looks downright frightening and looking more like Chilly better have something up his sleeve or a second 6-10 season isn't out of the realm of possibility.

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