Play tough early and be above .500 heading into the bye week.
At first blush, that has to be the mantra of the Vikings heading into the 2008 season. It would seem that, at this early juncture, many of the Vikings' toughest games on their 2008 schedule will come early, with things appearing to lighten up late.
The season gets underway with a Monday night game at Green Bay – the first of three prime-time games scheduled for the Vikings in 2008. The home opener comes Sept. 14 vs. the Colts, who are always tough – road or home - and will be an early test for the Vikings' lowly rated pass defense of recent years. After another home game against the Panthers, the Vikings will have to be road warriors with consecutive games at Tennessee and New Orleans – the Saints being their second Monday night appearance.
"Knowing in advance about an opener against Green Bay on Monday Night Football, the fact
that we come home to host Indianapolis should be an exciting start for our fans," Vikings coach Brad Childress said in a statement. "We will need to be ready to start fast with three of the first four games against playoff teams."
After that first five-game stretch, the schedule looks to be considerably easier. Before the bye, the Vikings will play division rivals Detroit and Chicago and, coming out of the bye, have a pair of home games against the Texans and Packers.
The toughest part of the second-half slate would appear to be the two Sundays before Thanksgiving. On those weeks, the Vikings make their longest road trips possible when they travel to Tampa Bay and Jacksonville in consecutive weeks.
Once those games are done, however, if the Vikings are in a position to do some damage in a playoff run, they could be lined up for another late-season surge. Their final five games will feature four teams that were mostly nowhere near the playoffs – the Bears, Lions, Cardinals and Falcons – before closing out at home vs. the Giants.
"At the end of the schedule, which seems like a hundred years from now, it's great to finish with five NFC games and the last two at home," Childress said. "If you're playing the world champs, there's no better place to play them than in the Metrodome."
If there are some concerns aside from the early schedule, it would be the doubling-up of road games. Teams like to space out their road trips where possible and the Vikings had a couple of difficult back-to-back road setups early last year. This year, they have three – the Titans and Saints at the turn of September into October, the Bucs and Jags in November, and the Lions and Cardinals in December. At one stretch between Nov. 10 and Dec. 21, the Vikings will be in the Metrodome just once – playing four of five games on the road.
As the season gets closer, we'll break down the schedule in a little more detail – and plenty could change in the opinions of the Vikings' opponents between now and then – but the early prognosis looks fairly good. If the Vikings can keep their heads above water and go into the bye week with a record of 4-3 or 5-2, the schedule could lay itself out very favorably when they return to action following the Week 8 midseason bye and head down the stretch.
Schedule '08: Tough Early, Easier Late
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