A tough road to start Vikings' 2009 schedule?

The Vikings might have a difficult start to their 2009 schedule because of sharing the Metrodome with the Twins. The first month of the season could have an abnormal start. The schedule will be released Tuesday evening.

The 2009 NFL schedule will be released at 6 p.m. CDT on the NFL Network – an event deemed worthy of a countdown clock by the league's official website. While typically not a moment steeped in tradition or anticipation, this year's schedule could have some far-reaching implications because the Vikings' co-tenant of the Metrodome – baseball's Minnesota Twins – haven't done them any favors.

The Twins and Vikings annually have problems with scheduling when August and September roll around. Major League Baseball releases its schedule in January. The NFL waits until April. By that time, the NFL already knows what dates are filled by the Twins and this season – the last for the Twins in the Metrodome – it would appear that they are sticking it to the Vikings.

The NFL's regular-season opening weekend begins Sept. 13. The prime time games for opening weekend have already been announced and the Vikings aren't on that list. The Twins are playing in the Metrodome that Sunday, so it is guaranteed that the Vikings will open the regular season on the road. In addition, the Twins have home games scheduled Sept. 20 and Oct. 4 – the Sundays that represent Weeks 2 and 4 of the NFL regular season.

What does that mean? It could mean that if the Vikings are going to have a home game on either of those dates, it would have to be a Monday night game. If not, there is the potential that because of the unavailability of the Metrodome, the Vikings might have the bye week in Week 4 – a horrible week for the bye since it comes too soon into the season and is of little value to those teams with the week off. The third scenario may be even worse – the Vikings have to play three of their first four games on the road.

This takes on even more significance because of the potential suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. Both go on trial June 15 fighting their league-ordered four-game suspensions. If they lose the case, the Vikings may not only have to play three of their first four games on the road (or host a Monday night nationally televised game), but do it without the Williams Wall.

If the Twins make the postseason, there could be even more issues related to the conflict for use of the Metrodome, which could cause the date or time of a Vikings game in October to be shifted. It would seem the Twins are saying goodbye to the Metrodome by making life difficult on the Vikings. Whether intentional or not, when the schedule is released tonight, you can bet the first four weeks for the Vikings will be abnormal – either featuring an early Monday night game, three road games or an early bye week.

TUESDAY NOTES

  • The Vikings do have a bit of good news when it comes to scheduling. They have the second-easiest strength of schedule, according to the winning percentages from last year. Their opponents this year had a .420 winning percentage in 2008. Chicago has the easiest route, playing teams that had a combined .414 winning percentage last year. Green Bay is 30th at .428 and Detroit, which finished last in the NFC North last year without a win, are 21st at .467. The two Super Bowl participants, Pittsburgh and Arizona, have the 29th-ranked and 27th-ranked strength of schedules, not far ahead of the Vikings. Miami has the hardest schedule at .594.

  • The NFL announced that nine players will be in New York City's Radio City Music Hall for the draft, including what many view as the No. 3 QB in the draft (Josh Freeman) while the No. 2 quarterback (Mark Sanchez) declined an invitation because of a hectic travel schedule leading up to the draft.

    The nine players invited are WR Michael Crabtree, LBs Aaron Curry and Brian Cushing, Freeman, OTs Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher, DE Brian Orapko, OT Jason Smith and QB Matthew Stafford. It is the most number of players invited since 11 were asked to attend the 1996 draft. Last year the league did well – inviting five players who turned out to be the top five picks. This time around, there could be a couple of guys in the green room for a long, long time before getting selected.


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