The Vikings slate of 16 regular season games has been unveiled. Here are 10 takeaways as the NFL takes one giant step closer to the 2014 season…
1. Hot ticket for home opener
The Vikings will have a rebuilt defensive line and a revamped secondary, and both units will be put to the test in the team’s home opener with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots coming to town. The test continued the following week when the Vikings travel to New Orleans for a bout against Drew Brees and Co.
2. No Monday Night Football or Sunday Night Football
The Vikings have the best running back and returner in the NFL and they will have added several pieces to their defense even before making the eighth overall selection in the draft. But that’s not enough to erase the stigma a 5-10-1 record has on network executives when they comprise a wish list of teams to feature in prime time. No scheduled Monday Night Football or Sunday Night Football games for the Vikings in 2014.
3. But the Vikings can play their way into prime time
There may be no scheduled MNF or SNF games, but a new policy put in place this season enhances the Vikings chances of finding their way into the limelight. Flexible scheduling may now be applied in Weeks 5-10 (in addition to Weeks 11-17). During that period (Weeks 5-10), flexible scheduling can be used in no more than two weeks by shifting a Sunday afternoon game into prime time and moving the Sunday night game to an afternoon start time.
4. 14 of 16 games scheduled for Sunday at noon
It’s fun to play in prime time, but it’s probably better for players’ schedules and body clocks to keep it consistent and play games on Sundays at noon. From that perspective, the Vikings schedule plays out nicely because 14 of their 16 games are scheduled for Sunday-noon (CT) kickoffs, with the only two non-noon start times coming in the season’s first five weeks.
5. Thursday Night Football at Lambeau Field
One of those non-noon kickoff games is a good one – a Thursday Night Football game at Lambeau Field against the border rival Green Bay Packers. The Packers are the Vikings biggest rival, and the rivalry is amped up a notch in prime time.
6. One “share” weekend for Vikings and Gophers
While the Vikings wait for their new stadium to be built, they will share TCF Bank Stadium with the Golden Gophers. This arrangement presents some hurdles for members of both clubs who are responsible for readying the stadium for action, but many of those hurdles will be lessened by the fact that on only one occasion will the two teams both play at home on the same weekend – October 11-12 when the Gophers host Northwestern and the Vikings host Detroit.
7. Captain welcomes his old mates in Week 13
One of the Vikings splashiest moves this offseason was the signing of cornerback
8. Week 10 bye is the right kind of bye
Last season, the Vikings Week 4 game in London mandated a Week 5 bye. This season, the Vikings bye week comes at a much more favorable spot – Week 10. In an ideal world, that will give the Vikings a nice mid-season reprieve before they begin a late-season grind toward the playoffs.
9. 3 consecutive home games late in the season
If the Vikings are indeed in the midst of a playoff chase after their Week 10 bye, they will receive a great break from the NFL scheduling gods – a three-game home stand in Weeks 12-14 against the Packers, Carolina Panthers and NY Jets.
10. Season finale at home
Continuing with the late-season playoff push theme, the Vikings catch another break by playing the final game of the season at home (against the Chicago Bears). It’s the third consecutive season the Vikings have closed their season at home.