The NFL released its 2017 playing schedule on Thursday, meaning we now know the “when” part of equation. The who and where was determined by the 2016 order of finish and the NFL’s scheduling formula. There are no perfect schedules out there, but each one is notable for various reasons. Here are 10 of those reasons for the Vikings schedule.
1. Week 1 atmosphere will be electric
A Week 1 home opener is festive enough as it is, but throw in the pomp and circumstance of Monday Night Football and you’ve got quite the show in store for fans and the teams at U.S. Bank Stadium. The fact that the game is against the New Orleans Saints – who, by the way, hosted Adrian Peterson on a free agent visit a week ago – and the NFL made sure it’s first of two Week 1 MNF contests was going to be electric.
2. Two big-time environments in first two weeks
The big-game feel will not go away for the Vikings in Week 2. They will travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh for a date with the Steelers. Heinz Field is one of the best places to watch a game in the NFL, plus Mike Zimmer’s defense will battle a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger and a dangerous set of offensive weapons that includes wide receiver Antonio Brown.
3. Three short weeks versus division opponents
Division games are the most important ones, and for three of their six division games this season the Vikings will prepare on a short week – coming off a MNF game in Chicago to play Green Bay at home, traveling to Detroit on Thanksgiving Day and playing at Lambeau Field on Saturday, December 23.
4. Three prime time games, plus London and Thanksgiving
The Vikings are scheduled to play under the bright lights and on the big stage of prime time on three occasions. The first is, of course, in Week 1 at home against the Saints on MNF. There’s another MNF date on the calendar in Chicago for Week 5 and then the Vikings-Packers game at Lambeau Field in Week 16 will be televised by NBC with kickoff slated for 7:30 p.m. CT. The Vikings also play in London against the Browns as part of the NFL’s International Series and they’ll once again face the Lions on Thanksgiving.
5. 11 noon CT kickoffs
The “normal” schedule – playing at noon CT on a Sunday – in the NFL is also the preferable schedule for many within the League. From that standpoint, the schedule as it is right now (flex scheduling begins in Week 6) is favorable for the Vikings because they are slated for 11 such kickoffs.
6. One home game in 55-day span
The Vikings will play five of their first eight games at U.S. Bank Stadium. They’ll have to pay the piper later, though, with five of their final eight games on the road. That second-half-of-the-season road fest includes a 55-day span from the Monday after the October 22 home game against Baltimore to the December 17 home game against Cincinnati where the team has only one home game.
7. London trip into bye week splits season
The Vikings game against Cleveland in London will be the team’s eighth of the regular season and will be followed by a Week 9 bye. This means the Vikings will play eight games after the bye and it means the trip to London and subsequent return to a bye week splits the regular season into equal halves, giving coaches and players a week-long reprieve to recharge and settle down for the second half of the season.
8. Up-close look at another new stadium
The Vikings will travel to Atlanta for a Week 13 showdown against the Falcons. Not only will this game give the Vikings an up-close look at the defending NFC champions, but it will give the Vikings another look at a brand-new stadium. The Vikings opened their own new building in 2016 and the Falcons are opening their new building – Mercedes-Benz stadium – in 2017.
9. Battle tested or battered over the final six weeks
As it often is in the NFL, the final six weeks of the season will be a test for the Vikings. In those six games, the Vikings will play five NFC opponents, five games in December, four total and three consecutive road games, three division games and two games on a short week. If the Vikings don’t qualify for the postseason it could be the result of a battering during this brutal stretch, but if they do qualify for the postseason they will do so after becoming battle-tested.
10. Another late-season game at Lambeau
For the third consecutive year, the Vikings will play a late-season game at Lambeau Field. In 2015, they wrestled away the NFC North from Green Bay and in 2016 it was the Packers who came out on top. Will another big-game be in store for this year’s late-season Lambeau date? It’s likely.