EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — No, Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” isn’t likely to blare on alarm clocks the way it woke weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) in Groundhog Day, but Vikings fans will have a certain feeling of déjà vu several times this fall.
The final two games of 2017 will mimic the order of 2016 with divisional contests at Green Bay on Dec. 23 and at home against the Bears on Dec. 31.
It will be the third straight season that Minnesota has traveled to Green Bay in Week 16 or later and the third time in four seasons in which the Vikings have capped a year by hosting the Bears.
“It’s very similar to what we did last year,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told Vikings.com.
Those two critical games will again follow a home game against an AFC opponent. Cincinnati will visit Dec. 17, just a year shy of when Indianapolis came to Minnesota.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will have his first opportunity to coach against his former boss, Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis, in a regular-season game. Zimmer was Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator from 2008-13.
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Other similarities in the schedule from a year ago including playing at Washington (Nov. 12) on the same weekend as a year ago, as well as a rematch in Detroit with the Lions on Thanksgiving. It will be Minnesota’s eight appearance on the holiday and first time in franchise history to play in consecutive years since 1987-88 when Minnesota won at Dallas and Detroit.
Although the back half of the schedule is loaded with repeats of recent seasons, the front half opens with relative rarities, including starting the season at home for the first time since 2012 and just the third time since 2007.
The home opener against the New Orleans Saints will be the first game of a doubleheader on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The game will mark the Vikings sixth time to start a season on Monday Night Football and the second time in three seasons. Minnesota hasn’t opened a season at home on Monday Night Football since 1972.
“I think the fans will be really excited about the game,” Zimmer said. “New Orleans is a great team, a Hall of Fame quarterback, a Super Bowl-winning coach, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Minnesota will follow with a rare trip to Pittsburgh, a city the Vikings last visited in 2009. The Steelers have defeated the Vikings in both previous contests at Heinz Field, which opened in 2001. Zimmer is familiar with the venue from his time in Cincinnati.
“The fans are rowdy,” Zimmer said. “That time of year, the grass should still be good because it’s early. Unfortunately, you get Roethlisberger, who is an unbelievable Hall of Fame quarterback as well. The first two weeks, we start out with two Hall of Famers.”
The Vikings most recently played the Steelers when they “hosted” Pittsburgh at Wembley Stadium in London in 2013. Minnesota is set to return to England this fall but will serve as the “visiting” team against the Cleveland Browns. Twickenham Stadium will host the Vikings-Browns game.
After returning from Pittsburgh, the Vikings will host Tampa Bay in Week 3, a season after the Buccaneers finished 10-6 before diving into three in a row against NFC North foes.
The Vikings will host Detroit before visiting the Lions for a fourth-straight season.
Minnesota will then visit Soldier Field to play the Bears on Monday Night Football for a second straight October before returning to host the Packers in Week 6. It will be the third straight season in which Minnesota has hosted Green Bay before making a late-year trip across the border.
“These division games are going to be really important, Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay all in a row,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got to do better in the division and this is a chance. We get two out of three at home, and it will be fun.”
The Vikings have five home games before the season’s midpoint, leaving just three after their Nov. 5 bye.
Minnesota also on Thursday announced dates and times for its preseason slate:
Pre1: Thursday, Aug. 10 | at Buffalo | 6 p.m. | FOX 9 (in the Twin Cities)
Pre2: Friday, Aug. 18 | at Seattle | 9 p.m. | FOX 9 (in the Twin Cities)
Pre3: Sunday, Aug. 27 | San Francisco | 7 p.m. | NBC
Pre4: Thursday, Aug. 31 | Miami | 7 p.m. | FOX 9 (in the Twin Cities)
Vikings 2017 Schedule
Week 1: Monday, Sept. 11 | New Orleans | ESPN | 6:10 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17 | at Pittsburgh | FOX | Noon
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24 | Tampa Bay | FOX | Noon
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1 | Detroit | FOX | Noon
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 9 | at Chicago | ESPN | 7:30 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15 | Green Bay | FOX | Noon*
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22 | Baltimore | CBS | Noon*
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29 | at Cleveland (in London) | NFLN | 8:30 a.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 5 | BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12 | at Washington | FOX | Noon*
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19 | Los Angeles Rams | FOX | Noon*
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 23 | at Detroit | FOX | 11:30 a.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3 | at Atlanta | FOX | Noon*
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10 | at Carolina | CBS | Noon*
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17 | Cincinnati | CBS | Noon*
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 23 | at Green Bay | NBC | 7:30 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31 | Chicago | FOX | Noon*
(All times are Central; *Time subject to change due to flexible scheduling)