The Vikings now know the road map to the 2015 season after the NFL announced its regular season schedule on Tuesday night. With yet another offseason landmark in the rear view mirror, here are 10 observations on the Vikings 2015 schedule.
1. Tough test out of the gatesFor just the third time since 2006, a central time zone team (the Vikings) will play in the second half of the annual opening week Monday Night Football double-header. After starting their Week 1 game at 9:20 pm CT in San Francisco and arriving home after the game on Tuesday morning when the sun is rising, the Vikings will have to turn around quickly and on a short week to prepare for a division game in Week 2. That's a tough test for Mike Zimmer and the Vikings right out of the gates.
View the 2015 Vikings schedule in photos.
2. Two prime time gamesThe Vikings are slated for just one non-mandated prime time game in 2015 – the season opener at San Francisco. The second prime time game on the schedule is the mandatory Thursday Night Football game, which will be a bout with the Arizona Cardinals on the road in Week 14.
3. Done with Detroit earlyFrom the Vikings perspective, this season is a good one for the Detroit Lions to start slowly. The Vikings play the Lions in Week 2 and Week 7 and will be done with that division rival before they play either of the other two teams in the division (Chicago, Green Bay) once.
4. Early (Week 5) bye may be beneficialOrdinarily, a Week 5 bye would be earlier than preferred. But with the Vikings reporting to camp early and having a fifth preseason game, their bye week will come at a good time. They will recharge after a busy nine weeks and then play nine more games in front of a "mini bye week" that is created by virtue of playing on Thursday night in Arizona on December 10 and having the following weekend off to recharge once again. After that contest and the extra long weekend, the Vikings should be poised to make a late-season surge toward the playoffs.
5. Four Vikings-Gophers double header weekendsWhile the Vikings wait for their new stadium to be built, they are sharing a venue with the Golden Gophers. This arrangement presents some hurdles for members of both clubs who are responsible for readying the stadium for action. Four times this season, the two teams and their support staffs will have to work hand-in-hand to pull off a Gopher home game on Saturday followed quickly by a Vikings home game on Sunday.
6. A mid-season "crunch time"Crunch time doesn't come until the end of the road, but the Vikings will have an important stretch of games right in the middle of the schedule when they hit the road for back-to-back divisional games, heading to Detroit in Week 7 and then Chicago in Week 8.
7. AFC games early, all NFC lateThe Vikings play the AFC West this season and will face all four of those opponents before Thanksgiving, meaning the team's final seven games will all be against NFC opponents battling each other for playoff spots down the stretch.
8. Short Week (14) follows bout with 2-time defending NFC champsAs if playing on a short week isn't a challenge enough, the task of doing so in Week 14 (Thursday night game in Arizona) is compounded by the fact that the Vikings will host the two-time defending NFC champion Seahawks the Sunday prior.
9. Potential cold-weather gamesBeginning with a Week 11 home game against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings play at home in the great outdoors four times in the final seven weeks and also have the finale at often-frigid Lambeau Field. That makes for five legitimate chances at cold-weather games for the Vikings.
10. Dramatic season finale at Lambeau?The road to the NFC North title goes through Green Bay, the defending champions. And the Vikings regular season road literally ends in Green Bay this season, with the Vikings scheduled to visit their border rivals in Week 17. There is always great drama in the NFL's final week, and it will be a lot of fun if either/both the Vikings and Packers are in the playoff mix at this point.