The regular season schedule was unveiled late last week, completing the road map for the 2016 season. The Vikings offseason program launched on Monday, beginning the journey of the 2016 season. With two more offseason landmarks in the rear view mirror, here are 10 observations on the Vikings 2016 schedule.
1. High Stakes for the U.S. Bank Stadium Opener
* *Green Bay is the Vikings fiercest rival and Sunday Night Football has been America's most-watched TV series in three of the past four years. This means the Vikings will open their brand-new stadium by renewing their twice-annual rivalry with Green Bay on the most popular TV program in the country.
2. Vikings football a Holiday Tradition
* *The Vikings are one of the NFL's holiday teams in 2016. Aside from opening with most everyone else on September 11 (at TEN), the Vikings also play games on Halloween night (at CHI), Thanksgiving Day (at DET), Christmas Eve (at GB) and New Years Day (vs. CHI).
View photos through the years of the Vikings on Thanksgiving.
3. Thankful for Football on Thanksgiving Day
* *For the first time since 2000, the Vikings will play on Thanksgiving Day. The last time they did so, they defeated the Cowboys in Dallas. This year, they'll head to Detroit for their second contest against the Lions in 18 days. And with an 11:30 a.m. kickoff, the team will return home in time for a late Thanksgiving dinner (and the option to watch PIT at IND).
4. Back-to-Back Thursday Games
* *While it won't be on Thanksgiving Day, the Vikings will play the Cowboys on a Thursday this year. The game will be at U.S. Bank Stadium and it will be the Thursday after their Thanksgiving Day tilt in Detroit. This scheduling quirk takes away an advantage for the Vikings that most Thursday hosts get – playing an opponent traveling on three day's rest. Dallas will have played the previous Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, rather than that Sunday, and will have a full week in between games. Oh well.
5. In the Spotlight
* *Last year's schedule had the Vikings short on prime time and nationally televised games, at least until the Vikings were flexed into those spots later in the season. This year, the NFL has scheduled the Vikings for five nationally televised games, including four games in prime time. Of those four games in prime time, three are at home, undoubtedly due to the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings will host the Sunday night opener and then a Monday Night Football game two weeks later (vs NYG in Week 4). They'll play on MNF again in Chicago in Week 8 but also host the Cowboys on a Thursday night (Week 13) in a game set to be broadcast by NBC.
6. On the Road Again (to open the season)
* *For the fourth consecutive season and the seventh time in eight seasons, the Vikings will open the regular season on the road. This year, they'll be in Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans, playing their first of four games against the AFC South. The Vikings will also play AFC South opponents in Week 5 (vs. HOU), Week 14 (at JAC) and Week 15 (vs. IND).
7. Only One Cold Weather Game
* *The Vikings have gotten used to cold-weather games the past two seasons because they've played their home games at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings actually fared well in the outdoors, particularly in the few games they had cold temperatures accompanying kickoff. But they won't have that to deal with this year. The Christmas Eve game at Lambeau in Week 16 is the only outdoor game in a cold-weather climate on the schedule. The Vikings play just two games on the road after Thanksgiving – Week 14 in Jacksonville and then at Green Bay on December 24.
8. A Pair of NFC North Games to Close the Season
* *Presuming the Vikings are in it to win it down the stretch, they'll play crucial games to close the season. The NFL has been scheduling all division matchups in Week 17 since 2010, but this year they've placed an emphasis on division matchups in Week 16, as well. There will be 11 division matchups in Week 16, with Vikings-Packers being one of them. That means the Vikings will close the regular season with Packers-Bears, setting up two potentially division-deciding contests in the final two weeks.
View aerial images updated from both the northeast corner and then the southwest corner, showcasing the progress at U.S. Bank Stadium. Updated from late June of 2016.
9. A Sensational Start?
* *Should the Vikings put their best foot forward to open the season and come out on top in the first two weeks, they'll have about as impressive a 2-0 start as a team can have. To win on the road in Week 1, with the opposition feeling momentum from their home opener, and then to follow that up with a U.S. Bank Stadium-opening win against a bitter division rival, well that would be a sensational start to a Vikings NFC North title defense.
With U.S. Bank Stadium now 95 percent complete, it's starting to look like home, including the recent arrival of purple field padding.
10. Playoff Schedule
* *It's always best to be prepared. In that vein, here is the postseason schedule: January 7-8 – Wild Card Playoff Games; January 14-15 – Divisional Playoff Games; January 22 – Conference Championships; February 5 – Super Bowl LI in Houston.