The day we've all been waiting for is upon us – the 2021 Vikings schedule has been released.
There's plenty to be excited about this year as the Vikings prepare for the league’s fifth-toughest lineup, which includes a Sunday Night Football matchup with the Cowboys on Halloween.
Minnesota will open its season on the road at Cincinnati in Week 1 and host Seattle at U.S. Bank Stadium for its home opener in Week 3.
View photos of the Vikings 2021 schedule at U.S. Bank Stadium and on the road.
Here are 10 observations on the Vikings 2021 schedule:
1. Back to back … and back again?
The Vikings start the 2021 season with back-to-back road games at Cincinnati and Arizona, respectively.
Minnesota hasn't kicked off a season with consecutive away contests in Head Coach Mike Zimmer's tenure. The last time it occurred was in 2013, when the Vikings faced the Lions and Bears on the road in Weeks 1 and 2.
But that's not the only time Minnesota will face back-to-back weeks away from U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings are on the road Weeks 9 (Ravens) and 10 (Chargers), home in Week 11 to host the Packers and then travel for Weeks 12 (49ers) and 13 (Lions).
2. Seattle off the board early
As mentioned above, the Vikings will play the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 3 in their first regular-season game at the venue that opened in 2016.
Two things are notable about this matchup: First, it seems – in recent history, anyway – that the Vikings end up playing in Seattle more often than not. Five of the teams' past six regular-season meetings have been in Washington state, and the Seahawks haven't been in Minnesota since the Wild Card playoff game in January 2016, with the exception of exhibition contests in 2018 and 2019.
This season's game (Sept. 26) also will be the earliest Seattle and Minnesota have ever faced off, edging out a Sept. 29, 2002, contest. Eight of the 10 regular-season matchups since that game have been in November or December.
3. Prep for the post-bye stretch
The Vikings play six games before their Week 7 bye (Oct. 24).
And looking at the schedule and the games they face following the break, winning early will be key – particularly if they can take advantage of a three-home-game stretch against the Seahawks, Browns and Lions.
Minnesota will play 10 of its 17 games against teams that had records of .500 or better last season, and seven of those matchups fall after the bye. The Vikings also play five of six divisional games following the bye, with only the Week 5 meeting with Detroit happening before.
The Vikings final five regular-season games – against the Steelers, Bears, Rams, Packers and Bears – are against stout defenses, as well, so keeping a healthy offense will be important.
4. Prime-time games galore
Minnesota is slated to play on a national stage a number of times during the 2021 season.
The Vikings will host the Cowboys on Halloween night, the first of two Sunday Night Football contests on the season. The second occurs in Week 17 when they're scheduled to visit Green Bay.
Minnesota also will play yet another Monday Night Football game at Chicago (Week 15), and the Steelers will visit the Twin Cities on Dec. 9 for a Thursday Night Football contest.
Additionally, the Vikings are scheduled to play four late afternoon games this season, which is the most they've played in that 3 o'clock Central hour of a regular season since 2012, when Minnesota's Week 17 game against Green Bay was flexed to 3:25 p.m.
Worth noting is that games are subject to flex scheduling starting Week 5, and the league announced that Monday Night Football matchups will be flex options for the first time, beginning in Week 12.
5. Cold-weather games
Speaking of prime time, two of them will likely be quite chilly.
Minnesota will play in Chicago in December for the first time since 2009, and the Vikings will visit Lambeau Field in January for the first time since wrapping the 2015 slate with an NFC North-clinching victory (Jan. 3, 2016).
6. Rare opponents
As a reminder, the NFL schedule is created based on a rotational formula that has been in place since 2002; this season, the NFC North teams are due to the play the NFC West and AFC North teams.
This means that some of the teams coming to Minnesota throughout the season aren't opponents the Vikings are used to facing on a yearly basis. The NFC North and AFC North last played each other in 2017, and this time around, the home-and-away games are reversed.
The 2021 season will mark the first time the Steelers and Browns play a regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Pittsburgh, in fact, hasn't visited Minnesota since 2005 because the 2013 Vikings "home" game was held in London.
7. 2 West Coast games in 3 weeks
The Vikings will get the greatest concentration of air mileage this season between Weeks 9 and 12.
After traveling to Baltimore, the Vikings will head for Los Angeles to face the Chargers. Minnesota will return home for a Week 11 Border Battle with Green Bay before heading right back to the West Coast to face the 49ers.
8. New players, old teams
It's not uncommon for NFL players to go up against former teams during their career. But it will be especially fresh for a handful of players on Minnesota's roster this season.
Mackensie Alexander, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Vikings before signing with the Bengals in 2020, re-joined Minnesota this offseason – and will face Cincinnati Week 1.
A nearly identical situation will happen Week 6, when the Vikings and Stephen Weatherly visit the Panthers. Weatherly also played four seasons for Minnesota, signed with Carolina for a season and returned to the Vikings.
Defensive tackle Michael Pierce signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 2019 but ended up opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. He will play against the Ravens for the first time since leaving Baltimore.
9. QB switch?
The Vikings will see familiar faces in Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff this season … but they'll be wearing different jerseys.
Detroit traded Stafford, who has been with the Lions since being drafted in 2009, to the Rams this offseason in a move that sent Goff to the NFC North. It will certainly be strange to prepare for Stafford just once during this regular season this time around.
10. Justin v. Justin
Chargers QB Justin Herbert was awarded NFL Rookie of the Year honors following his performance last season, but there certainly were arguments to be made for Vikings WR Justin Jefferson earning the accolades.
The pair of record-setting whippersnappers may not directly face each other on the field, but it's certain to deliver a fun dynamic to the Week 10 game in L.A.