EAGAN, Minn. — It may only be April, but football in the fall is on the minds of NFL fans now with the NFL releasing its regular-season schedule on Thursday evening. After taking a peek at the Vikings slate of games now that dates and times have been determined, here are seven observations on what's ahead for the Vikings in 2018.
1. Early trip to Lambeau
The Vikings have played at Green Bay in either Week 16 or Week 17 in each of the past three seasons. In 2018, that changes. For the first time since 2008, the Vikings have a September date with the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Vikings play at Green Bay in Week 2 this year, with kickoff set for noon Sunday. In case anyone is counting, the Vikings have won four of the past five in this series and have claimed two of the past three division titles.
2. Six national broadcasts
The Vikings are scheduled to play in four prime-time games and in two additional games that will be broadcast nationally. The four prime-time games consist of Sunday Night Football games at U.S. Bank Stadium against New Orleans in Week 8 and Green Bay in Week 12, along with a Thursday Night Football *game at the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4 and a *Monday Night Football game at the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14. The other two games scheduled for prominent time slots are the Week 5 rematch of the NFC Championship at Philadelphia (3:25 p.m. CT on FOX) and the Week 13 contest at New England (3:25 p.m. CT on FOX). Flex scheduling could increase or decrease these numbers.
3. Two of three at home to open and close season
There's no place like home. The Vikings are 12-4 in two seasons at U.S. Bank Stadium, and they'll look to bolster that mark in 2018 by starting and finishing strong at home. The Vikings begin the season with two of three games at home (San Francisco in Week 1 and Buffalo in Week 3) and close the season with two of three games at home (Miami in Week 15 and Chicago in Week 17).
4. Bye Week before back-to-back division tests
A stretch of back-to-back division games always constitutes an important and tough part of a schedule. The Vikings have that scenario twice in 2018, with the first occurrence coming in Week 11 and Week 12. The good news is the Vikings have a Week 10 bye, meaning they'll have some extra time to rest and recuperate before traveling to Soldier Field and hosting the Packers in back-to-back weeks. The second back-to-back division game stretch for the Vikings is at the end of the season when they travel to Detroit in Week 16 and then host the Bears in Week 17; it's the third consecutive season in which the Vikings have hosted Chicago in Week 17.
5. Tough environments after the bye
Challenging weather environments potentially dot the Vikings post-bye schedule. Road dates at Chicago on Nov. 18 (Week 11), at New England on Dec. 2 (Week 13) and at Seattle on Dec. 10 (Week 14) create potential for bad weather.
6. No holiday football
The holidays/days of remembrance in the past two football seasons have been Vikings-inclusive. In 2016, the Vikings played on 9/11, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year's Day. Last season, the Vikings played on 9/11, Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. It's a different story in 2018, as the Vikings have no games on any of those occasions. But the schedule makers did provide a good little Thanksgiving weekend treat, with the Vikings-Packers game at U.S. Bank Stadium scheduled for the Sunday night after Turkey Day.
7. Five Games in December
Everyone loves December football, and there will be lots of it for the Vikings. There are five games in December for the Vikings – at New England, at Seattle, versus Miami, at Detroit and vs. Chicago. Three of them are on the road, two of them are scheduled for national broadcasts and all of them are crucial coming down the stretch.