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Lunchbreak: ESPN Highlights Key 5-Game Stretch for Vikings

The 2021 NFL schedule has been set, and observations have been made.

ESPN's Courtney Cronin delved deep into the Vikings matchups and opined that a particular section of the schedule could "determine the season" for Minnesota. She wrote:

For a second consecutive year, the Vikings bye falls in Week 7 after facing two playoff teams (Seattle and Cleveland) in the first six weeks. Coming out of the break, Minnesota hosts Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in prime time. That's followed by road games against the Ravens and Chargers. We don't know yet who will be at quarterback when Green Bay comes to town in Week 11, but chances are third overall pick Trey Lance will be under center with his loaded 49ers when Minnesota rounds out a critical five-game stretch at San Francisco in Week 12.

Cronin also offered takeaways on the Vikings schedule, pointing out that they will play the Bengals on the road Week 1 after four consecutive season openers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Cincinnati matchup, she said, "is a game with storylines galore."

[Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer coaching against his former team (he was the defensive coordinator from 2008-13); the LSU connections between Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson and former teammates and current Bengals Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase; and, dare we call them 'revenge games' for ex-Vikings Riley Reiff and Trae Waynes. For the first time in the Zimmer era, Minnesota will be on the road for the first two weeks of the season, going from Cincinnati to Arizona. It appears the Vikings also earned their way back into the good graces of the prime-time gods. Minnesota has two Sunday night games (Dallas in Week 8 and Green Bay in Week 17), a Thursday night matchup (Pittsburgh in Week 14) and a Monday night showdown in Chicago in Week 15 a year after pulling off just their third win at Soldier Field since 2010.

And as far as Cronin's bold prediction for Minnesota, coming off a 7-9 finish last season? She believes they'll be making a postseason appearance.

Just like in 2020, the Vikings will beat all three of their NFC North opponents on the road, but this time they will find their way back into the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

View photos of the Vikings 2021 schedule at U.S. Bank Stadium and on the road.

Is Cook poised to break single-season record in 17-game slate?

In response to Wednesday night's release of the 2021 schedule, NFL.com's Brandon Mendoza made a handful of snap judgements – or “overreactions” – to what this particular schedule arrangement could spell out for certain teams and players across the league.

One prediction Mendoza made is that stretching the regular season to 18 weeks (17 games plus a bye), "at least five single-season records will be broken" in 2021. He highlighted each benchmark that seems within reach with an extra game in consideration, and he also pointed to the player most likely to reach it.

Among the potentially breakable records is yards from scrimmage.

The current mark is 2,509, which was achieved by Chris Johnson with the Titans in 2009. But Mendoza said Vikings running back Dalvin Cook could be a contender for this one. He wrote:

[Cook] averaged 137.0 scrimmage yards per game in 2020 but, like [Davante] Adams, missed two-plus games due to groin and ankle injuries.

Cook last season racked up 1,918 scrimmage yards over 14 games. If he stays healthy throughout the 2021 campaign, will he break Johnson's record?

View the best photos of Vikings RB Dalvin Cook from the 2020 season.

Other records Mendoza pointed to included Michael Strahan's 22.5 sacks in 2001 (potential contender: Aaron Donald), 1,964 receiving yards by Calvin Johnson in 2012 (contender: Adams), 2,105 rushing yards by Eric Dickerson in 1984 (contender: Derrick Henry) and Peyton Manning's 5,477 passing yards for the 2013 Broncos (contender: Dak Prescott).

Click here to see Mendoza's full lineup of "overreactions" to the 2021 schedule.

Vikings Legends remember late, great Jerry Burns

The Vikings this week are mourning the loss of longtime coach Jerry Burns, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 94.

After the news of Burns' passing surfaced, some of his former players took to Twitter to share memories or express condolences.

View photos of former Vikings head coach and Ring of Honor member, Jerry Burns.

Tommy Kramer, who was with the Vikings for five of Burns' six years as head coach, posted the locker room photo that has become iconic:

Vikings Ring of Honor member Chuck Foreman credited Burns for "changing the game."

Vikings Legend Greg Coleman also posted a photo and tribute to Burns:

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