Tuesday's **schedule release** answered the when question that awaited the Vikings, who have known their 2015 opponents since the previous regular season ended.
As the calendar advances, there will be plenty of time for Vikings Entertainment Network and Vikings.com to preview each matchup when the regular season rolls around. Several aspects of each matchup could change in this year's NFL Draft (April 30-May 2), but here are some icebreakers to start the conversation.
We'll group these in quarters:
Weeks 1-5 | Weeks 6-9 | Weeks 10-13 | Weeks 14-17
9:20 p.m. (CT) | Sept. 14 | Levi's Stadium
Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 22-22-1
Last time in regular season:Vikings won 24-13 on Sept. 23, 2012; Last time in regular season at San Francisco:Vikings won 27-7 on Dec. 9, 2007
San Francisco's 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 5,239 (20th in NFL); Rushing yards: 2,176 (4th); Passing yards: 3,063 (30th); Points/game: 19.1 (25th)
San Francisco's 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 321.4 (5th); Rushing yards allowed/game: 100.8 (7th); Passing yards allowed/game: 220.7 (5th); Points allowed/game: 21.3 (10th); Sacks: 36 (tied for 21st); Interceptions: 23 (1st)
Icebreakers:The 49ers have a new head (coach) and are searching for a new heart (to replace seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time First-Team All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis). Jim Tomsula, San Francisco's defensive line coach from 2007-14, was promoted after Jim Harbaugh — and his khakis — headed for Michigan. Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick's passer rating has decreased and his rushing yards have increased in each of the past three seasons. The Vikings have the opportunity to open in the venue that will host Super Bowl 50 in February 2016. Minnesota will become the third team located in the Central time zone to play the late game of the season-opening Monday Night Football doubleheader since it was launched in 2006, which will make for quite the redeye flight back.
Vikings vs. Lions
Noon (CT) | Sept. 20 | TCF Bank Stadium
Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 69-36-2
Last time in regular season in Minnesota:Lions won 17-3 on Oct. 12, 2014* *
Detroit's 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 5,452 (19th in NFL); Rushing yards: 1,422 (28th); Passing yards: 4,030 (12th); Points/game: 20.1 (22nd)
Detroit's 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 300.9 (2nd); Rushing yards allowed/game: 69.3 (1st); Passing yards allowed/game: 231.6 (13th); Points allowed/game: 17.6 (3rd); Sacks: 42 (8th); Interceptions: 20 (tied for 3rd)
Icebreakers:A man named Suh won't be the disruptive houseguest of the Vikings anytime soon. Ndamukong Suh's departure to Miami via free agency after five seasons in Motor City means a regular season reunion isn't scheduled to happen until 2018 when the Dolphins are next due to visit the Vikings. Detroit, however, traded for another large double-consonants-to-start-a-name d-tackle, acquiring Haloti Ngata from Baltimore this offseason. Minnesota showed improvements against NFC North foes last season, and Mike Zimmer would like to set the standard high in his second home opener as Vikings head coach.
Vikings vs. Chargers
Noon (CT) | Sept. 27 | TCF Bank Stadium
Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 5-6-0
Last time in regular season:Chargers won 24-17 on Sept. 11, 2011; Last time in regular season in Minnesota:Vikings won 35-17 on Nov. 4, 2007
San Diego's 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 5,465 (18th in NFL); Rushing yards: 1,367 (30th); Passing yards: 4,098 (10th); Points/game: 21.8 (17th)
San Diego's 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 338.3 (9th); Rushing yards allowed/game: 124.1 (26th); Passing yards allowed/game: 214.2 (4th); Points allowed/game: 21.8 (tied for 13th); Sacks: 26 (29th); Interceptions: 7 (tied for 28th)
Icebreakers:San Diego was the only team in NFL in 2014 to go "even Steven" and score the same number of points it allowed (348). The Chargers plucked receivers from the east and west coasts, bringing in Jacoby Jones from Baltimore and Steve Johnson from San Francisco in free agency. San Diego also gave attention to its pass coverage by re-signing cornerback Brandon Flowers to a multi-year deal. No mention of the Chargers is complete without dynamic pass-catching tight end Antonio Gates, who will be 35 but tied for 10th in the NFL last season with 12 TD catches and totaled 69 receptions for 821 yards. Gates racked up 377 catches for 4,943 yards and 49 touchdowns when Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner was San Diego's head coach (2007-12).
Vikings at Broncos
3:25 p.m. (CT) | Oct. 4 | Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 7-6-0
Last time in regular season:Broncos won 35-32 on Dec. 4, 2011; Last time in regular season at Denver:Broncos won 22-19 in overtime on Dec. 30, 2007
Denver's 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 6,446 (4th in NFL); Rushing yards: 1,785 (15th); Passing yards: 4,661 (4th); Points/game: 30.1 (2nd)
Denver's 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 305.2 (3rd); Rushing yards allowed/game: 79.8 (2nd); Passing yards allowed/game: 225.4 (9th); Points allowed/game: 22.1 (tied for 16th); Sacks: 41 (tied for 9th); Interceptions: 18 (tied for 7th)
Icebreakers:Gary Kubiak is Denver's new head coach, but "The Sheriff" remains in place. Some speculated Peyton Manning might ride into the sunset, but the five-time NFL MVP has returned for another run in the Rockies. His 4,727 passing yards and 39 touchdowns against 15 interceptions in 2014 are still elite, but not as gaudy as his 5,477 yards and 55 TDs against 10 INTs in 2013. Baseball is known for decisive Game 7s in October, but this day will be Minnesota's seventh game at Denver (series tied 3-3). It will be the Vikings fourth time to face Manning and first against the QB since September 2008. Minnesota limited Marvin Harrison to one catch for 16 yards in that game and will need to do well against another No. 88, Demaryius Thomas, this year.