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Schedule Icebreakers, Games 9-12: NFC Heavyweights

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 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

Week 9

Vikings vs. Rams

Noon* (CT) | Nov. 8 | TCF Bank Stadium

Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 25-16-2

Last time in regular season:Vikings won 34-6 on Sept. 7, 2014; Last time in regular season in Minnesota:Vikings won 36-22 on Dec. 31, 2006

St. Louis' 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 5,035 (28th in NFL); Rushing yards: 1,635 (20th); Passing yards: 3,400 (23rd); Points/game: 20.3 (21st)

St. Louis' 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 5,626 (17th); Rushing yards allowed/game: 1,765 (14th); Passing yards allowed/game: 3,861 (19th); Points allowed/game: 22.1 (tied for 16th); Sacks: 40 (13th); Interceptions: 13 (tied for 18th)

Icebreakers:St. Louis will make its first trip to Minnesota since New Year's Eve 2006 and do so with a stout defensive line that gained depth with the addition of former Lions DT Nick Fairley, who will join 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, along with defensive ends Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Will Hayes and Eugene Sims. The Rams were active at quarterback this offseason in sending Sam Bradford to Philadelphia in exchange for Nick Foles and have an assortment of young running backs. Vikings backup QB Shaun Hill returned to Minnesota, where his career began in 2002, after one season with the Rams. This is a rematch of the 2014 season-opener that the Vikings claimed 34-6 down the Mississippi River.

Week 10

Vikings at Raiders

3:05 p.m.* (CT) | Nov. 15 | Coliseum

Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 4-10-0

Last time in regular season:Raiders won 27-11 on Nov. 20, 2011; Last time in regular season at Oakland:Raiders won 28-18 on Nov. 16, 2003

Oakland's 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 4,515 (32nd in NFL); Rushing yards: 1,240 (32nd); Passing yards: 3,275 (26th); Points/game: 15.8 (31st)

Oakland's 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 357.6 (21st); Rushing yards allowed/game: 119.4 (22nd); Passing yards allowed/game: 238.1 (16th); Points allowed/game: 28.3 (32nd); Sacks: 22 (tied for 30th); Interceptions: 9 (27th)

Icebreakers:This is the second regular season game that's a rematch of a Vikings Super Bowl appearance (XI), and the trip down memory lane is loaded with connections. The Vikings will seek their first win on the east side of the Bay since 1996, a 16-13 overtime result highlighted by an 82-yard pass from Brad Johnson to Jake Reed. Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice coached Vikings tight ends that season before becoming Minnesota's head coach (2002-05). Former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave will handle the same duties for newly hired Head Coach Jack Del Rio, who played linebacker for the Vikings from 1992-95. Former Vikings Christian Ponder and J'Marcus Webb are now on the Raiders. This will be just Minnesota's second regular season trip to "The Black Hole" in 20 seasons.

Week 11

Vikings vs. Packers

Noon* (CT) | Nov. 22 | TCF Bank Stadium

Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 49-58-2

Last time in regular season in Minnesota:Packers won 24-21 on Nov. 23, 2014

Green Bay's 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 6,178 (6th in NFL); Net rushing yards: 1,804 (11th); Net passing yards: 4,261 (8th); Points/game: 30.4 (1st)

Green Bay's 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 346.4 (15th); Net rushing yards allowed/game: 119.9 (23rd); Net passing yards allowed/game:  226.4 (10th); Points allowed/game: 21.8 (tied for 13th); Sacks: 41 (tied for 9th); Interceptions: 18 (tied for 7th)

Icebreakers:Those guys look familiar? Green Bay retained Aaron Rodgers's blindside protector Bryan Bulaga and one of his favorite targets, Randall Cobb, as well as fullback John Kuhn and backup Scott Tolzien. The Packers also re-signed B.J. Raji and former Viking Letroy Guion on their defensive line and safety Sean Richardson. The first meeting between the border rivals of 2015 will fall one day shy of their second meeting in 2014. The Vikings improved dramatically in the encore last season but suffered the first of three losses by three points or fewer in their final six games. Former Packers DuJuan Harris and Brandon Bostick joined the Vikings in free agency this offseason.

View the 2015 Vikings schedule in photos.

Week 12

Vikings at Falcons

Noon* (CT) | Nov. 29 | Georgia Dome

Series Results:Vikings W-L-T: 17-11-0

Last time in regular season:Vikings won 41-28 on Sept. 28, 2014; Last time in regular season in Atlanta:Falcons won 24-14 on Nov. 27, 2011

Atlanta's 2014 offensive rankings: Total yards: 6,051 (8th in NFL); Rushing yards: 1,498 (24th); Passing yards: 4,553 (5th); Points/game: 23.8 (12th)

Atlanta's 2014 defensive rankings: Total yards allowed/game: 398.3 (32nd); Rushing yards allowed/game: 118.4 (21st); Passing yards allowed/game: 279.9 (32nd); Points allowed/game: 26.1 (27th); Sacks: 22 (tied for 30th); Interceptions: 16 (tied for 12th)

Icebreakers:Going from facing Rodgers (second in passer rating in 2014) to Matt Ryan (second in completions and attempts) to bookend Thanksgiving will challenge a defense's gratitude like few things can. Julio Jones led the NFC with 104 receptions for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns in 2014 and might receive an extensive dose of attention from Xavier Rhodes, who began shadowing teams' top receiving threats last season. Dan Quinn will bring his defensive background from Seattle to Atlanta and be the fifth head coach leading his team for the first season in 2015. This will be a rematch of the game in which Teddy Bridgewater made his NFL debut as a starter with a 317-yard passing performance that was joined by Georgia native and rookie classmate Jerick McKinnon's 135 yards rushing.

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