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Lunchbreak: Tough Road Slate Aside, Vikings 'in Position to Contend' for NFC North

The Vikings 2020 schedule – along with those of 31 other teams – was announced Thursday, and plenty of observations can be made about the upcoming slate of games.

Hardest schedules, easiest schedules, biggest matchups and even best "revenge games" (more on that below) have been highlighted by analysts and media members, including ESPN's Courtney Cronin, who provided her breakdown of Minnesota's 2020 schedule. Worth noting is that she counted the Vikings 3:30 p.m. (CT) kickoff at New Orleans on Christmas Day as a prime-time game. Cronin wrote:

Coming off a postseason run that ended in a loss at San Francisco in January, the Vikings path toward getting back to the playoffs includes hosting the Packers in the season opener for the first time in the team's 60-year history. It also features one of the toughest road schedules in the NFL with three prime-time games away from U.S. Bank Stadium. Based on the 2019 records of their away opponents (Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Seattle, New Orleans, Tampa Bay), the Vikings have the second-hardest road strength of schedule (.566).

Minnesota plays one outdoor game in Tampa during the final seven weeks of the season and has its earliest bye (Week 7) since 2016. The 2020 season features an expanded playoff format, which will help teams on the bubble crack the postseason. The outlook for the NFC North and the moves made (and not made) by the Bears, Lions and Packers puts Minnesota in position to contend for the division title.

Cronin added that the Vikings "are still considered one of the most intriguing teams by the NFL," having been scheduled for the league's lone Christmas Day game in addition to Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football matchups.

[Those two] come in venues that have been notoriously difficult for the Vikings. Minnesota travels to Seattle in Week 5 for a Sunday night showdown against the Seahawks and hits the road for Monday Night Football in Chicago five weeks later on Nov. 16. The Vikings have yet to win a regular-season game at Seattle's CenturyLink Field under [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer and are 2-4 at Soldier Field in that same time frame. Over the last decade, the Vikings are a combined 2-12 in games played at Seattle and Chicago.

Vikings-Saints among list of '10 spicy revenge games' for 2020

As noted above, the Vikings and Saints are scheduled to meet at the Superdome on Christmas Day.

The matchup has already been highly touted, and NFL.com's Dan Hanzus recently included it in his list of "10 spicy revenge games on tap" for the 2020 season. He named five "player-on-team" revenge games and five "team-on-team" matchups, which is where the Minnesota-New Orleans contest fell. Hanzus wrote:

You have to go all the way back to 1985 and Rocky Balboa versus Ivan Drago to find a Christmas Day sporting event with a revenge hook as juicy as this. The 13-3 Saints entered the playoffs in January as arguably the best No. 3 seed in NFL history. The inconsistent Vikings were exactly the kind of team you'd expect to get turned into cannon fodder by a superior January opponent. But the Vikings didn't blink in the Wild Card round, and Kirk Cousins connected with Kyle Rudolph on a third-and-goal pass in overtime to secure a stunning 26-20 win.

[…]

It was a bitter pill for the Saints, who have now had their hearts broken by the Vikings in two of the last three postseasons.

The other four team-on-team revenge games noted by Hanzus were as follows:

Green Bay at San Francisco (The 49ers defeated the Packers in last season's NFC Championship game.)

Miami at New England (The Dolphins felled the Patriots in Week 17 to eliminate their first-round playoff bye.)

Houston at Kansas City (Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a dramatic comeback victory, scoring 41 unanswered points over the Texans in the Divisional round.)

Tennessee at Baltimore (The Titans defeated a 14-win Ravens team 28-12 in the Divisional round.)

And as for the player-on-team revenge?

Hanzus spotlighted Carson Wentz versus the Seahawks in Week 12; Myles Garrett versus the Steelers in Week 6; Odell Beckham, Jr., against the Giants in Week 15; Melvin Gordon versus the Chargers in Week 11; and Tom Brady versus the Chargers in Week 4.

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Randle honors memory of former Vikings DL coach John Teerlinck

The Vikings and Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle are mourning the loss of former NFL coach John Teerlinck. Colts Owner Jim Irsay announced Teerlinck's passing on Sunday night.

Teerlinck coached for the Browns (1989-90), Rams (1991), Vikings (1992-94), Lions (1995-96) and Broncos (1997-2001) before joining the Colts, where he spent 11 seasons. Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star wrote:

In all those years in the NFL, Teerlinck won three Super Bowl rings — two with Denver, one with the Colts — coached 31 Pro Bowlers and taught seven men ([Dwight] Freeney, [Robert] Mathis, Bubba Baker, Kevin Greene, Chris Doleman, John Randle and Neil Smith) who finished their careers with more than 100 sacks.

One of those men, Randle, felt so indebted to Teerlinck that he asked the legendary pass rush guru to present him at his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Randle was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Vikings and spent 1990-2000 in Minnesota.

"John was my coach for three years. But what he coached me was the future of the game," Randle said in a text. "He was a special coach and a person. He had a different approach to the game that could resonate with players. I was very lucky to be at the right place and right time. He touched so many players and their families. I will always be thankful for the Guru."

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