Analyzing the Vikings’ 2020 schedule

The+schedule+for+the+2020+NFL+season+has+been+released.

Dylan Krenz-Bertrand

The schedule for the 2020 NFL season has been released.

The schedule reveal is the last real piece of news from the NFL until training starts with rookie camps in the summer, and that news has come out as of May 7th. While the teams and locations of games have been known since the regular season ended, the scheduling has just been made known to the public, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Starting off with the preseason…

The Vikings host the Houston Texans, go on an Ohio run by visiting both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, and then wrapping it up by hosting the Seattle Seahawks. A lot of interesting things are going on with these games even though they don’t affect the team’s record. One key thing of note here is that the Vikings will visit the two teams they host in the preseason, both in October. With all of these teams, it will be a good test for the newer and younger Vikings defense going up against quarterbacks Deshaun Watson, 1st overall pick Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield, and Russell Wilson. The most important preseason game is always the third, which happens to be against new Browns head coach and former Vikings QB coach and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.

Moving on to the regular season games…

Minnesota opens up at home against the Green Bay Packers, the first time this has happened in franchise history. This is a huge game at any time of the year, and kicking off the season with a victory here would be crucial for the team’s success. A potential game for volatile results, I can see both teams winning this game due to the Vikings’ young secondary and rebuilt O-Line against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay defense, however these weaknesses can be mitigated if the rookies show up big early and the Vikings can force Rodgers into bad situations as he is aging and seems very unhappy with the Packers. A win here would shoot these teams into opposite directions far beyond the win/loss column.

The next game has the Vikings hitting the road to play the Indianapolis Colts. New Colts quarterback Phillip Rivers played the Vikings last year to the tune of three interceptions and a 39-10 defeat in Los Angeles and has only gotten older and now has to adjust to a new system in Indianapolis. I like seeing the Colts early in the year as they will be relying on several new pieces to their team and may not have all the kinks worked out, something the Vikings can certainly take advantage of.

The Vikings’ next opponent is the Tennessee Titans at home. The biggest problem with this matchup will be standout RB Derrick Henry who got the underdog Titans one game away from the Super Bowl last year. They also had QB Ryan Tannehill have a breakout year last season as well as a strong defense. A good early season test against a real contender in the AFC will be good for this team as an early litmus test.

The third straight AFC South opponent, the Houston Texans, host the Vikings in their fourth game. The Texans have faced a lot of turmoil over the offseason, and while they were formidable last year, they were somewhat shaky and are certainly not the same team they were last year, however it is always dangerous to play Deshaun Watson wherever you are and no matter who’s playing with him.

The gauntlet of the first five games featuring four playoff teams ends with the Seattle Seahawks hosting the Vikings on Sunday night, a seemingly annual occurrence of a prime time game in Seattle for Minnesota. Last year, the Vikings came very close to beating Seattle without Dalvin Cook for half of the game, so if the team is healthy this may be a game that we can take away from another NFC competitor.

Returning from a two game road trip, the Vikings return home to play the Falcons. Atlanta was one of the worst teams in the league for most of the season last year, but went on a tear late and ended up with a respectable record which likely saved head coach Dan Quinn’s job. It is tough to say how good Atlanta will be next year as they still haven’t fully recovered from their Super Bowl 51 loss, but the Vikings should take them seriously as they are sandwiched in between two tough opponents.

The Vikings get a bye for their seventh week of the season, a good location roughly halfway through the season. Looking ahead at the opponents after the bye, the schedule gets drastically easier at this point in time, however it is impossible to tell until after the season has concluded.

Their first opponent out of the bye is a road game at Green Bay. The Vikings will get both games against the Packers following extended periods of rest which gives a massive advantage to the Vikings, especially with the Packers playing two tougher road games leading up to this one. I can actually see this game being easier for the Vikings despite it being on the road because of the bye and with the young players having significantly more experience.

The second of three divisional games for the Vikings has them hosting the Detroit Lions. This is an under the radar team that may end up competing for the division crown, and the first meeting between these two teams is very important to get ahead in the division race, especially after both Green Bay games have already been played.

The Vikings visit Chicago for their last road game in potentially cold weather of the year in mid-November for a Monday night game against the Bears, their second and final primetime game of the year barring flexing the schedule later in the year. While Chicago has a formidable defense, they look to be on the decline from their 12-4 record two years ago and I do not expect them to be competitive beyond this point in the season.

Minnesota starts a three game home stand against the Dallas Cowboys. This stretch will likely make or break the season as all three games are winnable, but cannot afford to be lost either. The Cowboys are a mystery every single season, and right now no one knows who their quarterback will be to start the season. However, they improved their already explosive offense from last season and will likely have more success due to their new head coach Mike McCarthy. This will most likely be the toughest of these three games, and starting off with a win will go a long way to improve the team’s odds for the rest of the year.

Following a nice Thanksgiving meal, the Vikings host the Carolina Panthers. Familiar QB Teddy Bridgewater will captain this team back into Minnesota for a warm welcoming home, and hopefully a victory. Running back Christian McCaffrey exploded last year, being a dark horse MVP candidate for most of the season despite not playing QB. Mitigating McCaffrey’s effectiveness is the key to victory here.

For their final game of the defense of Minneapolis, the Vikings welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars into their stadium. This may be the worst team the Vikings play all year, but they do have a retooled defense and some weapons on offense that could potentially give the Vikings trouble, but this should not be a significant challenge for the Vikings.

Returning to the road, the Vikings visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their second meeting with Tom Brady in two years. This late into the season, cracks could be showing in the Buccaneers’ armor or they could prove to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Depending on how Brady and the Bucs are doing at this point in the season will play a large role in the Vikings’ odds of walking out of Tampa Bay with a victory, but this team looks dangerous.

For the final home game of the year, the Vikings will host the Chicago Bears. Again, I do not foresee this to be a very exciting game as the Bears look to be trending downwards, but this is still an important game for the Vikings to win going into the tail end of the season.

On the first day of Christmas, the schedule gave to me: A game against New Orleans. The Vikings will visit the Saints on Christmas day to get a rematch of the wild finish in the Wild Card game last postseason where the Vikings beat their interdivisional rival in overtime in New Orleans. This is the most exciting game on the schedule for me, and the best Christmas gift I could receive would be to beat the Saints.

Finally, the Vikings close the season by going to Detroit for the first slate of games in 2021. Hopefully the Vikings have locked up a playoff spot at this point in the season, but a victory against the Lions would go a long way in improving the Vikings’ seeding in the postseason.

Removing any possible alterations due to COVID-19, this looks to be an excellent and exciting group of games for the Vikings in a few months. My predictions for the season are as follows:

W1 vs GB: L

W2 @ IND: W

W3 vs TEN: L

W4 @ HOU: W

W5 @ SEA: L

W6 vs ATL: W

W7 BYE

W8 @ GB: W

W9 vs DET: W

W10 @ CHI: W

W11 vs DAL: L

W12: vs CAR: W

W13 vs JAX: W

W14 @ TB: L

W15 vs CHI: W

W16 @ NO: W

W17 @ DET: W

Overall: 11-5, win NFC North