Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Schedule day!

It's like Christmas in April! Only without the snow and scary Santas in malls.

First, the schedule itself:

Week 1: @ Cleveland
Week 2: @ Detroit
Week 3: San Francisco
Week 4: Green Bay (Mon.)
Week 5: @ St. Louis
Week 6: Baltimore
Week 7: @ Pittsburgh
Week 8: @ Green Bay
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: Detroit
Week 11: Seattle
Week 12: Chicago
Week 13: @ Arizona
Week 14: Cincinnati
Week 15: @ Carolina (Sun. Night)
Week 16: @ Chicago (Mon.)
Week 17: NY Giants

The Vikings start off on the road for their first two games and play three of their first five on the road, but there's certainly potential for a strong start, as none of the Vikings' first five opponents finished with a record better than .500 last year. In total, those five teams managed just a 19-61 combined record in 2008. And the two "best" teams in that bunch, 7-9 San Francisco and 6-10 Green Bay, will play in the Metrodome. 3-2 should be automatic, 4-1 clearly attainable, and 5-0 not out of the question.

Then come the defenses of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The loss of Bart Scott could hurt the Ravens, and if Joe Flacco has to beat us -- and he will, considering the Vikings' run defense -- I like our chances at home. The only good thing about playing at Pittsburgh is that it'll be in October, so weather at least shouldn't be a factor. And speaking of weather, you gotta love going to Green Bay on the first of November!

Then the Vikings don't have to leave Minneapolis for a full month, with a bye week and three straight home games. It's not a bad stretch for the five post-bye games, with Arizona likely to come down significantly from last year, but the final three games could be brutal: road games against Carolina and Chicago and, like last year, a home finale against the Giants.

Finally, there's the weather issue. After the Green Bay game on Nov. 1, the Vikings have three road games. Arizona will be nice, but anything could go in that Chicago game -- freezing rain, snow, wind, anything. And don't be too optimistic about that Carolina game. I can say, from experience of living in Charlotte for four years, that it can get a little nippy in late December. Not Chicago or Green Bay nippy, but 40-degree temperatures at night are not uncommon. A cold snap could drop the weather down near freezing.

Still, it's overall a rather soft-looking schedule, at least on paper. Thanks to two games against the Lions and a run against the NFC West and AFC Central bottom-feeders Cleveland and Cincinnati, the Vikings boast one of the league's easiest schedules, based on last year's records. Fully half of the Vikings' opponents (8 of 16) come against teams that lost 10 or more games in 2008. Of course, the rest of the division gets a similar break, so it wouldn't be surprising to see two (or more) playoff teams come from the division. If Green Bay can get their 3-4 defense running smoothly and Jay Cutler's a hit in Chicago, the NFC North might just be the class of the league in 2009.

Assuming everyone forgets about Detroit.

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