A couple days ago, we published the Minnesota Vikings schedule for the upcoming season. After spending a few moments reflecting on the schedule, we’d like to draw your attention to a five notable details.
1) Expect a Heavy Workload for Dalvin Cook in the Early Weeks:
Assuming the Minnesota Vikings and Dalvin Cook reach a contract extension soon, fans should expect to see Cook receiving 20+ touches per game in the opening six weeks of the season. The reason is not only that he is the centerpiece of the offense, but that the team will get their bye in Week 7. Having this early week off will allow the Vikings to ensure Cook receives treatment and rest early in the season.
After the bye, expect the Vikings to have a better idea of how their offensive line is playing, how the receiver depth is emerging, and how much they’re getting from their tight ends. These factors will contribute to easing Cook’s workload. Cook was far less productive in the second half of last season, so expect the Vikings to ensure he shares the workload with Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone more from Week 8 onward.
2) Four of the Opening Six Games Are Against Playoff Teams:
The first six games will present several challenges for the Vikings. The Green Bay Packers, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, and Seattle Seahawks were all playoff teams last year.
The Indianapolis Colts will likely be rejuvenated by Philip Rivers at QB, and the Atlanta Falcons have a formidable pair at receiver with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.
3) An Initial Balance Before Extended Home Stretch and Road Trip:
One of the advantages of the opening half of the schedule rests in the balance between home and away games. The first six games feature three at home and then three on the road. After their Week 7 bye, the Vikings play a divisional rival in three consecutive weeks.
From this point onward, the Vikings go on an extended home stretch from Week 11-13. Week 14-17 includes three games on the road, the foremost of which being their games in Tampa Bay and New Orleans.
4) An Early Indication of Whether the Vikings Are Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders:
As we’ve previously indicated, the Seattle Seahawks are among the most impressive teams in the NFL. In what is essentially a yearly tradition, the Vikings will play a critical road game in Seattle. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, Kirk Cousins will need to perform in primetime since the Seattle game is scheduled for Sunday night. Winning this game will go a long way in convincing Vikings fans – and the rest of the NFL – that the Vikings are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
5) A Chance for a Very Merry Christmas or a Scrooge Special:
The Vikings play the New Orleans Saints on the road on Christmas Day. Collectively, Vikings fans have never gotten over the 2009 NFC Championship game. Saints fans are bitter about the recent heartbreaking losses to the Vikings in the 2017 and 2019 playoffs.
Both teams have deep, talented rosters. Both teams have well-respected head coaches – one defensive-minded, the other offensive-minded – who emerged from the Bill Parcells coaching tree. Both have fan bases that deeply resent the opposing team. Most importantly, both teams feel like they’re legitimate contenders to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
There are going to be some very disappointed and some very happy NFL fans on Christmas Day.