The NFL released its 2011 regular season schedule on Tuesday and there’s a lot to digest.
We’ll have much more on the Vikings slate of games in the next 24 hours or so, but here are a few quick thoughts until then…
– Opening at San Diego isn’t the greatest draw in the world; you’d like to save that road trip for November or December. On top of that, Vikings fans in Minnesota will have to wait until 3:15 p.m. CT to watch the first regular season game. But at least we know the weather will be good and it’s nice to get 1 of the 8 road games out of the way early.
– A pair of home games (against Tampa Bay and then Detroit) in the first 3 weeks gives the Vikings a bit of an edge early in the season, and we can all agree it’s nice to get off to a solid start. I’m not saying the Vikings will win both of those home games, but I am saying it’s better to have 2 of your first 3 games at home instead of on the road.
– The Vikings have had more than their share of prime time games in 2009 and 2010, with many of them coming on the road. In 2011, though, the Vikings have just 2 scheduled prime time games – Sunday Night Football in Chicago on October 16 and Monday Night Football in Green Bay on November 14.
– I prefer games that begin at 12:00 p.m. CT, and for some reason I think the Vikings play better in that time slot as well. The good news this season is the Vikings have 11 games slated to begin at that hour, including the final 4 games and 5 of the final 6.
– A bye week after 8 games is ideal, and that’s what the Vikings have in 2011. A Week 9 bye means coaches and players (and staff) get a week off right in the middle of the regular season. Also, the bye week helps take a little of the sting away from traveling to road games, and the Vikings will be on the road the week before and the week after their bye.
– No road games in consecutive weeks is a big plus. The Vikings had back-to-back scheduled road games 5 times in the past 2 seasons and the Vikings are just 6-10 on the road in the past 2 years, so it’s nice to have a break from that scheduling quirk. The Vikings do play road games on each side of the bye, but as I stated above, the bye week takes the sting away from having to be on the road.
– The Vikings play 2 games against Green Bay in less than a month, with Game 1 at home on October 23 and Game 2 in Lambeau on November 14. That’s an unusual development but one that adds an interesting dynamic to this rivalry.
– The Vikings last 4 games are all against NFC teams, which can mean a lot in the playoff hunt. NFC games have tie-breaking implications, and with 2 of the final 4 games being division games there will be even more potentially on the line for the Vikings in the final month.
– Closing the season with a home game in Week 17 and 2 home games in the final 3 weeks is an advantage, especially if you’re in a playoff hunt. We won’t put the cart before the horse and declare the Vikings a playoff contender already, but if the Vikings are in a playoff battle late in the season, they’ll have the home-field advantage working in their favor.
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