The National Football League released its schedule for the 2012 season on Tuesday evening to much fanfare, and fans across the league are taking a look at things and seeing how they feel their team stacks up. We here at SB Nation Minnesota are no different, and we've taken a look at the Minnesota Vikings 2012 slate. Here are some initial reactions to what the NFL presented us last night.
1) The Vikings have a very good chance to get off to a quick start - Don't get me wrong. . .a team coming off of a 3-13 season really can't look at a whole lot of other teams and chalk them up as automatic wins, but the schedule makers have given Minnesota two winnable games in the first two weeks of the season. They'll open at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. . .the first time the Vikings have opened at home since 2007. . .and then they travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts in what should be Andrew Luck's home debut.
2) The last six weeks, on the other hand, look absolutely murderous - The Vikings have their bye in Week 11, which is the latest in the season any team has a bye (they share a bye week with the Tennessee Titans, the New York Giants, and the Seattle Seahawks). Normally, that would be a bad thing, but when you look at the Vikings' final six games of the season, it might be a good thing. In those last six weeks, the Vikings play the Chicago Bears twice in the span of three weeks (sandwiching their trip to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers), then travel to St. Louis and Houston before hosting the Packers in the season finale.
3) Good news for those of you that love games that start at noon on Sunday - As you can expect for a team coming off of a bad season (and a team that isn't expected to be very good), the Vikings don't have many prime time games on the slate this year. In fact, the Vikings only have one night game, and it's a Thursday night affair against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8. Thanks to the NFL's new scheduling, every team plays at least one Thursday game this season, and that's the one for Minnesota. Outside of that, the Vikings only have two games that are not currently scheduled to kick off at noon central time, and they both involve road trips. They'll head to Washington, D.C. to take on the Redskins and (presumably) Robert Griffin III in Week 6 with a 3:15 PM kickoff, and Week 9 gives Minnesota a trip to Seattle for a game that will start at 3 PM Central.
Of course, late in the season one of Minnesota's games could get "flexed" into prime time, but that looks like a bit of a long shot at this point.
4) Weather won't be an excuse for the Vikings this year - The Vikings only have two games this year that look like they could be subject to colder weather, and they'll come in back-to-back weeks right after the Vikings' bye. In Week 12 and Week 13, the Vikings will take to the road to battle their division rivals from Chicago and Green Bay. Every other Vikings' game this year will either tame place in a dome or in a warmer climate.
5) The schedule doesn't include the Vikings' biggest 2012 opponent of all - If the Vikings have the sort of rebuilding season that they're expected to have this year, most of the conversation won't be centered around the action on the field. . .it will be whether or not there will be a 2013 season for the Vikings in Minnesota. With their current stadium push apparently dead for this year, the spectre of Los Angeles (or other locales) will loom large all season, and if the fans sense that things are going the wrong direction, they might abandon the team and leave them no reason to stay.