Last Word On Pro Football is currently analyzing the schedules of all 32 NFL teams. Each game will be ranked according to difficulty, with one being the hardest game. This series will be broken up into two articles, including the most difficult (1-8) and easiest (9-16) games for each team. In this piece, the Minnesota Vikings most difficult games in 2017 are the focus.
Minnesota Vikings Most Difficult Games in 2017
1. Week 16: at Green Bay Packers
Copy, paste, repeat. This is the game that is always circled when the schedule comes out. While Minnesota has only won in Green Bay twice since 2006 (along with a tie against an Aaron Rodgers-less squad in 2013), a win at Lambeau usually reflects well on the team as a whole, as those two victories came from the two strongest Vikings teams since the Randy Moss days. If the Vikings can avoid the injury bug, this late season bought will likely have strong playoff and division implications.
2. Week 2: at Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are always a tough team at Heinz Field, and coming off a season in which they fell one game short of the Super Bowl. It’s hard to imagine that they will be an easy early season ticket. With the talented trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, a Vikings defense that comes in with lofty expectations will be stretched thin defending the entire field. This game will show fans early on how the season will play out.
3. Week 6: vs Green Bay Packers
While the Vikings opened up US Bank Stadium with a victory last season against the Packers, it wasn’t without a stadium-sized amount of drama. A late Trae Waynes interception sealed an intense 17-14 victory that sparked the Vikings’ 5-0 start. This time around, Green Bay comes in with tape on Sam Bradford (who completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two scores less than two weeks after being acquired last season) and will be vying to prove last season’s early loss was a fluke, as they have won in Minnesota five of their past seven meetings.
4. Week 12: at Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving)
The Lions spoiled the Vikings’ Thanksgiving last year with a 16-13 victory and will be looking to show the nation again that they are no longer “that other team that plays on Thanksgiving.” Minnesota held a 13-10 lead late in last season’s contest, but a field goal, last minute interception by Darius Slay, and last second field goal by Matt Prater was another reminder that the 2016 season was snakebitten from the start for the Vikings. Short yardage situations killed the Vikings in last year’s game, and hopefully an improved line and the likes of rookie Dalvin Cook can help them milk the clock if they find themselves ahead late again
5. Week 13: at Atlanta Falcons
While on paper this would appear to be the toughest game for the Vikings, Atlanta enters 2017 trying to shake off the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history. While experts will try to say they won’t have the Super Bowl hangover, the Falcons still aren’t going to have the same magical feeling they had in last year’s run. They will almost never feel that they have a game completely in hand until the final gun, and by the time Week 13 rolls around, they will be more drained than people will expect. Still, they have weapons all over the field that will test the Vikings much like Pittsburgh early on. The Julio Jones– Xavier Rhodes matchup will be the storyline in this one as arguably the two best players at their respective positions go mano y mano.
6. Week 4: vs Detroit Lions
Before last season’s Thanksgiving day collapse, the Vikings had another late lead that they relinquished to the Lions. After a Rhett Ellison touchdown run, the Vikings decided not to rush Matt Stafford and allowed him to set up a 58-yard Matt Prater field goal. In overtime, Golden Tate made the Vikings’ two best defenders Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith look silly on a 28-yard touchdown reception that officially knocked the once-promising season off the tracks. Again, effective short yardage situations and not having Blair Walsh in the state of Minnesota should be enough for the Vikings to be on the winning side of what is sure to be another close division game.
7. Week 3: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Old NFC Central foes battle it out in this early season contest. Despite his questionable off-field decisions, third year quarterback Jameis Winston is poised to become a star. While the Vikings have had strong defensive play since Mike Zimmer was hired in 2014, they have had some trouble with mobile quarterbacks. And even though Winston isn’t the next Mike Vick, he is not afraid to move out of the pocket. This is another tough early season ticket against a team who could very well be battling the Vikings for playoff positioning late in the season.
8. Week 5: at Chicago Bears
Say what you want about the state of the Bears, but the Vikings have only won in Chicago three times since 2000, and the Bears haven’t exactly been the New England Patriots in that time span. Despite finishing 2016 at 3-13, Chicago embarrassed the Vikings on Monday Night Football last Halloween, winning 20-10 and even injuring Zimmer’s eye in the process. While Jay Cutler‘s retirement helps the Vikings (20 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a 7-1 home record in Chicago against them), they found ways to win with Jim Miller, Rex Grossman, and Kyle Orton in the past.
Be sure to check out the eight easiest games on the 2017 Minnesota Vikings schedule.