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 easiest games in 2017 are the focus.
Minnesota Vikings Easiest Games in 2017
9. Week 10 at Washington Redskins
Kicking off the Minnesota Vikings’ easiest games of the schedule is another team that stole a winnable game from Minnesota. The Redskins jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in last season’s contest, only to see the Vikings storm back with three touchdowns in the second quarter (and a missed extra point right before halftime that sealed Blair Walsh‘s fate in Minnesota). The miss stalled momentum going into the locker room and the offense never got back on track despite Stefon Diggs racking up 13 receptions for 164 yards. Minnesota’s leading rusher was Jerick McKinnon, who racked up 16 yards on six carries. Again, an improved offensive line and rookie running back in Dalvin Cook should give the Vikings more balance and flip these close 50-50 games.
10. Week 7 vs Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore has always been a tough draw for the Vikings. Those of the masochistic variety may remember a snowy late season contest in 2013 that saw five lead changes in the final two minutes of the game which concluded with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to wideout Marlon Brown to hand the Vikings a 29-26 loss. Even the magical 2009 season took a 44 yard miss from Steven Hauschka to seal a 33-31 Vikings victory. With Flacco’s health in question right now, and the timetable somewhat unknown, this mid-season matchup could see anyone from a beat up Flacco to someone currently unemployed.
11. Week 14 at Carolina Panthers
If the Week 2 win over the Packers sparked excitement in Minnesota, the 22-10 Week 3 victory over the defending NFC champions had fans ready to take to Fury Road and to the Super Bowl. The Vikings’ defense sacked Cam Newton eight times (once for a safety) and picked the reigning MVP off three times, drawing early comparisons to legendary defenses like the 1985 Bears. While the Vikings have had some trouble with mobile quarterbacks, they are 3-1 against Cam Newton since he entered the league in 2011, and 2-0 with Mike Zimmer at the helm.
12. Week 15 vs Cincinnati Bengals
It shows how tough the Vikings’ schedule is that what is sure to be an emotional game on both sides ranks as the fifth easiest game of the year. Mike Zimmer was the Bengals’ defensive coordinator from 2008-13 before getting hired as the head coach in Minnesota. He was beloved by players and while many of the faces will be different, his old boss Marvin Lewis is still leading the Bengals to early playoff exits and will be looking to give his old counterpart his best shot. With the US Bank Stadium crowd behind them, the Vikings should play as inspired as ever to give their coach his first win against his former team.
13. Week 1 vs New Orleans Saints
Even as a perennial 7-9 team, the Saints still pose a threat to everyone they face with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees at quarterback. This will be the first test for a talented secondary, as Brees and head coach Sean Payton love to air the ball out. But while the Saints will likely have to rely on the aerial attack to win, the storyline here is tenth year running back Adrian Peterson returning to Minnesota to play his first professional game as the adversary to the Vikings. He will run hard, trying to show he still has some juice left in the tank and also to try showing up the Vikings’ second round pick Dalvin Cook at running back. Even if Peterson is able to break off some runs, history shows that he puts the ball on the ground when he is most amped up and the lights are the brightest (the 2009 NFC title and 2015 wild card losses come to mind). If Minnesota can slow the Saints’ offense, they should have success against the league’s second worst scoring defense.
14. Week 17 vs Chicago Bears
While the Vikings finished the 2016 season 3-8, they closed the schedule with a bang, defeating the Bears 38-10 in a meaningless game. While the Vikings haven’t had much success at Soldier Field, they have won five consecutive home games against Chicago and with expectations very low around Halas Hall, the Bears’ season will likely have been over for about a month once Week 17 rolls around. If the Vikings avoid injuries and see improvement offensively to complement what should be a great defense again, they should be playing for playoff positioning at this point. Of course, that’s never made them invincible before.
15. Week 11 vs Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are hoping that new head coach Sean McVay can bring a winning culture to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004 and hasn’t had a winning season since 2003. Former first overall pick and second year quarterback Jared Goff comes into this season as “the guy” now that journeyman Case Keenum left town to sign with the Vikings. But even as the first pick last season, he didn’t show much to prove that he can be a franchise quarterback in this league, tossing five touchdowns and seven interceptions in seven starts (with zero victories). Even with a tough defense led by Wade Phillips, the Vikings should have enough talent offensively to pull away. The Vikings’ defense can get into Goff’s head early and often and come away with a fairly easy victory.
16. Week 8 at Cleveland Browns (played in London)
While the Browns are hoping to improve on their 1-15 campaign from 2016, there is still much work to do in Cleveland before they can become a team that the rest of the league can take seriously week in and week out. But whether this game is played in Cleveland, London, or in a parking lot, the Vikings have too talented of a team to get embarrassed by the lowly Browns, right?
Be sure to check out the eight most difficult games on the 2017 Minnesota Viking schedule.