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While the Vikings are still in the thick of the 2017 season, the NFL has released the schedules for each team in 2018 (as only 12 teams remain active, anyway). The 13-3 Vikings (which is a first for this team, that’s never gone 13-3 before) aren’t looking towards next season, they’re not even looking past next week. The team really seems confident, and they should be, they’re by far the most balanced team in the NFL and that’s also not something that they or we (as fans) are used to. Sure, the 2009 Vikings had the Williams Wall and Jared Allen, but their defense was nowhere near the level of this Vikings teams’ defense. With the improved play of Trae Waynes and Ben Gedeon stepping in for the retired Chad Greenway, this defense really has no weak point. They will also be playing at home, which will be a huge advantage for them.

But enough about this season, let’s take a look at what the NFL cooked up for the 2018-19 Vikings (Let me guess, we’ll play the Giants again).

Home:

Chicago: It’ll be really interesting to see who the Bears end up hiring as their head coach. Word is that they’re interested in both Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards and also Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. We discussed this in depth on the purpleJOURNAL Podcast this week, check it out! You’d think that they’d go with an offensive head coach as they went all in on Trubisky and he really needs to improve his play, soon.

Detroit: Another team that lost its coach, Detroit always did seem to have the Vikings number these past couple seasons. They fell apart as the season went on and it was just time for Caldwell to go. They have one of the better, still kinda young, QB’s in the league in Matthew Stafford and do have some weapons on offense, when they stay healthy (I’m talking to you Ameer Abdullah). Hopefully with this coaching change the Vikings will be able to steamroll the Lions like the good old days.

Green Bay: Lots of drama in Green Bay! They finally sort of got rid of Ted Thompson, by “transitioning him to a new role”, just like that kid “transitioned” Old Yeller into a new role. I just envisioned the end ‘Of Mice and Men’, with Thompson staring out blankly into the sky, asking Mike McCarthy if he will still be able to refuse to pick up free agents/tend to rabbits. Green Bay does have Aaron Rodgers, who will come into 2018 with a chip on his shoulder, literally. His injury really exposed the multitude of problems that the Packers did have and while he is good enough to carry a bad team to the playoffs, it feels a lot like the Packers are in semi-rebuild mode.

Arizona: Speaking of rebuild mode… The Cardinals are a mess. The big rumor, at least on the purpleJOURNAL Podcast is that Pat Shurmur will end up coaching in Arizona and he will bring Sam Bradford with him. That’d make a lot of sense and depending on how Bradford’s knee holds up (the word “degenerative” is never good, especially in a football player who has had two surgeries on that same knee) they could actually be a lot better than they were in 2017. Injuries killed them, but they’ll have David Johnson back, which obviously will change the dynamic of this team’s offense. If they do hire Shurmur and bring Bradford down there, I do think the familiarity between Zimmer and Shurmur would make this an incredibly interesting game to watch… Especially as Zimmer shuts them out!

San Francisco: Speaking of how a new QB can change a team’s fortunes! Man, oh man! Jimmy Garoppolo has completely changed, basically everything, for this ‘9ers squad! He reminds me a lot of Aaron Rodgers, in terms of how he basically sat behind one of the greatest QB’s ever (for Rodgers it was obviously Favre, and for Garoppolo it was the still elite Tom Brady). Clearly, this was different as the Patriots traded Garoppolo for a second-round pick, which considering how he’s played since he landed in San Francisco, seems like the steal of the century for the ‘9ers. They’ve gone 5-0 since he’s arrived and he’s basically created an aura of excellence, of winning. The players are buying into what he is selling and this team actually scares me. It’ll be a great game, though, to see a young “up-and-coming” quarterback go against the leagues best defense! Bring it on, I say!

Buffalo: Watching Buffalo celebrate the fact that they made the playoffs after a nearly 20-year drought actually brought a tear to my eye. You can watch that here:

https://www.instagram.com/stephenhauschka4/

They’re not the best team in the world and their making the playoffs does show that the AFC is STRUGGLING right now. Outside of the Patriots and Steelers (and perhaps the Chiefs, who have bounced back and won four in a row leading into the playoffs, like the Giants did when they won their first Super Bowl this century). Even though they did make the playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see if they stick with Tyrod Taylor in the off-season. I’m thinking they won’t and will draft someone who will start sooner rather than later. This Vikings defense versus a late first round pick rookie QB? I’ll let you guys finish that thought…

Miami: Jay Cutler is gone. That sucks! This should be a pretty easy game, even with the return of Ryan Tannehill. They also got rid of their best player in Jay Ajayi for some reason. So, chalk this up as a win.

New Orleans: God, I hate New Orleans. This better not be the typical revenge game the Vikings have the year after losing to a team in the playoffs/NFC Championship. They always seem to manhandle the team that broke our hearts a few months prior and it actually makes you feel worse about the situation. So, hopefully that’ll be a more “kick them when they’re down” situation.

Away:

Chicago: See Above

Detroit: See Above

Green Bay: See Above

Los Angeles Rams: The start of a really rough schedule, on the road of course. Sure, the Vikings are the second seed this year and thus they’ll have a tougher schedule, but this is ROUGH. The Rams should be even better next year, with Jared Goff going into his third year, which is typically the year that players break out (mostly wide receivers, but… I’m lazy). Also, with the Rams on a collision course with the Vikings in the playoffs, this game could be another Saints (See above) situation.

Seattle: The Seahawks aren’t the same team they were a few years ago. I’ve actually thought that the Vikings are the “new” Seahawks, and their window of opportunity is just opening (the Vikes I mean). Their defense (the Vikings) is arguably better than the one that the Seahawks had during their Super Bowl era. Sure, they had a lot of injuries this season on defense, but their offensive line is so terrible that unless they do what the Vikes did this past off-season and do a (nearly) complete rebuild of their line this upcoming off-season.

New England: This will be a HUGE game and could end up being a redo of this year’s Super Bowl. If not, it’ll be great to see how Zimmer’s defense stacks up against Tom Brady, who is definitely the best quarterback of all-time.

New York Jets: This is one of the easier games on the schedule, but considering that it’s on the road and that a lot of teams that go 5-11 can turn things around, completely, from year to year, you never know really which games are going to be easy and which games are going to be tough. So, basically, this article is a complete waste of time!

Philadelphia: The number one seed versus the number two seed! This post-season, the Vikings have basically played every team that they’ll face. From the Rams, Saints and Falcons, the Vikings have faced and defeated half of the teams in the tourny. They lost to the Panthers, in Carolina, but somehow ended up encouraging a lot of people as they played a terrible game (that was completely out of character) and still tied the game with two minutes to go. The only team that they haven’t faced that’s in the playoffs is the Eagles. Depending on when this game falls, they may or may not face the “real” Eagles, as their MVP-ish quarterback Caron Wentz tore his ACL late in the season and may not be ready to play when the season begins. Either way, pitting the top two NFC teams against one another is basically the cherry on top of the crap sundae that is this schedule.

Conclusion: I may be biased (look at the URL of this site, that I created after being run off of Reddit for my defense of Trae Waynes in 2015), but it does always feel like the Vikings get a tough schedule regardless of their record. Playing in a good division (in the past) never helps, but even bad divisional opponents are tricky just based on the familiarity that builds between the teams. Granted, a lot can and will change from year to year and a lot of the teams that made the playoffs this year may not next year. The Vikings, in my lifetime (born in 1984), never went to the playoffs the year after suffering a defeat in the NFC Championship, for example (outside of the 1988-1989 team, which I obviously don’t remember). So, take all of this with a bottle of salt, but as it stands right now, the Vikings will have one of the tougher schedules in the NFL (and it doesn’t seem close).