For Minnesota Vikings fans, the April 19 release of the 2011 NFL schedule and the April 28-30 draft might be all we have to look forward to if the lockout continues and threatens the regular season.
Here’s a look at the Vikings’ 2011 schedule:
Week One: at San Diego
If the season starts on time, the Vikings will have their hands full with a Chargers team that led the league in total defense and passing yards against. With question marks at quarterback, this isn’t probably the greatest place to start the Leslie Frazier era.
Week Two: Tampa Bay
Hopefully the Metrodome roof will be replaced by the home opener. The Buccaneers were the last team to be eliminated from playoff contention last season and their young Quarterback Josh Freeman looks to be a star in the making.
Week Three: Detroit
While both teams ended with 6-10 records last season, the Lions finished ahead of the Vikings by beating them in the 2010 finale. Don’t think the Vikings have forgotten that ugly exclamation point on a wasted season.
Week Four: at Kansas City
The Chiefs will be the first 2010 playoff team the Vikings will face in 2011. The Chiefs are historically tough to beat at Arrowhead Stadium, winning seven of eight home contests last season. This game marks Jared Allen’s return to where his pro career started.
Week Five: Arizona
Probably the first probable victory for the Vikings. Arizona is a mess and will most likely be relying on a rookie quarterback to lead them. The Vikings crushed the Cards last year and things haven’t changed enough in the desert to warrant a change of thought on this one.
Week Six: at Chicago
The Vikings were swept by the Bears in 2010 and would like nothing better than to beat the team Frazier helped to a Super Bowl in 1985. Weather shouldn’t be a factor in this one, but Jay Cutler’s attitude could be.
Week Seven: Green Bay
After sweeping the Vikings for the first time in five years, the defending champs come to town. Green Bay could be even better this year, so getting a victory over the Pack, even at home is going to be a tall challenge.
Week Eight: at Carolina
Could this be the Vikings first look at Cam Newton; who could be picked first by the Panthers? Whoever is at quarterback will have to account for the Vikings secondary that is still dangerous with Kevin Williams and Allen.
Week Nine: Bye
In one fan’s opinion this is the best time to have a bye. Smack dab in the middle of the season. The last time this happened, in 2009, the Vikes made it to the NFC title game.
Week 10: at Green Bay
When’s the last time the Vikings got to play the Packers after a bye week? The answer is never. In the Vikings only Monday Night game, the Packers will present many challenges, but the two teams will have met just 28 days prior with film and tendencies hardly a secret.
Week 11: Oakland
Even if they start strong, by week 11, Oakland should be a mess again. This game marks the first of six indoor games of the team’s last seven contests. A win is quite possible. The bigger question is if Al Davis is still alive by the November 20 kickoff.
Week 12: at Falcons
The Falcons had the best regular season record in the NFC last season. But an early playoff exit left them hungering for more. By week 12 last year will be but a memory, but Atlanta is still a very good young team who could be too much for the Vikes who are historically miserable on the road.
Week 13: Denver
Even with John Fox in Denver, the Broncos look to be at least a year out from making any noise. This is another game the Vikings have to win if they want to get into the playoffs.
Week 14: at Detroit
One of the amazing things about the Vikings schedule is that they don’t have any back-to-back road games. At this point in the season, we should know whether the Vikings are going to be competitive or not. This could be a battle of cellar dwellers or a very important game to determine the top spot in the NFC North.
Week 15: New Orleans
This is the Saints first visit to Minnesota since they beat the Vikings in the 2009 NFC Championship and last season’s opener. The Vikings could be in a crucial spot here and win over the Saints could help them tremendously.
Week 16: at Washington
Santa will have to drop off the Vikings presents at a D.C area hotel as the Vikings play the Redskins on Christmas Eve. This game could be similar to the duel they had late last season. Both teams are uncertain at quarterback, and in the second to last week of the season, this game might not mean much to either team.
Week 17: Chicago
God willing the Vikes and Bears will square off in the dome for this one. Last year’s game had to be played at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium because the of the dome collapse. Playing a division rival, at home in the last week of the season, with the playoffs on the line couldn’t get much better.
Blair Reynolds is a lifelong Vikings fan who once waited in line for five hours to get Bud Grant’s autograph.