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Game-by-game: Picking the Vikings’ 2017 schedule

Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Fans walk to U.S. Bank Stadium for the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the release of the NFL schedule brought serious fanfare. The Vikings were coming off a season in which they had won the NFC North title last spring, when the NFL schedule was released and one of the hosts on the best AM sports show in town took his annual stab at how Mike Zimmer’s team would fare.

There were big expectations for that club and with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater expected to show improvement in his third season as the Vikings’ starter that host’s prediction was that Minnesota would repeat its 11-5 finish from 2015.

The gruesome leg injury Bridgewater suffered just before the regular season raised some doubts but those vanished when newly acquired Sam Bradford helped lead the Vikings to a 5-0 start.

At that point, 11-5 looked like it might have been a safe pick. Then everything fell apart, the Vikings were decimated by injuries, and Minnesota went 3-8 after its bye week en route to missing the playoffs. There’s a little bit of a different feel now to the schedule release after a sour end to last year.

So what will 2017 bring? Here are Judd Zulgad and Matthew Coller’s guesses for how things will play out:

Week 1 (Sept. 11) vs. New Orleans, 6:10 p.m.

Zulgad:

The Vikings will open a home for only the second time in the past decade against Drew Brees and the Saints in the first game of an ESPN doubleheader. New Orleans is coming off a 7-9 season but Brees’ arm makes them dangerous. The schedule-makers are clearly hoping that free-agent running back Adrian Peterson signs with the Saints after 10 years with the Vikings. Prediction: Win, 1-0

Coller:

This is the perfect opponent to open the season against. The Vikings will not only have a chance to tune up their top-notch defense against one of the league’s best quarterbacks, but their revamped offense won’t face too much resistance against the New Orleans defense. PredictionL Win, 1-0

Week 2 (Sept. 17) at Pittsburgh, noon

Zulgad:

The Vikings did not get any breaks when it comes to facing good quarterbacks early in the season. This time Zimmer’s defense will have to slow another QB headed for Canton, Ohio, in Ben Roethlisberger. This will be the Vikings first game in Pittsburgh since the Steelers handed Minnesota its first loss of the 2009 season in Week 7. Prediction: Loss, 1-1

Coller:

Last year the Vikings were able to beat excellent quarterbacks back-to-back early in the season, but it’s really hard to defeat two of the absolute best in the game, especially when one of the games is on the road. If the Steelers only had one weapon in Antonio Brown, the Vikings might be able to shut him down, but add Le’Veon Bell to the mix and it’s a tough matchup. Prediction: Loss, 1-1

Week 3 (Sept. 24) vs. Tampa Bay, noon

Zulgad:

The Vikings have lost the past three home games against their former NFC Central rivals and haven’t beaten the Buccaneers at home since Sept. 20, 2001. Tampa Bay is a team on the rise, having finished 9-7 last season, and the expectation is that QB Jameis Winston could help this team reach the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons. Prediction: Win, 2-1 

Coller:

This one might depend entirely on whether Jameis Winston takes the next step in his development. The Bucs went out and got DeSean Jackson to go along with Mike Evans, making them possibly the best receiver tandem in the league. Winston likes to go down the field, but will he be able to handle the Vikings’ pass rush? Maybe. But handling it at U.S. Bank Stadium could be pretty tough. Not to mention the Bucs’ defense hasn’t gotten that much better. Prediction: Win, 2-1

Week 4 (Oct. 1) vs. Detroit, noon:

Zulgad:

In their first meeting with an NFC North opponent, the Vikings will get a chance at revenge against a team that swept the season series, including winning in overtime at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings had opportunities to win both games but were swept by Detroit for the second time in three seasons. Prediction: Win, 3-1

Coller:

I’m not buying into the Lions next season at all. They allowed the highest passer rating against in the NFL and hardly spent a time on defense in the offseason. Last year, Matthew Stafford needed a bunch of fourth quarter comebacks to even make the postseason, that will be hard to repeat. Prediction: Win, 3-1

Week 5 (Oct. 9) at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.

Zulgad:

After facing Brees, Roethlisberger, Winston and Matthew Stafford in the first four weeks, the Vikings would appear to get a bit of a break here since new Bears QB Mike Glennon is more of an unknown. The Bears also should be awful but that’s what we said last year and the Vikings lost at Soldier Field on Halloween Night. That game, like this one, also came on a Monday night in a stadium in which the Vikings often struggle. Prediction: Win, 4-1

Coller: 

Unless Mike Glennon is not, to paraphrase Denny Green, WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS, the Vikings should have an easy time with the Bears. Chicago is doing their rebuild right by not spending a ton of money in free agency, but for 2017 that could make it a rough road. The concern here is that Jordan Howard ran all over the Vikings at Soldier Field last year. That loss included some odd circumstances though (Norv!). It won’t happen again. Prediction: Win 4-1

Week 6 (Oct. 15) vs. Green Bay, noon

Zulgad:

The Vikings beat the Packers las season to open U.S. Bank Stadium and will look to again frustrate Aaron Rodgers and Co. Jordy Nelson was still getting back into the swing of things after missing time because of a knee injury and struggled for much of that game. The issue for the Packers is that general manager Ted Thompson continues to let key players leave and doesn’t seem nearly as interested in upgrading the talent around Rodgers as he should be. The Vikings aren’t complaining. Prediction: Loss, 4-2

Zulgad:

OK so we’re mostly on the same page here, Judd. We’ve seen the Vikings slow down Rodgers before and the Packers haven’t improved as much as we thought they would this offseason, but it’s still tough to pick the Vikings here. Could this be the return of Adrian Peterson to US Bank Stadium? Prediction: Loss, 4-2

Week 7 (Oct. 22) vs. Baltimore, noon

Zulgad:

The Vikings will play host to the Ravens for only the second time in franchise history, the first having been in 2009. This game also will feature the return of wide receiver Mike Wallace, who spent one disappointing season in Minnesota but seems to have developed a chemistry with Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. Prediction: Loss, 4-3

Coller:

OK, finally we differ. Joe Flacco is bad now. The Ravens’ best receiver last year was a 76-year-old Steve Smith and he retired. Their offensive line is still good but they lost Rick Wagner in free agency. Give Danielle Hunter a big day in this one for a Vikings victory. Prediction: Win, 5-2

Week 8 (Oct. 29) vs. Cleveland in London, 8:30 a.m.

Zulgad:

The start time for this one is not a misprint so you’ll have to set your alarm, have a pot of coffee ready and probably have a few less beers the night before. That being said, this game shouldn’t cause Vikings fans too much worry considering the opponent. The Vikings beat Pittsburgh, 34-27, at Wembley Stadium in their most recent trip to London (2013). Prediction: Win, 5-3

Coller:

These games are pretty hard to predict because they’re often brutal to watch. Teams are playing in a different time zone when they’ve been distracted all week by being overseas, so it can be tricky. However, the Browns are still another year or two away from being a threat. Vikings take care of business. Prediction: 6-2

Week 10 (Nov. 12) at Washington, noon

Zulgad:

The Vikings’ free-fall last season included a 26-20 loss in Washington. The Vikings will return to Washington looking to even an overall series record that the Redskins lead, 13-12. This will be the seventh meeting in the past eight years between teams that feature Cincinnati’s former defensive coordinator (Zimmer) and offensive coordinator (Jay Gruden) in head coaching roles. Prediction: Loss, 5-4

Coller:

Washington got the best of the Vikings last season on a late-game interception by Sam Bradford. Despite losing DeSean Jackson, Kirk Cousins picked up Terrelle Pryor and still should have a very dangerous offense. Coming back from London and jumping right back into it is going to be rough. Prediction: Loss, 6-3

Week 11 (Nov. 19) vs. Los Angeles Rams, noon

Zulgad:

The Rams were a putrid 4-12 last season in their first year back in Los Angeles and there are plenty of questions about what type of NFL QB Jared Goff will turn out to be. The Rams hired 31-year-old Sean McVay with the hope he can turn Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, into an elite quarterback. Will that happen? We’ll have a better idea by the time this game arrives. Prediction: Win, 6-4

Coller:

There has to be a bad loss somewhere and I think this might be it. Wade Phillips is now the defensive coordinator for the Rams and that should be pretty scary considering they have Aaron Donald in the middle. Even if Jared Goff is bad, the Vikings’ offense is going to have a tough day. Prediction: Loss, 6-4

Week 12 (Nov. 23) at Detroit, 11:30 a.m.: 

Zulgad:

The Vikings will play their second consecutive Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit after not having faced the Lions on the holiday since 1995. The last time the Vikings play back-to-back games on Thanksgiving in Detroit was 1987 and ’88. The Vikings lost 16-13 last Thanksgiving in Ford Field. Prediction: Win, 7-4

Coller:

Again, not buying Detroit. Of course, Bradford can’t play the way he did against the Lions last year on Turkey Day or it will be a huge disappointment. Prediction: Win, 7-4

Week 13 (Dec. 3) at Atlanta, noon

Zulgad:

See a pattern developing here? This will be the second of three consecutive road games for the Vikings. They end the year by playing four of their final six games on the road, including this one in the Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The defending NFC champions and quarterback Matt Ryan figure to be a tough matchup. Prediction: Loss, 7-5

Coller:

It’s really tough to go to the Super Bowl and then get back the next year. The Falcons lost their offensive coordinator to the 49ers, they are in for a drop off. The Vikings pull off the upset by taking advantage of Atlanta’s mediocre defense. Prediction: Win, 8-4

Week 14 (Dec. 10) at Carolina, noon

Zulgad:

After facing the NFC’s Super Bowl representative from the 2016 season in Week 13, the Vikings will go against the team that represented the NFC in the 2015 Super Bowl. The Panthers went 6-10 last season and finished at the bottom of the NFC South. Odds are Cam Newton’s team will show some improvement in 2017. Prediction: Loss, 7-6

 Coller:

I fully expect Cam to get back to doing Cam things, but the Panthers’ big offseason signing was Matt Kalil, who absolutely cannot handle Everson Griffen. What else have they added to make anyone think their defense will bounce back or that Cam has more weapons now? Prediction: Win: 9-4

Week 15 (Dec. 17) vs. Cincinnati, noon

Zulgad:

Zimmer gets the chance to go against his former team in a regular-season game for the first time. The Vikings are 5-0 against the Bengals all-time at home and Zimmer isn’t going to want to lose to his former boss. Prediction: Win, 8-6\

Coller:

I’m only in the second year of covering the Vikings, but here’s what I’ve learned: Somewhere in here, the wackiest thing will happen. Sam Bradford will get hurt while shaving or a coordinator will miss a game because his flight back from vacation in the Bahamas got delayed or whatever that costs the Vikings a game. This will be that game. Prediction: Loss, 9-5

Week 16 (Dec. 23) at Green Bay, 7:30 p.m.: 

Zulgad:

The Vikings lost at Green Bay on Christmas Eve last season in a game that gained attention when Zimmer indicated his defensive backs did not always play the defense he wanted. Zimmer will be hoping the only reason this game draws attention will be because these teams are fighting for playoff spots. Prediction: Loss, 8-7

Coller: 

At this point the Vikings are in the driver’s seat to make the postseason, but going to Lambeau late in the year will be too much for them. Prediction: Loss, 9-6

Week 17 (Dec. 31) vs. Chicago, noon:

Zulgad:

Does this look familiar? For the second consecutive year, the Vikings will end the regular season by playing host to the Bears. Last season, the game meant nothing because the Vikings playoff hopes were gone. Prediction: Win, 9-7

Coller:

By this point, Chicago will be hoping for losses. Glennon will have phantom injury that keeps him out, forcing the Bears to play some random college free agent they signed, opening the door for an easy win for the Vikings and a playoff berth. Prediction: Win, 10-6

  • William Sharrer

    This season will be one, where the Vikings,imho, are better than 90% of the teams they’ll face. The biggest difference compared to 2016? We were the most injured roster in the entire nfl last year, unless lightening strikes this team twice with the injury bug, it should be able to win at least 11 games. The aborition that was the losses to teams like Detroit were just that, this year we also have a healthy line and qb, who will actually have an offseason in the system, something he didn’t have last year but all our opponents qb’s did. Advantage Vikings.

  • G Rock

    Both of you knuckleheads pick the Packers to beat us twice? Ha, you lost whatever credibility you had. Why do i even come to this website?

    • Luis “TGO Fate”

      As a Vikings fan, who absolutely hates the Packers, best case scenario is going 2-0, worst is going 0-2, 1-1 is definitely the most realistic. Point being, for as much as I hate the Packers you can’t ever count them out.

  • Topgunn

    With an improved O-Line and Joe Mixon rushing for 1,265 yards, 4.9 per carry and catching 66 passes for another 645 yards, scoring 12 TD’s (8 rushing, 4 receiving) the Vikings go 12-4 and win the NFC North.

    • brian199511

      I’m on your bandwagon. Can we add a Super Bowl win at home?

  • GriffRobMike

    I think 9-7 with a chance at 10-6 so I agree mostly with this. Goessling guess of 8-8 is too low. Rick needs to hit on this draft or Vikings lack of depth is going to be an issue over the course of the season.

  • Todd Jordan

    Minnesota losses will be on road to GB, Det, Atl, Carolina and Pitt. At home, only loss will be to Balt. I see 10-6.

  • Justin Fuchs

    0-16 because I’m still pissed about last year.

  • Wilbur One

    Sometimes an abundance of pessimism gives reason for optimism.

    • Gordon Guffey

      I made a whole 37 on the test ~ LOL ~ Kind of cool ~

    • Jeeves

      25, a strategic optimist…..guess that’s why I said 11-5.

  • Marc Spector

    Vikings will go 15-1 and lose the NFC championship by a botch field goal.

  • Gordon Guffey

    This draft should bring more help to what I feel has been a very good offseason ~ I dont claim to know who they will draft or who they should draft but I do believe they will draft difference makers with two of their first 3 picks ~ I also believe that Tradewell and Alexander take big steps forward from what we saw last season ~

    This is something I believe will have as much of a effect as any player added through FA or the draft ~ 1st biggie is Zimmer will finally have his eye issues out of the wayn~ 2nd Biggie is the Vikings want have Norv and Scott Turner coaching like they are hoping Zimmer will be fired so Norv can take over as HC and Scott would take over for his dad as OC ~ These are big things that affected this team and when you add in the injuries its a miracle this team finished 8~8 in 2016 ~

  • styx rogan

    6-10 at best…4-12 worst

  • Mark

    This feels more like a transition year to me with the departure of AP , retirement of Chad Greenway and QB controversy that will linger through 2017-18. I think this is a year that if we did finish 10-6 that would be amazing. I think between 7-9 to 9-7 is more realistic here. They have so many questions they have to answer both on offense and defense. Just because we landed a few free agents doesn’t mean problem solved. I wish! There’s a romantic notion because the Super Bowl is being played here this could be our year. We only have a chance at this being close to our year if the defense returns to the prominence it had back in 2015-16. That’s our only hope for a quick resurgence. I’m okay with putting the pieces in place for long term. I’d sacrifice next year if I knew it meant 10-15 years of dominanace like in the late 1960’s and most of the 1970’s.





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