The NFL schedule presents a myriad of difficulties for all teams, and the Minnesota Vikings will face their own challenges throughout the year.
Here is the #Vikings‘ 2023 schedule: pic.twitter.com/JcEkDcDMsV
— Ben Goessling (@BenGoessling) May 12, 2023
While the schedule is looked at as a season-long entity by fans at the time of the announcement, coaches will insist that each game presents its own issue as the season moves along, and that every opponent is difficult.
The truth of the matter is that some portions of the schedule are more difficult than others, and in the case of the Vikings, there appear to be 2 very critical sections that head coach Kevin O’Connell, his staff and his players are going to have to get through if the season is going to be successful.
Pitfall No. 1: 5 Games in October
The Vikings start the month with a road game against the Carolina Panthers, who will likely have No. 1 draft pick Bryce Young under center. Facing a highly touted rookie quarterback is one thing, but the other issue is that the Vikings will see former teammate Adam Thielen lining up at wide receiver. While both the Vikings and Thielen have maintained civility and have been highly complimentary towards each other, the receiver will want to show the Vikings that they made a mistake.
After that game the Vikings will host the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and then go on the road against the Green Bay Packers.
Trying to hold down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense will be the most challenging assignment for the Vikings defense, and then they must be prepared for Jordan Love and the Packers. While not having to face Aaron Rodgers seems like a positive development, a road game against the Packers is never easy.
The Vikings come home to battle the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. Kirk Cousins has often struggled during the prime time showcase, and the Niners defense won’t allow things to be easy for him.
Finally, the Vikings close out the month with a road game against the Chicago Bears. Quarterback Justin Fields has the ability to embarrass any defense with his explosive speed. If he can improve his passing a bit, this game could be a major challenge.
Pitfall No. 2: December and January to remember
The Vikings have a very late bye, coming after they host the Bears November 27 on Monday Night Football.
After a bye the following week, they close the season with road games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals. Three games against NFC North opponents will conclude the regular season.
If the Vikings are somewhat refreshed after the bye week, they should be able to engage the Raiders and Bengals in full 60-minute battles. If not, those 2 games could turn into blowout losses.
No matter how those games turn out, the Vikings must be prepared for 2 games against the Lions surrounding a home game with the Packers.
Detroit has an excellent chance to be Minnesota’s biggest challenge in the NFC North this year, and the division title could be determined by the outcome of the games against the Lions.
While the challenge in October will be a difficult one, the run at the end of the season will likely determine the final standings in the NFC North. The Vikings will need to show great endurance to thrive at the end of the season, and that makes the last 5 weeks of the season to be the most critical pitfall of the year.
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