September 12, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Jaderius Smith, 55, looks to the field during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field. Compulsory Credit: Tommy Gilligan – USA Today Sports
Vikings Insider, GM’s view
Despite the annoying recent move by the NFL and TV networks to leak a few key games before the full release, I’ve always enjoyed publishing NFL schedules. When a team’s full schedule comes out, it makes the season ahead more realistic for players, coaches, team executives and fans.
I also subscribe to Bud Grant Theory on schedule because he said, “It’s not about who you play but when you play.” Bud refers to the ebb and flow of the team’s fortunes in a season, where injuries and weather often play a significant role. His statement also applies to modern-day NFLs when there will be five or six (or more) new play-off teams each year compared to the previous season, so based on past performances, the teams we consider good or bad may look different. Game Week.
The Vikings ে Coach Kevin O’Connell’s debut season — hopefully one of those new play-off teams in 2022. I think they got a favorable schedule because they tried to improve on last year’s 8-9 finishing which led to coaching and forward office overhaul.
The season opener (a national doubleheader game) at home against the Packers at 3:25 pm on Sunday, 11 September is helpful to Purple for a variety of reasons. Let’s first think Green Bay was last opened at US Bank Stadium – the epidemic broke out in 2020 and there were no fans at the stand.
Aaron Rogers made no crowd noise and fed on a rookie-filled Vikings secondary as he threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-34 win. But two of those TD passes went to Davante Adams and one to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Both have now left Green Bay.
So Rogers will work with a low receiver corps that includes second round pick Christian Watson (whom Green Bay famously chose after trading with the Vikings). But Watson will only wet his feet as an NFL newcomer. This is good news for Vikings Secondary, which may include No. 1 pick Lewis Cine in safety and No. 2 pick Andrew Booth Jr. Cornerback.
The other good news for the Vikings defense in this opener is that their top pass racers – Daniel Hunter and former packer Jaderius Smith (who should be extra motivated against his former team) – should be healthy and rare to go to the opener. And it helps the home team’s pass racers get the ball down quickly when the house has a full-throated supporter.
The Vikings will also benefit from the Packers’ two first-round picks – linebacker Koe Walker and defensive lineman Devante Watt – playing their first NFL regular season game. As the two teams meet again on New Year’s Day at Lambeau Field, the Packers’ top three picks should be more impressive.
Needless to say, defeating the three-time defending NFC North champion would be easy, which would certainly not be the case. However, it is better for them to play Green Bay in the street opener. It did well for the Saints last season when they beat the Packers 38-3 in a game moved to Jacksonville due to Hurricane Eder.
After losing heartbreakers in Cincinnati and Arizona, the Vikings definitely need a better start than the 0-2 that struck them last season. Monday night’s football will be the hardest 2 weeks of the year in Philadelphia as the Eagles, coming down from the wild card play-off spot, will test the Minnesota pass defense with game-breaking receivers AJ Brown and Devanta Smith.
If the Vikings can at least split the first two games, they have a good chance of starting 4-1 at home in Detroit, New Orleans (London) and Chicago in Minneapolis. Facing the Saints on a neutral site and not playing in a riotous superdome is a big help because it’s technically a New Orleans home game, setting a favorable schedule for nine home games, seven real road games for Minnesota. And a neutral site. Mike Zimmer wishes that last year when his team had eight at home and nine on the street.
I like that the Vikings schedule schedules home and away for the first eight games. Week 7 bye is a little early, but it is acceptable because it falls after playing three preseason and six regular season games, so players will be ready for the break.
10-12 weeks looks extra tough when the Vikings face a strong Bills team in Buffalo and then fight the Cowboys in the home game on Sunday afternoon before hosting a Thanksgiving game (for the first time in team history) against the Patriots in prime time. I personally liked it when our teams played Thanksgiving in Detroit or Dallas because it gives us a rare weekend off the season and no need to be home team on Thursday nights and travel for a short weekend.
Minnesota has a nice stretch from Week 11-16 as they play five of six games at home, including the most winning games – we’re holding now – against the Jets and Giants. This could allow them to better position themselves for a play-off spot in two Cold Road game-division rivals Green Bay and Chicago to close out the season. Hopefully, for the Vikings, they will perform better in 17 weeks at Lamboue than last year’s 37-10 gap against the Packers, which eliminated them from the playoff race, and we will never forget that the game that vaccinated the Kirk cousins was missing due to Kovid.
Overall, I would say O’Connell and the Vikings should be very happy with their 2022 schedule as it appears in mid-May. But again, as Bud Grant puts it, things (again: the weather) and opponents can look different and probably look different when the games actually happen.
Around the NFL schedule observation:
It was an exciting Thursday night opener on September 8 when hosting defending Super Bowl champion Ramsay Bill. Former Ram Von Miller is now in Buffalo to chase Matthew Stafford while Bill QB’s Josh Allen tries to stop Aaron Donald from hurting him.
Monday night opener Russell Wilson should have fun returning to Seattle with the Broncos to face his former team. Tom Brady and Books traveled to Dallas for a good Sunday Night Opener. While hosting Green Bay and Kansas City, Tampa Bay also has a solid two-week stretch at 3 and 4 weeks.
And for your pre-planning, this season’s Super Bowl will be Sunday, February 12 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals hope to be the third straight team to play Super Bowl at their home stadium in the last two years after what the Books and Rams have done.
Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former president of the Tennessee Titans and was named NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the IFA, an NFL agent group based in Minneapolis, and does other sports consulting and media. Work with college / corporate speaking. Follow him and message him directly on Twitter-jeffdiamondnfl