The Minnesota Vikings need to set the tone early in their 2020 NFL schedule.
Yet head coach Mike Zimmer’s squad must not worry about the national attention right now. And as the proverbial saying goes, you can only play the games put in front of you.
Fortunately or unfortunately for Minnesota, the tone will have to be set early. If anything, the opening six weeks of the 2020 schedule could ultimately determine whether or not Zimmer and Co. are looking at another playoff berth this upcoming season.
For those who forgot, the Vikings open up those first six weeks before their bye as follows:
- Week 1 vs. Green Bay Packers
- Week 2 @ Indianapolis Colts
- Week 3 vs. Tennessee Titans
- Week 4 @ Houston Texans
- Week 5 @ Seattle Seahawks
- Week 6 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Yes, let’s get the NFC North divisional bout out of the way against the Packers. That’ll set a tone early, right?
So the Minnesota Vikings get four 2019 playoff teams in the opening six weeks. And the other two, the Colts and Falcons, could be feisty enough opponents, too.
Let’s break down why each week is important.
Minnesota Vikings open up against their NFC North rivals
There’s little reason to assume the division will be decided between Minnesota and Green Bay this season, and it doesn’t bode well the Vikings lost both games between these two rivals a year ago.
Getting that 1-0 lead in this divisional head to head is going to be crucial.
Opening the road series against an upstart Colts squad
The Colts failed to make the playoffs a year ago after going 7-9. But there’s little doubting head coach Frank Reich has his squad pointed in the right direction.
Especially after bringing aboard two key veterans this offseason, quarterback Philip Rivers and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
Ideally, you’d like your first road game to be against a rebuilding squad. Indy is anything but.
Minnesota Vikings trying to contain Derrick Henry in Week 3
The Titans were a Cinderella story in 2019, making it all the way to the AFC Championship game thanks to the powerful ground attack by running back Derrick Henry.
Minnesota fell victim to the San Francisco 49ers‘ rushing attack in the playoffs last year, and it doesn’t bode well the Vikings allowed opponents to rush for an average of 4.3 yards per carry last season — good for 19th best in the league.
If Minnesota wants to win this home bout, stopping Henry needs to be atop the priority list.
The Texans had a weird offseason, too, but Deshaun Watson is still a force
Houston, more head coach Bill O’Brien, made a mockery of itself this offseason at multiple points, especially by trading away wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for far less than his stellar value.
It’s possible the Texans’ odd moves of late come back to haunt O’Brien and Co. But they won’t change the fact quarterback Deshaun Watson is one of those elite-caliber quarterbacks capable of shouldering his entire team.
If this game was at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings would be heavy favorites. On the road, though, it’s another story.
Ending the losing streak to the Seahawks
The Vikings haven’t beaten Seattle since November of 2009. That’s the only stat meaning anything here.
Oh, and quarterback Kirk Cousins owns a 1-3 record against the Seahawks. That matters, too.
Getting momentum vs. the Falcons before the bye
Out of all the six teams the Vikings face opening up their NFL schedule, the Falcons would appear to be the easiest. After all, Atlanta largely underperformed for most of 2019 and doesn’t seem to be in serious contention for a playoff berth despite some notable turnover from a year ago.
That said, head coach Dan Quinn’s squad finished last year with four straight wins and six victories over the last eight games.
Whether or not that carries over into 2020 is anyone’s guess, but this could at least prove to be a worrisome trap game for Minnesota before its Week 7 bye.
Either way, the key for the Vikings this season will be a strong start, setting the tone early and getting a quick leg up in the NFC North.
Especially if the division crown comes down to either Minnesota or Green Bay.