There was a time when opponents of the Vikings looked at a schedule and cringed when they saw a game at Minnesota in December. Making a trip to the old Met Stadium was the cause of great fear, loathing and gnashing of teeth. Few images were more imposing than the annual rites of January, as flamethrowers attempted in vain to thaw what was essentially green-painted concrete that served as the Vikings' home field.
The times have certainly changed since then. The Vikings are no longer a team that has a cold-weather home-field advantage. In fact, just the opposite is true. The Vikes are an indoor team that has been built around playing inside, not outside, and nobody is going to be playing inside more than the Vikings – especially when the weather can impact the outcome of games in December.
There are nine NFL teams that play in domed stadiums – the Vikings, Lions, Falcons, Saints, Cowboys, Texans, Rams, Cardinals and Colts. For them, at least half of their games are guaranteed to be played indoors. However, nobody is going to play in climate-controlled conditions more than the Vikings’ 12 times – their eight home games and road games at Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Houston. Arizona will play 11 games indoors and five others will play 10 games inside – Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Detroit and Indianapolis.
What makes the Vikings’ indoor schedule even more pronounced is that, as a team so accustomed to playing indoors, heading outside in December can be a significant issue. Nobody wants to go to Chicago or Green Bay or Buffalo in December, because there is always the chance that it could be at or below zero and the potential for a snow-covered field always exists. That won’t be a big issue for the 2012 Vikings.
The Vikings have the last round of byes in Week 11 and coming out of that break they play the Bears Nov. 25 at Soldier Field, followed by a meeting with the Packers in Week 14 on Dec. 2 at Lambeau Field. However, after that, it’s dome cookin’ the rest of the way.
At the first look at the Vikings schedule, one of the things that stuck out about it was that the Vikings were going to be on the road for four of five weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They will have six of their eight home games out of the way in the first 10 weeks of the season, which many see as good news for a team that is trying to reclaim some of its former glory after falling hard in 2011. With four road games in five weeks, the schedule could have been much worse, but the Vikings will be spared in the final four weeks of the season, when indoor teams routinely are forced out into the elements to face the worst nature has to offer.
After coming back from Green Bay, the Vikings will host the Bears Dec. 9 – the second time in three weeks Minnesota and Chicago will meet. After the Bears game, the Vikings go on the road in Weeks 15 and 16, but both of them will be inside – at St. Louis Dec. 16 and at Houston Dec. 23. They close out the 2012 season Dec. 30 when they host Green Bay at the Metrodome.
For a team that once held one of the most significant December home-field advantages the NFL has ever seen, the Vikings have long since been removed from that realm. They have been entrenched as an indoor team for so long that their drafts and free-agent acquisitions have been done with the idea of playing at least half of their games on a dry track in climate-controlled conditions.
They aren’t the only ones, but, for 2012 anyway, no team in the NFL will play as many games under various Teflon or steel roofs than the Vikings will – especially when the conditions are liable to get ugly in December.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.