Brad Childress (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The Vikings’ schedule for 2009 included a larger number of mediocre teams than playoff teams. That won’t be the case in 2010, when the Vikings will play half of their games against playoff teams from last year.
The Vikings are finally at the point where they can start looking ahead to the 2010 season and finally let the pain of their overtime loss to New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game come to rest. With most of the decision-makers in the organization heading to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week, a city also stinging from an unhappy ending to their 2009 story, the pre-draft workout is the first of several small steps moving toward the 2010 season.
However, the Vikings will have to ramp up their “A” game if they intend to three-peat as NFC North champions because they’re going to be facing one of the most difficult schedules in the league this coming season.
In 2009, the Vikings played just five games against teams that made the playoffs the previous year. Their record in those games was less-than-stellar, finishing with a 2-3 record in those games. They lost to Pittsburgh, Arizona and Carolina and needed a missed field goal by former Viking Steve Hauschka to get a win over Baltimore. While they pounded the Giants in the regular-season finale, it was clear the Giants were resting players who were injured and didn’t exactly put their best foot forward. When it came to playing the league’s top teams from the previous year, the Vikings were far from dominant. The bad news there is that it gets worse in 2010. Much worse.
Of the 16 opponents on the Vikings’ schedule for 2010, eight of them are going to be against teams that made the 2009 playoffs. Even more troubling than having half of your opponents among the 11 other teams that made the playoffs, five of those eight games are on the road.
The Vikings will play three games against playoff teams from this past season at the Metrodome – Green Bay, Dallas and Arizona – but their road slate includes a whopping five playoff opponents – Green Bay, Philadelphia, New England, the New York Jets and New Orleans.
When you include teams that many believed would be playoff teams in 2009 before injuries took a toll on their teams – Chicago, the New York Giants and Miami – the 2010 schedule is a veritable Murderer’s Row of opponents.
There were some who questioned the Vikings’ true power in 2009 due to the lack of consistent quality opposition. In their first five games of the season, the Vikings had games with Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco and St. Louis – teams that were all but eliminated from playoff contention by Thanksgiving. After their bye week, the Vikings played only one team (Arizona) in their final eight games that eventually made the playoffs.
Although the dates for the 2010 schedule won’t be released until early April, when half of your schedule is against teams that made the playoffs, it will be virtually impossible to avoid playing elite teams on a near-weekly basis. In 2009, the Vikings played just six games against teams that finished the season with records above .500 and five games against teams that lost 10 or more games. Based on the records from this year, in 2010 the Vikings will play eight games against teams that had winning records (seven of those with 10 or more wins) and just four games against teams that lost 10 or more games.
Defending division titles is never easy (unless you’re the Colts), but the Vikings may be facing one of the most difficult challenges in recent history as they attempt to lock down their third straight division title. If they do, they will truly have earned it, because there will be a lot of land mines in between them and a title trifecta.
Those who want to have a little Adrian Peterson cred can get some with the recent release of the Nike Air Trainer SC 2010 PE Pack. The three-pack of cross-training shoes memorialize three athletes – Peterson, Troy Polamalu of the Steelers and decathlete Bryan Clay. The Peterson shoe takes a page from the classic Bo Jackson marketing strategy. On the back of the left shoe, it says “AD”, while the right shoe says “KNOWS.” The shoes retail for $110.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was quoted as saying the Vikings are a “big asset” to life in the state and that he would like to see some progress made to getting a stadium deal done. After years of saying the state wouldn’t get involved in any sort of stadium financing and having Hennepin County bail out the state in getting a new Twins stadium built, it would seem the governor has changed his tune. He also admitted that the Metrodome isn’t the answer in the long-term.
Randy Moss is pouting again. The former Viking said in an interview last weekend that he expects 2010 to be his final season in New England. He didn’t say it would be his final year in the NFL, but that he believes he won’t be with the Patriots after this season.
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.