The Vikings Game have qualified for the playoffs three times in the past five years, including two NFC North division titles, but the franchise hasn’t reached the Super Bowl since 1976.
Minnesota returns most of its major contributors from last season. It’s a group led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and wide receiver Adam Thielen on offense and defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith on defense.
While wideout Stefon Diggs was traded to the Buffalo Bills and cornerback Trae Waynes left in free agency to join the Cincinnati Bengals, the Vikings bolstered their roster with a pair of first-round draft picks in wide receiver Justin Jefferson and cornerback Jeff Gladney.
Minnesota Vikings Schedule
Week 1 (8/13-17, exact date TBD): vs Houston Texans
Week 2 (8/20-24, exact date TBD): vs Cincinnati Bengals
Week 3 (8/30): vs Cleveland Browns (3:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 4 (9/3-4, exact date TBD): vs Seattle Seahawks
Week 1 (9/13): vs Green Bay Packers (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 2 (9/20): vs Indianapolis Colts (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 3 (9/27): vs Tennessee Titans (12:00 p.m. on CBS)
Week 4 (10/4): vs Houston Texans (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 5 (10/11): vs Seattle Seahawks (7:20 p.m. on NBC)
Week 6 (10/18): vs Atlanta Falcons (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 7 (10/25): BYE WEEK
Week 8 (11/1): vs Green Bay Packers (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 9 (11/8): vs Detroit Lions (12:00 p.m. on CBS)
Week 10 (11/16): vs Chicago Bears (Monday, 7:15 p.m. on ESPN)
Week 11 (11/22): vs Dallas Cowboys (3:25 p.m. on FOX)
Week 12 (11/29): vs Carolina Panthers (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 13 (12/6): vs Jacksonville Jaguars (12:00 p.m. on CBS)
Week 14 (12/13): vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 15 (12/20): vs Chicago Bears (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
Week 16 (12/25): vs New Orleans Saints (Friday, 3:30 p.m on FOX/NFL Network)
Week 17 (1/3): vs Detroit Lions (12:00 p.m. on FOX)
On paper, Minnesota is set to navigate a schedule with a lot of 50-50 games and few gimmes, which means its fate will likely be heavily dependent on its record in one-score contests.
The numbers back up the difficulty to the slate, with the Vikings owning the 10th-hardest schedule in the league based on last year’s winning percentages, per CBS Sports.
It’s a slate that could be even tougher than that ranking would suggest if the division rival Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions receive better quarterback play in 2020.
All told, the Vikings could end up going up against the toughest set of opponents in the league. That could complicate their journey toward the playoffs, though they have the talent to overcome that hurdle.
The division title will be particularly important for Minnesota this season because the NFC wild-card race figures to become a crowded mess, and no team wants to place their fate in the hands of tiebreakers.
In turn, the Vikings’ two most important games are the head-to-head meetings with the Green Bay Packers. A sweep would not only put the team on pace to take the division, but it would also give it the inside track on possibly capturing the top seed in the NFC.
Beyond that, the focus will be on six games against teams they may end up battling for wild-card berths the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At minimum, they’ll likely need a 4-2 record from those contests.
The bottom line is Minnesota will be playing an important game pretty much every week, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if its playoff fate comes right down to the final weeks, if not the last contest. Whether that constant pressure takes a cumulative toll is a factor to consider as the year goes on.
Record prediction: 10-6