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Zulgad: Great expectations: A game-by-game look at the Vikings’ 2016 schedule

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings surprised many, OK, they surprised me, by finishing 11-5 last season and edging Green Bay for the NFC North title in coach Mike Zimmer’s second season.

Zimmer’s team will be expected to equal or exceed that record in 2016. While the Vikings knew their opponents right after the season, the actual schedule was not released until Thursday.

Here’s a game-by-game look at one man’s expectations for the Vikings.

Week 1 (Sept. 11) at Tennessee, noon: The Titans are coming off a 3-13 finish and would appear to be an ideal opening week opponent. The only problem is that San Francisco seemed like an ideal Week 1 opponent last season and the 49ers handled the Vikings with ease. This time Zimmer will have his team prepared and, most importantly, his quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) and running back (Adrian Peterson) on the same page. Prediction: Win, 1-0

Week 2 (Sept. 18) vs. Green Bay, 7:30 p.m.: The Vikings will play their first regular-season game in U.S. Bank Stadium against their long-time rival in prime time. Minnesota won its first NFC North title since 2009 by beating the Packers in Week 17 last season at Lambeau Field and success will continue for the Vikings in their home opener. Prediction: Win, 2-0

Week 3 (Sept. 25) at Carolina, noon: The Vikings get Aaron Rodgers in Week 2 and Cam Newton and the defending NFC North champions in this one on the road. This will be the Vikings’ first trip to Carolina since Oct. 30, 2011, when they won 24-21 to get one of only three wins on the season. Ineptitude is no longer a problem for the Vikings, but this will be a tough road game. Prediction: Loss, 2-1

Week 4 (Oct. 3) vs. New York Giants, 7:30 p.m.: The Vikings’ second home game also will be in prime time, marking the second consecutive season in which they have played host to the Giants in a night game. The Vikings cruised to a 49-17 victory in their final regular-season home game last year. The Giants figure to put up a far better effort this time under new coach Ben McAdoo. Prediction: Win, 3-1

Week 5 (Oct. 9) vs. Houston, noon: Brock Osweiler, who bolted the Super Bowl champion Broncos to sign with the Texans, is expected to bring stability to the quarterback position in Houston. The Vikings are 3-0 all-time against Houston, including a 28-21 victory in 2008 at the Metrodome, and that success doesn’t figure to end in 2016. Prediction: Win, 4-1

Week 7 (Oct. 23) at Philadelphia, noon: While the Vikings have found stability with Zimmer as coach, the Eagles fired Chip Kelly after three seasons and hired former backup quarterback Doug Pederson. The last time the Vikings played in Philadelphia was during their miserable 2010 season, when a winter storm (that never happened) caused a Sunday night game to be postponed to Tuesday night. There will be nothing miserable about this trip. Prediction: Win, 5-1

Week 8 (Oct. 31) at Chicago, 7:30 p.m.: The Vikings won at Soldier Field last season for the first time since 2007 and look to win back-to-back games in Chicago for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons. Veteran coach John Fox led the Bears to a 6-10 record in his first season in Chicago and the team should show improvement in 2016. Prediction: Loss, 5-2

Week 9 (Nov. 6) vs. Detroit, noon: The Vikings were 39-14-1 against the Lions at Met Stadium, the Metrodome and TCF Bank Stadium and that success figures to continue at the Vikings’ new home, especially with Lions standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson having walked away from the game. Prediction: Win, 6-2

Week 10 (Nov. 13) at Washington, noon: The Redskins won the NFC East title last season but only had to win nine games to do so in a lousy division. The Vikings are 12-12 all-time against Washington and will have to slow quarterback Kirk Cousins to move over .500 in the series between these teams. Prediction: Win, 7-2

Week 11 (Nov. 20) vs. Arizona, noon: The Vikings lost, 23-20, to the Cardinals in Arizona late last season before rebounding to win their final three games. The Cardinals were 13-3 last season and figure to remain one of the better teams in the NFC under coach Bruce Arians. Prediction: Loss, 7-3

Week 12 (Nov. 24) at Detroit, 11:30 a.m.: The Vikings will play the Lions on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1995. Minnesota is 5-1 on Thanksgiving, including 2-1 in Detroit, and figure to add to that victory total right here. Prediction: Win, 8-3

Week 13 (Dec. 1) vs. Dallas, 7:25 p.m.: The Vikings will follow up the Thanksgiving Day game by playing host to a second consecutive Thursday game. Dallas leads this series and has won seven of nine games played in Minnesota. Will they win this one? Prediction: Win, 9-3

Week 14 (Dec. 11) at Jacksonville, noon: The Jaguars are coming off a 5-11 season but quarterback Blake Bortles has continued to make progress. Bortles threw 35 touchdowns in 2015 after throwing only 11 in his rookie season. This will be only the Vikings’ second game in the Jaguars stadium. Prediction: Win, 10-3

Week 15 (Dec. 18) vs. Indianapolis, noon: Andrew Luck had a difficult 2015 season but the Colts quarterback has a world of talent and figures to be one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks for many years. The Vikings have lost four in a row against Indianapolis. Prediction: Loss, 10-4

Week 16 (Dec. 24) at Green Bay, noon: The Vikings’ victory at Lambeau last season was their first since the 2009 season, when Brett Favre returned to Green Bay to beat his old team. A victory in this one would give the Vikings a series sweep of the Packers and that seems like a long shot. Prediction: Loss, 10-5

Week 17 (Jan. 1) vs. Chicago, noon: This is a tough one to handicap because it could either be a key game or one in which one of these teams, were guessing Vikings, could be in a position to rest players. For the sake of this exercise, let’s we’ll say this game will be of importance. Prediction: Win, 11-5

The post Zulgad: Great expectations: A game-by-game look at the Vikings’ 2016 schedule appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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