The Vikings enter Mike Zimmer’s eighth season as head coach after a disappointing 7-9 season in 2020.
Minnesota has made the postseason every two years with Zimmer, and that trend suggests the team should return in 2021. There are still questions about the future with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has two years left on a monster contract. The Vikings could be chosen to win the NFC North if Aaron Rodgers leaves Green Bay, but that’s not a guarantee.
MORE: Schedule strength for all 32 teams in 2021
The schedule will be tough in 2021. The Vikings face the NFC West and AFC North as part of a third-place schedule that will test whether that 7-9 season was the exception to Zimmer’s rule.
Here’s a full breakdown of the Vikings schedule for 2021, including the start dates and times for all 17 games and our initial prediction.
2021 Minnesota Vikings Schedule
The Vikings open their season in Cincinnati on Sunday, September 12, a game at 1 pm ET on Fox. The remainder of the show will be released tonight at 8 pm ET. These are the teams the Vikings are scheduled to play in 2021:
- Home: Bears, Lions, Packers, Steelers, Browns, Rams, Seahawks, Cowboys
- Road: Bears, lions, packers, bengals, crows, 49ers, cardinals, panthers, chargers
The Vikings have seven games against teams that made the postseason in 2020, and five of those games are at US Bank Stadium.
That’s huge for a team that has established a decided home advantage with Zimmer. Minnesota is 38-20 at home with Zimmer, the sixth-best home record in the NFL in that stretch behind New England, Green Bay, Kansas City, Seattle and Pittsburgh.
The NFC North appears to be tight, and having the Cowboys and Panthers on the schedule should help Minnesota keep up the pace in that race. The extra game on the road against the Chargers has the feel of a cheat game.
Vikings schedule force
Minnesota’s opponents had a .531 winning percentage last season, and that means the Vikings have the fifth-hardest schedule by record. The Bears and Packers rank third and fourth, respectively, on the toughest schedules based on their playoff spots last year.
Seattle and Dallas are on the schedule for the second straight season, and the Vikings lost to both teams in 2020. That could have been the difference in a possible NFC playoff run.
Tougher tests: We mentioned that schedule at home, and it’s tough in and out of the division. The Packers, Bears and Lions had a 15-10 combination on the road last season. The rest of their opponents were 23-21 on the road, but the Cowboys were the only team to have a record below .500. One of Dallas’ road victories was at Minnesota.
Seattle is 5-0 against the Vikings since Zimmer took over, and that could be a problem if the divisional run comes down to one game.
Big breaks: Zimmer knows the AFC North well from his time as the Bengals’ defensive coordinator, and the Vikings were 3-1 against that division en route to a 13-3 season in 2017. The only loss was to the Steelers. Having Pittsburgh and Cleveland at home is a calendar win for the Vikings.
The NFC road schedule is manageable despite a tough test in San Francisco. The 49ers won just one home game last season, but that was part of an injury-plagued season. Minnesota should be able to at least get a split from the Cardinals and Panthers matchups down the road. That should provide a boost in the NFC North race.
Bottom line: Cousins will guide the Vikings through a fourth NFC North road trip, and that’s where we’ll find out if this team is ready to return to the postseason.
Detroit has not been a problem. The Vikings are 6-0 against the Lions with Cousins, and Detroit has a new combination of coach and quarterback with Dan Campell and Jared Goff.
The Bears have been a problem. Chicago is 5-1 against Minnesota since Cousins took over as a starter, and the Bears could have an improvement at quarterback with Justin Fields. Of course, Andy Dalton could be the starter for Week 1.
It all depends on the Packers. Aaron Rodgers’ situation will be closely monitored in Minnesota. The Vikings are 6-7-1 against the Packers with Zimmer, but he is 1-3 against the Packers since Matt LaFleur took over. Those are the games that will tip the division either way, and that won’t change even if Rodgers leaves.
A projection slightly above .500 feels good, but Minnesota has the most room to benefit if Rodgers leaves Green Bay.
Record prediction: 9-8
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.