Sat, 02 Jul 2022

Lunchbreak: Scheduling Quirks for Vikings & Across NFL

Minnesota Vikings
17 May 2022, 04:37 GMT+10

Lindsey Young

We've cycled through the Vikings 2022 full schedule since its release on Thursday, but what about the rest of the NFL?

CBS Sports' John Breech relayed a tweet by chicagobears.com's Larry Mayer that the Bears will not leave Chicago in December for a road game for the first time since 1964.

Chicago has three home games and a bye before visiting Detroit in Week 17 (Jan. 1, 2023) and closing at home against Minnesota in Week 18.

Breech used the first-time-in-58-years rarity to lead a list of 11 "schedule oddities."

The Vikings also were involved in a couple of quirks noted by Breech.

Minnesota and the Carolina Panthers are the only two teams to close the season with consecutive road division games. The Vikings go to Green Bay in Week 17 before heading to the Windy City. The Panthers - the northernmost team in the NFC South - at least get nicer weather at Tampa Bay and will be inside at New Orleans to close their season.

The Vikings are one of three teams (along with the Giants and Lions) who are not appearing on Amazon's new exclusive season of Thursday Night Football. All three of those teams, however, will appear in nationally televised games on Thanksgiving, with Minnesota hosting the New England Patriots.

Another quirk is the Jets playing their entire rotation of AFC North teams and the Ravens playing their entire slate of AFC East teams in the first four weeks. The 2004 Saints were the last team to play every team from a division (NFC West) in the first four weeks. The Jets host the Ravens in Week 1.

Coller: Vikings schedule includes 7 'QBs with questions'

The Vikings already knew which opponents they'd be facing in 2022; but as of Thursday, they also know the complete schedule and the order in which they'll be playing those teams.

Matthew Coller of Purple Insider wrote a guest post for Sports Illustrated in which he pointed out that Minnesota's schedule "features lots of quarterbacks with questions." He said that seven games will showcase passers still on their rookie contract "who have yet to show they are franchise quarterbacks." Depending on how these youngsters play, Coller opined, could "wildly" swing the Vikings 2022 results.

Coller included the following seven QBs on his list of unprovens: Jalen Hurts (Eagles), Justin Fields (Bears), Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins), Mac Jones (Patriots), Zach Wilson (Jets) and Daniel Jones (Giants).

The Vikings will face Hurts on Monday Night Football in Week 2. Coller wrote:

The Eagles are banking on a particular offseason move to make Hurts better: acquiring A.J. Brown via trade with the Tennessee Titans. Since [Brown entered] the league in 2019, QBs have a 118.9 rating when targeting [him, per analytics site Pro Football Focus]. He averages an outrageous 6.1 yards after catch over his three seasons and was graded by PFF as the seventh-best receiver in the league in 2021.

Still, the best-laid plans don't always work out unless the QB is up to the task. It's notable that only one of Hurts' wins came against a winning team last year, and that club (New Orleans) did not make the postseason.

Coller called the Week 2 contest at Philadelphia "pivotal" to the start of Minnesota's season.

Coming off the opener against the Green Bay Packers, they will be looking at either desperately needing a bounce-back win or an opportunity to start off blazing hot heading into a winnable game [against] Detroit. Since the Eagles have a strong top-to-bottom roster, the result could very well depend on whether Hurts shows early signs of progress.

Let's also take a look at what Coller said about Fields, whom the Vikings are of course slated to face twice.

Minnesota will host Chicago the week after returning from London. Fields isn't a rookie, but he is playing under a new head coach in Matt Eberflus, whom Coller said is tasked with developing "an offensive system that will help Fields develop into a quality quarterback."

The Bears are relying solely on the new system to boost Fields, considering they did not make any major moves this offseason to improve his supporting cast. The biggest signing or draft pick the Bears made at receiver was Byron Pringle, and they lost Allen Robinson to free agency. Last year, Fields was sacked 36 times on just 353 dropbacks, and the club failed to add major offensive line help.

[...]

By the time the Vikings see Fields in Week 5, they will have a good sense for whether the new-coach magic has worked. If the season goes the way it's projected by Vegas linemakers and the Vikings are battling for playoff position in the final weeks, Fields' growth (or lack thereof) could hold the keys to a Vikings return to the postseason, as they play the Bears on the road in Week 18.

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