Minnesota Vikings schedule analysis

Breakdown: If the Minnesota Vikings open the season with a rookie quarterback, he'll at least have the comfort of playing two of his first three games at home. The Vikings would open the season at the San Diego Chargers, but then they would return for home games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. None are easy games, but playing at home certainly is preferable than the alternative for a rookie quarterback.

Beyond Week 3, the Vikings' schedule is exceedingly balanced. In fact, they would mostly alternate home and road games for the rest of the season. The only exception is road games in Weeks 8 and 10, but those contests would be broken up by a well-timed bye week.

Complaint department: If and when the lockout ends, the Vikings will open training camp behind most other NFL teams. They have a new offensive coaching staff and, presumably, will have a new starting quarterback. They will have lost at least some of the critical offseason to begin installing that offense and growing accustomed to coach Leslie Frazier's program. Consequently, it makes sense to think they would have a better chance of running off some victories later in the season than earlier.

In such situations, you would prefer to have your division games bunched up in November and December. But the Vikings' fortunes would likely be decided, one way or the other, by the end of Week 10. At that point, they would have played four of their six division games, which are obviously important to the NFC North race, but also to tiebreakers in the wild-card.

If they play well in those games, the Vikings would push themselves into the playoff chase. But some shaky early performances, which might be expected for a team in this situation, could bury them by the midpoint of November.

Full circle: The Vikings' first-ever game in Minnesota came against the Chicago Bears, a 37-13 victory on Sept. 17, 1961. Will their last game in Minnesota also come against the Bears? Their final game of the 2011 regular season is scheduled to come against the Bears at the Metrodome on Jan. 1, 2012. Exactly one month afterwards, their lease to play at the stadium expires, making them franchise free agents. I don't think anyone believes they could relocate that quickly, if ever, but it's at least worth noting the symmetry.

Vikings Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sep. 11, at San Diego, 4:15 PM

Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 18, Tampa Bay, 1:00 PM

Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 25, Detroit, 1:00 PM

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 2, at Kansas City, 1:00 PM

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 9, Arizona, 1:00 PM

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 16, at Chicago, 8:20 PM

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 23, Green Bay, 4:15 PM

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 30, at Carolina, 1:00 PM

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Monday, Nov. 14, at Green Bay, 8:30 PM

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 20, Oakland, 1:00 PM

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 27, at Atlanta, 1:00 PM

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 4, Denver, 4:05 PM

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 11, at Detroit, 1:00 PM

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 18, New Orleans, 1:00 PM

Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 24, at Washington, 1:00 PM

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 1, Chicago, 1:00 PM