Vikings schedule analysis

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Breakdown: The Vikings will open with two road games for the first time since 1997, thanks to MajorLeague Baseball scheduling the Twins to play at the Metrodome on Sept. 13 and Sept. 20. The Twins will move out of the building for 2010, but that doesn't help the Vikings this year. (The full schedule is here.)

As a result, the Vikings will open at Cleveland and then play at Detroit before finally playing at home Sept. 27 against San Francisco. The payoff comes after the Nov. 8 bye, when the Vikings will play four of their next five games at home.

The NFL, at least, is expecting the Vikings to be in contention as the season concludes. They're currently scheduled for back-to-back prime-time games -- Dec. 20 against Carolina and Dec. 28 at Chicago. Both are on the road, but the Vikings will have an extra day to rest in between because the Bears game will be played on Monday night.

Complaint department: Overall, the Vikings might have the most difficult season-ending schedule in the division. Back-to-back prime-time games on the road can be brutal. And don't expect balmy weather on the night of Dec. 28 at Soldier Field. And while the Vikings close at home, it'll be against a New York Giants team that figures to be playoff-caliber. If the division is close in the final month of the season, the Vikings will face the most substantial obstacle from a schedule standpoint.

And another thing: The Dec. 28 game against the Bears might as well be the Jay Cutler bowl. The Vikings decided against entering trade talks for Cutler while the Bears scooped him up. If the winner of that game takes the division, the result will serve as a pretty fair judgment on the blockbuster deal.

Minnesota Vikings regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13 at Cleveland Browns 1:00 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20 at Detroit Lions 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 1:00 p.m.
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 5 GREEN BAY PACKERS 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11 at St. Louis Rams 1:00 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18 BALTIMORE RAVENS 1:00 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25 at Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1 at Green Bay Packers 1:00 p.m.
Week 9: BYE WEEK
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15 DETROIT LIONS 1:00 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 1:00 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29 CHICAGO BEARS 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6 at Arizona Cardinals 4:15 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13 CINCINNATI BENGALS 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20 at Carolina Panthers 8:20 p.m.
Week 16: Monday, Dec. 28 at Chicago Bears 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3 N.Y. GIANTS 1:00 p.m.