Lack of star power shows up in schedule

The Vikings were one of the NFL's glitzy teams this time last year.

They had 10 Pro Bowl players and were expected to return all 22 starters from a team that came within a play of reaching the Super Bowl. They also expected the return of Brett Favre, who had a career year at age 40 and remained a huge ratings draw.

The NFL took advantage of the Vikings star power by giving them four prime-time games and two 3:15 p.m. starts in 2010. (They later had two other games moved to prime time because of the Metrodome roof collapse and the weather delay in Philadelphia).

As expected, the Vikings weren't slated for a heavy load of prime-time games again when the NFL released its 2011 schedule on Tuesday.

The Vikings are scheduled to play twice in prime time -- at Chicago on Sunday, Oct. 16, and at Green Bay on Monday, Nov. 14.

This is the result of a 6-10 record, a last-place finish in the NFC North and, yes, no Favre. The Vikings still have some marquee talent (Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Jared Allen), but they don't know who their starting quarterback will be and their roster could get turned over significantly this offseason -- whenever that happens because of the ongoing lockout.


Not much excitement

Perhaps it's the ongoing NFL lockout. Maybe, it's the fact that a year ago the Vikings were coming off a run to the NFC title game and this time they are fresh off a last-place finish in the NFC North.

Whatever the reason, there didn't seem to be much excitement surrounding the release of the team's schedule Tuesday.

The Vikings should get the opportunity to build some momentum away from home as they will open on the road for the fourth year in a row and fifth time in six years. That included a loss last season on the opening Thursday night to New Orleans in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game.

This time the Vikings are scheduled to open at San Diego on Sept. 11 before returning to the Metrodome for their only back-to-back home games of the season.

Whether Leslie Frazier actually gets to work the sideline for the first time as the Vikings permanent coach in San Diego -- Frazier was the interim coach for the final six games of 2010 -- will depend on if NFL owners and players can come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Assuming the full 16-game schedule is played -- and if it is the Vikings will have the 12th-hardest schedule in the NFL (opponents were 132-124 last year) -- it would appear the Vikings got a raw deal by playing in San Diego during the summer.

However, the league gave the Vikings a favorable break when it comes to potential cold-weather games. After playing a Monday night game at Green Bay on Nov. 14, the Vikings finish up by playing six of their final seven games indoors. (This is assuming nothing happens to the Metrodome.) The only cold-weather game would be a noon start on Dec. 24 at Washington.