The NFL announced its 2020 schedule on Thursday night, with a set of games that presumes this fall will contain an element of normalcy that few could guarantee at this point.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter hypothesized on Thursday night the league could move as many as four weeks of the schedule to the end of the season, if coronavirus concerns force the NFL to start the season late. If that were to happen, the Vikings’ Week 5 matchup against the Seahawks on Oct. 11 could be their opening game, with their first-ever Week 1 game in Minnesota against the Packers moving to the end of the season. For now, the NFL continues to say it will start on Sept. 10.
The virus has no regard for the NFL’s place in American life, and much has to happen before fans can return to football stadiums for big regular-season matchups — including the Vikings’ first-ever Week 1 game in Minnesota against the Packers — by September. But as the league signals for now it plans to start on time, we’ll play along with the NFL’s premise and indulge in a look ahead toward the new football season. Here is a game-by-game breakdown of the schedule for the Vikings’ 60th season in 2020:
Week 1 noon, sept. 13 (fox)
The Vikings have gone to Lambeau Field for Week 1 games six times in their history; this is the first time they will play at home against the Packers, who won at U.S. Bank Stadium last December after three losses there. The early reactions to news about this matchup centered on the possibility there won’t be fans in the stands, and it’s a reasonable concern: the Vikings’ considerable home-field advantage owes plenty to their raucous fans.
Week 2 noon, sept. 20 (FOX)
This will be the Vikings’ first trip to Indianapolis since 2012, when they lost to the Colts by a field goal in Week 2. They’ll face a revamped Colts team that’s now trusting its offense to former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who is reunited with coach Frank Reich after their time together in San Diego.
Week 3 noon, sept. 27 (FOx)
Tennessee reached the AFC Championship Game using a run-heavy offense last season, and this year’s Titans-Vikings matchup could be a showdown between Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook, as both teams try to assert themselves on the ground.
Week 4 Noon, oct. 4 (Fox)
The Vikings’ young secondary will be in for a number of tough tests on the road this year, and the trip to Houston represents one of the most notable, as Mike Zimmer gets his first chance to craft a defense aimed at stopping dynamic Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson.
Week 5 7:20 p.m. Oct. 11 (NBC)
The Vikings travel to Seattle for the third straight season, and after two Monday-night losses at CenturyLink Field, they’ll play the Seahawks this time on Sunday night. The good news for the Vikings — one of many teams to struggle with night games after trips to the West Coast — is that the fact the game is on Sunday, not Monday or Thursday, means it could be flexed out of prime time.
Week 6 noon, oct. 18 (FOX)
Atlanta started the 2019 season at U.S. Bank Stadium, when the Vikings needed to throw just 10 times in a 28-12 win. This year, they’ll face a Falcons team trying to keep things together after a 7-9 season last year. Todd Gurley, who gave the Vikings plenty of problems with the Rams in 2018, is with Atlanta now.
Week 8 noon, nov. 1 (fox)
After late-season trips to Green Bay from 2015-17 and Week 2 games at Lambeau Field in 2018 and 2019, the Vikings will head to Wisconsin, where they haven’t played in November since a 2013 tie there. Kirk Cousins, who led a furious Vikings comeback in a 2018 tie at Lambeau, will try to put together a better effort against the Packers than he had in the Vikings’ Week 2 loss in Green Bay last year.
Week 9 noon, nov. 8 (fox)
Detroit hasn’t won at U.S. Bank Stadium since 2017, and the Lions’ trip to Minneapolis comes in the middle of a pivotal stretch of three straight division games. The Vikings will face a remade Lions defense after Detroit traded Darius Slay, added Desmond Trufant and Jamie Collins and drafted Jeff Okudah third overall.
Week 10 7:15 p.m., nov. 16 (ESPN)
The Vikings’ annual trip to Soldier Field is often fraught with difficulty, and this year’s matchup is a prime-time game for the fourth time in five years. Cousins has yet to win in Chicago while playing for the Vikings, and he could face Nick Foles — who beat the Vikings in the 2018 NFC title game and has reunited with former Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in Chicago.
Week 11 3:25 p.m. Nov. 22 (Fox)
This is the only home game on the Vikings’ schedule that doesn’t start at noon, and it could be a good one; the Vikings and Cowboys played a supremely entertaining Sunday night game in Dallas last year, and former Packers coach Mike McCarthy returns to Minneapolis with his new team.
Week 12 noon, nov. 29 (fox)
Get your video tributes ready:Teddy Bridgewater will return to Minnesota for this one, facing his former team as a starting quarterback for the first time since he left after his comeback from knee surgery in 2017.
Week 13 noon, dec. 6 (cbs)
The Jaguars bolstered their defense with a pair of first-round picks that might have intrigued the Vikings (Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson and LSU defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson). They’ll try to win in Minneapolis with Gardner Minshew and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden — Mike Zimmer’s former colleague in Cincinnati.
Week 14 noon, Dec. 13 (fox)
Last year, the Vikings made two West Coast trips in December between three home games; this year, they’ll likely avoid bad-weather games again, with their only outdoor game after Nov. 16 coming in Florida. But it won’t be easy, with Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans ready to test the Vikings’ young secondary and Bruce Arians directing an aggressive offense.
Week 15 noon, dec. 20 (fox)
For the first time in U.S. Bank Stadium’s five seasons, the Bears won’t end the regular season in Minneapolis. They will be the Vikings’ final home opponent, though, as Minnesota tries to win at home before a pair of road games to close out the season.
Week 16 3:30 p.m. Dec. 25 (fox)
This might be the highest-profile game on the Vikings’ schedule, and it’s certainly one of the most unique: a Friday afternoon Christmas Day trip to the Superdome to face the team the Vikings have knocked out of the playoffs twice in the past three years. Zimmer loathes road games after a short week of preparation, and this won’t be an easy test.
Week 17 noon, jan. 1, 2021 (Fox)
The Vikings haven’t closed the season on the road since their NFC North title game against the Packers in 2015, but they’ll do so in 2020, as they try to win for the third year in a row in a building that hasn’t given them nearly as much trouble as it did early in Zimmer’s tenure.