Minnesota Vikings schedule: Must buck prime-time woes for playoff run

Kirk Cousins will have to reverse his prime-time fortunes for the Vikings to have success in 2019. Craig Lassig/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here’s a look at what’s in store for the Minnesota Vikings.

Game-by-game prediction

Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin is predicting a 10-6 finish:

Sept. 8 vs. Falcons, Win

Sept. 15 at Packers, Loss

Sept. 22 vs. Raiders, Win

Sept. 29 at Bears, Loss

Oct. 6 at Giants, Win

Oct. 13 vs. Eagles, Win

Oct. 20 at Lions, Win

Oct. 24 vs. Redskins, Win

Nov. 3 at Chiefs, Loss

Nov. 10 at Cowboys, Loss

Nov. 17 vs. Broncos, Win

Nov. 24: Bye

Dec. 2 at Seahawks, Loss

Dec. 8 vs. Lions, Win

Dec. 15 at Chargers, Loss

Dec. 23 vs. Packers, Win

Dec. 29 vs. Bears, Win

Strength of schedule: .512 (eighth)

Breakdown

After missing the playoffs in 2018, the Vikings' path to the postseason includes a manageable slate of home games, despite only two-back-to-back games at U.S. Bank Stadium at the end of the season. There's a brutal stretch on the road, including all four of their away games in the second half of the season against teams that made the playoffs in 2018. The Vikings play three NFC North games on the road in the first seven weeks. Then things get really difficult with a handful of stretches that could decide the season for Minnesota. One to keep an eye on is back-to-back road games at Kansas City and Dallas in Weeks 9 and 10. For a dome team, the second half of Minnesota’s schedule is ideal. The Vikings play two outdoor games after Nov. 3, in Seattle and Los Angeles, but both are slated for Monday and Sunday night, respectively.

Still a prime-time team

If the Vikings want to bounce back from a disappointing season, they’ll have to reverse the trend in prime time to make the playoffs. Kirk Cousins won one nationally televised game in Minnesota (vs. Green Bay in 2018 on a Sunday night) and has struggled in these matchups throughout his career (5-13 in prime time, including 0-7 on Monday night). Clearly the scheduling gods think the Vikings will continue to be an intriguing story in 2019 by putting this team in five prime-time games, with three in the final five weeks, including at Seattle and at Los Angeles. The bad news for the Vikings is that only two of their five prime-time matchups can be flexed back to noon kickoffs given where they fall on the schedule.

Cousins' revenge game

Or should we call this Thursday Night Football showdown with the Redskins Case Keenum chance to stick it to the team that let him walk after leading Minnesota to the NFC Championship? Either way, Cousins is set to face his former team for the first time since signing with Minnesota in free agency in March 2018. The storylines will flow like lava in Week 8 over Cousins’ time in Washington and subsequent departure, and how the franchise never fully bought into him as the answer at quarterback by placing the franchise tag on him in back-to-back seasons before letting him hit the open market. The Vikings are in a more ideal spot than the Redskins entering the 2019 season as it relates to stability at quarterback. This game gives Cousins the opportunity to prove anyone who doubted his abilities in D.C. wrong by beating his former team and doing it in prime time.