Minnesota started off hot, survived a rough middle and finished strong last year, winning its final four games to earn one of the NFC's wild-card berths.
Highlighted by running back Adrian Peterson's MVP season, the Vikings made major strides as a team. From Peterson's near-record-breaking campaign (he finished nine yards away from Eric Dickerson's all-time rushing mark) to the growth of quarterback Christian Ponder, expectations are growing up north.
Management made the tough decision to trade star wideout Percy Harvin to Seattle in February (via ESPN), a move that netted two first-round draft picks (including Seattle's 2013 selection). The Vikings retained free agents Erin Henderson, Jerome Felton, Jerome Simpson and Phil Loadholt and picked up two marquee free agents on the open market, too.
Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings has joined the fold, a move that should pay huge dividends in opening up holes for Peterson to run through. Former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel also signed on to provide depth under center, and the Vikings made strides to continue their playoff streak in '13.
We'll see if those efforts make for continued success or a letdown this season. The league has announced the full schedule, complete with dates and times, so take a look at the teams Minnesota will have to contend with to build on its success in 2013.
|2013 Minnesota Vikings Schedule|
|1||Sept. 8 ||@ Detroit Lions||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|2||Sept. 15 ||@ Chicago Bears||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|3||Sept. 22 ||vs. Cleveland Browns||1:00 p.m.||CBS|
|4||Sept. 29||vs. Pittsburgh Steelers||1:00 p.m.||CBS|
|6||Oct. 13||vs. Carolina Panthers||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|7||Oct. 21||@ New York Giants||8:40 p.m.||ESPN|
|8||Oct. 27||vs. Green Bay Packers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|9||Nov. 3||@ Dallas Cowboys||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|10||Nov. 7||vs. Washington Redskins||8:25 p.m.||NFL|
|11||Nov. 17||@ Seattle Seahawks||4:25 p.m.||FOX|
|12||Nov. 24||@ Green Bay Packers||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|13||Dec. 1||vs. Chicago Bears||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|14||Dec. 8||@ Baltimore Ravens||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|15||Dec. 15||vs. Philadelphia Eagles||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|16||Dec. 22 ||@ Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
|17||Dec. 29 ||vs. Detroit Lions||1:00 p.m.||FOX|
Note: For a complete look at Minnesota's 2013 schedule, check out NFL.com.
We knew in 2012 that Minnesota would be traveling to London in 2013, after the NFL announced that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Vikings would be playing in Wembley Stadium in late September (via ESPN).
That contest might be early in the season and not have much impact on the playoff race at the time, but it could be pivotal for the NFL's continuing efforts to branch out overseas and create more of a diverse experience worldwide.
Per the usual, the NFC North will provide the bulk of Minnesota's schedule. In 2013, the AFC North will be the cross-conference division that Minnesota pairs up with, while the NFC East will provide four additional games against conference foes. Seattle and Carolina complete Minnesota's schedule.
In addition to home and away games with Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago, the Vikings will hit the road for contests against defending champion Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas and the New York Giants, while home games include Cleveland, Philadelphia and Washington.
Minnesota gets no breaks in 2013.
Road games against teams with Super Bowl aspirations won't be easy, and that should turn all of Minnesota's home games into must-wins.
Most Pivotal Matchup
If you say it's Green Bay, is that too cliche?
Minnesota and Green Bay always seem to be duking it out for playoff position, and 2012 was a great example of that oddity. The two squads played three times, including the NFC Wild Card Round—when Green Bay sent Minnesota home early.
Once again, winning games against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will hold a premium in 2013.
Which game will be the most pivotal for Minnesota next season?
Elsewhere, winning on the road at Baltimore and Cincinnati could define the season. The Ravens and Bengals are both coming off playoff appearances in 2012, and each have to jockey for position in a tough division of their own.
Don't sleep on road games against Dallas, the New York Giants or Seattle, either. The Seahawks boast old friend Harvin, and the two NFC East foes are both looking to return from disappointing seasons in 2012.
Playoff team last season or not, Minnesota has its work cut out to return to that form this year. With a new logo (courtesy of the team's official website), the reigning MVP and a talented group of youngsters at hand, the road is now paved for 2013.