usatsi-13471927-kirk-cousins-vikings-qb-2019-1400.jpg

Ladies and gentlemen, the 2021 NFL schedule is officially here. With the draft in the books and most rosters all but locked and loaded for the fall, we can finally turn our eyes toward the season. The NFC North, in particular, promises plenty of intrigue this year, with the Bears adding a new franchise quarterback, the Lions kicking off a rebuild and the Packers still tussling with Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings, meanwhile, just might be among the most quiet candidates to contend in 2021. Here's a full rundown of their 17-game schedule, including key matchups and a season prediction:

2021 Vikings schedule

WeekOpponentDateTime (ET)Network

1

at Bengals

Sept. 12

1 p.m.

FOX

2

at Cardinals

Sept. 19

4:05 p.m.

FOX

3

vs. Seahawks

Sept. 26

4:25 p.m.

FOX

4

vs. Browns

Oct. 3

1 p.m.

CBS

5

vs. Lions

Oct. 10

1 p.m.

FOX

6

at Panthers

Oct. 17

1 p.m.

FOX

7

BYE WEEK

8

vs. Cowboys (SNF)

Oct. 31

8:20 p.m.

NBC

9

at Ravens

Nov. 7

1 p.m.

FOX

10

at Chargers

Nov. 14

4:05 p.m.

FOX

11

vs. Packers

Nov. 21

1 p.m.

FOX

12

at 49ers

Nov. 28

4:25 p.m.

FOX

13

at Lions

Dec. 5

1 p.m.

CBS

14

vs. Steelers

Dec. 12

8:20 p.m.

FOX/NFLN/Amazon

15

at Bears

Dec. 20

8:15 p.m.

ESPN

16

vs. Rams

Dec. 26

1 p.m.

FOX

17

at Packers (SNF)

Jan. 2

8:20 p.m.

NBC

18vs. BearsJan. 91 p.m.FOX

Vikings key games

  • Week 15 at Bears: Chicago has long been a tough out because of its defense, and now the Bears just might have Justin Fields to trot out under center. The Vikings will probably require at least one victory over their rivals if they want a shot at the division.
  • Week 9 at Ravens: It's out of conference, so the divisional consequences may not be massive. But this is still a playoff-caliber test for the Vikings, with Lamar Jackson and a boosted receiving corps set to play host in Baltimore.
  • Week 16 vs. Rams: The Vikings have faced Matthew Stafford aplenty over the years, but not when he's had this kind of supporting cast. Los Angeles has all kinds of firepower. A home win over the Rams could be season-altering.

Vikings toughest matchup

Week: 12| Date: Nov. 28 | Time: 4:25 p.m.
Opponent: at San Francisco 49ers

On top of marking a big trip to the West Coast, this one just feels like a tall task because of the 49ers' inevitable rebound. San Francisco has a D-line more than capable of giving Minnesota's reshuffled front some trouble, and Kyle Shanahan has the smarts and weapons to capitalize on the Vikings' moving parts throughout a "D" still dependent on some younger starters.

Vikings projected win total

2021 record prediction: 8-9

Recent history says Minnesota is due to return to the postseason this year. Since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach, the Vikings have always followed up a non-playoff season with a trip back to the tournament, and their 7-9 finish in 2020 left them at home in January. Couple that with some smart additions up front (Christian Darrisaw) and on defense (Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson), and they have the makings of a scrappy competitor. But their schedule does them no favors: Every single one of their non-divisional home games is against a formidable contender, so it could be harder than expected to eclipse .500.