The Vikings’ 2020 schedule was released last week, and there are plenty of things that stick out. They face Green Bay in Week 1 and then again in Week 7 before they face any other division rival. They also play on Christmas Day and have two prime time games, one against the Seahawks on Sunday night, and the other against the Bears on a Monday night in November. The schedule appears to be difficult at first glance, but it’s hard to know in May which teams will be good and which ones won’t be.
The Vikings also have to be aware of potential trap games. These are games that the team may just assume are victories and not play up to their usual levels as they are looking ahead to a more challenging opponent the following week. The Vikings almost got trapped last year when the Denver Broncos came to town and will need to make sure that doesn’t happen again in 2020. So here are three potential trap games for the Vikings this upcoming season.
week 6 vs. Atlanta falcons
The Falcons are by no means a bad team and should be in contention for the NFC South crown. They are a team the Vikings have won four in a row against, though. When these two teams play the Vikings always seem to contain Matt Ryan and are constantly in his face, forcing him to make bad decisions with the football that often lead to costly turnovers. Ryan threw two interceptions in Minnesota’s 28-12 win over Atlanta in Week 1 last year.
The Vikings should feel very confident when the Falcons migrate north on Oct. 8, but they also need to not be overconfident or look ahead to what the following week brings. After the Falcons game, the Vikings get a bye week. When they return from the bye, they play their second game of the season against the Packers, in Green Bay. That will be a huge contest that could determine who ultimately ends up winning the NFC North. It will be easy for the Vikings to be looking ahead, but they’ll need to stay focused if they want to get the victory against the Dirty Birds.
The Falcons are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. On offense, they have stars like Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Todd Gurley. One player the Vikings need to be aware of this time is Jones. As badly as he played the last few seasons, Xavier Rhodes always stepped up when facing Jones. In Jones’s last two games against the Vikings, Rhodes held him to eight receptions for 54 yards and one touchdown. Rhodes is gone this year, so it’ll be up to Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney and Holton Hill to shut Jones down.
The Vikings should win this Week 6 contest against the Falcons. If they are looking ahead to their bye week and the rematch versus the Packers, they could get punched in the mouth and suffer a loss in a game they should handily win.
week 9 vs. Detroit lions
It’s never wise to overlook a division rival because when two teams are as familiar with each other as division opponents are, records can be tossed out the window. This is an easy game for the Vikings to overlook, though. In Week 9 the Detroit Lions come to U.S. Bank Stadium, and the Vikings have a three-game winning streak against them and will be clear favorites.
This could be a situation where they are more focused on what is coming up on their schedule than what is facing them in the current week. After the Lions game, the Vikings go on the road on Monday Night Football to face the Chicago Bears. The Bears could be in contention for the NFC North crown and the Monday night contest could go a long way in determining who is in first place when the dust settles. The Vikings also have lost four in a row against the Bears, and ending that streak this season has to be one of their main goals. This first game is one they certainly circled in red when the schedule came out.
The Lions can’t be overlooked, though. They are sick of being bottom feeders in the NFC North and have added pieces in the offseason and the draft that will help them escape the cold darkness of the cellar. They have added a playmaker at running back in D’Andre Swift, and on defense added players like Jeff Okudah, Jamie Collins and Julian Okwara. The Vikings can’t forget about Matt Stafford, Kenny Golladay, and Viking killer Marvin Jones. The Lions will come to this game ready to roll, and if the Vikings aren’t 100% focused on the task at hand, they could find themselves on the wrong side of the final score.
week 13 vs. Jacksonville jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars come to Minnesota during the first weekend of December. At this point, the Vikings should have a winning record and be in great position to make a playoff push. The Jaguars should be on the opposite end of the spectrum. Rather than being in playoff contention, they could be in contention for the No. 1 overall pick and really have nothing to play for.
The Vikings could be looking ahead because after this matchup in Week 13, they go on the road to face the well-hyped Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Tom Brady-led Bucs are as good as everyone thinks they’ll be, this game could be for position in the NFC playoffs. It could have huge implications, and at this point in the season, it is a game that could get flexed to prime time. The Vikings will be aware of all of this and could brush off the Jaguars.
This would be a big mistake. While the Jaguars are a team that is very young and probably a year or two away from being contenders, they still have plenty of solid weapons on both sides of the football. On offense, they have Gardner Minshew at quarterback. He isn’t a great player yet, but he’s a gamer who will keep fighting and making plays until the clock ticks down to zero. They still have Leonard Fournette at running back and a couple of nice receivers in D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and young Laviska Shenault Jr.
Defensive is the Jaguars’ strength. They have a couple of nice edge rushers who could give the Vikings offensive line problems. Josh Allen is explosive off the edge, and Yannick Ngakoue is one of the best pass rushers in the entire NFL (though he’s requested a trade from Jacksonville). They also added K’Lavon Chaisson in the draft, so the Vikings offensive line will need to be on their “A” game all day or Kirk Cousins could take a pounding.
This game against the Jaguars is one the Vikings should win. If they are looking ahead to their warm-weather tilt against Brady and Rob Gronkowski, then the pass rush of these young Jaguars could surprise and lead these cool cats and kittens to a shocking road win.