Fans are always extra fired up for Week 1 after the long off-season, but usually you shouldn’t put too much stock in season openers. Yes, there are only 17 games in a season, and every one counts, but there’s so much football to ahead at that point, win or lose.
However, the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 1 matchup with the Green Bay Packers will be a tone-setter for the entire month of September.
There doesn’t need to be any excess hype pumped into a Vikings-Packers matchup, especially one that kicks off the regular season. But this one will have a different feel.
For one, the Vikings are ushering in a new era with a new regime. While it won’t be all roses and candy if they win on Sept. 11, it will undoubtedly boost morale and give Minnesota momentum.
Perspective and perception are important. Leaving Week 1 with a win and seeing a Monday Night Football matchup in Philadelphia in Week 2 would have the Vikings licking their chops to pound Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. Conversely, if they lose Week 1, it’ll be easy to look ahead to Week 2 and worry about an 0-2 start.
Beginning the season at home against the Packers and then traveling to Philadelphia the following week is no easy task, but it’s the cross the Vikings will have to bear. Start 0-2, and uneasiness will settle in. Start 1-1, and the future becomes a lot more bright and shiny.
Minnesota has one true road game in the first five weeks — that meeting with the Eagles. Sprinkled in amongst the early stretch of home games is a trip to London to take on the New Orleans Saints.
Otherwise, they’re playing the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears in Minneapolis.
Sean Payton has left the New Orleans Saints. While Jameis Winston is back, this isn’t the same Saints team of years past. The Vikings will likely be favored on a neutral field in London if they’re healthy.
Then there are the two division matchups.
Detroit gave Minnesota fits last year, with both games coming down to the final play. They split wins. Chicago is a dumpster fire. It’s hard not to feel a little pity for Justin Fields, given the lack of talent that he has to work with.
Those three matchups should look appealing to the Vikings because they won’t play any in road environments. But it all circles back to Week 1. If the Vikings jump-start their season with a victory over their division rivals, the rest of September looks very doable. Even a loss in Week 2 wouldn’t be the end of the world. The long-term ramifications make the Week 1 tilt weigh so heavily.
Minnesota isn’t starting the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Texans. It’s not facing off against a conference opponent like the New York Giants or Atlanta Falcons. They’re facing the team they’re expected to slug it out with for the division crown.
In no way does a loss in Week 1 sink the ship for the Vikings, but it does change the mindset early on. That’s just the nature of the beast. For the same reasons, overreacting to Week 1 in the NFL is foolish because there are 16 other games. Those same reasons can be applied to make a case for starting the nail-biting process a little sooner than usual if things go south in the opener.
Don’t listen to those trying to tame the noise and commotion around this Week 1 tilt; it is a big deal.
Detroit got better this offseason, and their wide receiver corps may be legit. Still, they are a ways away from vying for the division crown. Chicago has no direction and a roster that needs to be tossed into a dumpster, rolled off a cliff, and forgotten about forever. Seriously, what the hell are they doing? I digress.
Don’t sugarcoat or try to put lipstick on the pig. This year, the NFC North will come down to the Packers and the Vikings. After the first two games, the schedule softens up in a major way for the Vikings. Beating the Packers would make it look that much easier to start 4-1. Lose to the Packers, and a 2-3 start could be in the cards. That’s a huge swing.
Embrace the chaos and the hype, because this year, the Week 1 matchup for the Vikings will set the tone for the rest of September.