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The NFL announced its schedule on Thursday evening. Here’s a look at each Minnesota Vikings game, including where it ranks by degree of difficulty...

Week 1

vs. Green Bay Packers

Difficulty rank: 3

Key addition/subtraction: Drafted Quay Walker, Devonte Wyatt, lost Za’Darius Smith

Key stat: Allowed 4.7 yards per carry last season, fourth worst in the NFL

Last time the Vikings played against the Packers at US Bank Stadium, the Minnesota offense shredded Green Bay’s defense, producing 34 points and 408 yards of total offense. The Packers spent two first-round draft picks with the aim to fix their defensive shortcomings. While they will be without Za’Darius Smith, the Packers were able to keep De’Vondre Campbell and they get Jaire Alexander back from injury. Kevin O’Connell will likely be debuting his new offensive scheme against a tougher defense than the Vikings faced last year.

Week 2

@Philadelphia Eagles (MNF)

Difficulty rank: 5

Key addition/subtraction: Traded for AJ Brown

Key stat: Jalen Hurts’ second leading wide receiver last year was Quez Watkins with 43 catches

The Eagles made a huge splash trade in order to give third-year quarterback Jalen Hurts a chance to show that he can flourish as a passer as much as a runner. The Eagles’ roster has been rebuilt over the past two years to feature good weapons, a terrific offensive line and potentially improved defense with the addition of pass rusher Haason Reddick. Philly could make a legitimate run at the NFC East. Going on the road to play them won’t be easy.

Week 3

vs. Detroit Lions

Difficulty rank: 16

Key addition/subtraction: Drafted Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams in the first round

Key stat: Lions graded by PFF 28th in pass rush and 21st in receiving in 2021

The Lions were in such rough shape last year that the biggest compliment anyone could give them was that they tried really hard for head coach Dan Campbell. With development of young players and the addition of two potential star talents at premium positions, Detroit has the bones of a team that shows signs of being a legitimate contender someday. However, that is not likely to come to fruition right away. The Vikings haven’t lost to Detroit at home since 2017 and that trend should continue.

Week 4

New Orleans Saints (London)

Difficulty rank: 7

Key addition/subtraction: Sean Payton left the team, re-signed Jameis Winston

Key stat: Saints went 5-2 with Winston starting last year

The Vikings and Saints are looking at each other in the mirror. Both teams have Vegas over-under totals of 8.5 games and both have arguments for strong enough rosters to compete for a playoff spot but neither is considered a juggernaut. The Sean Payton Saints were able to win with Jameis Winston playing the most conservative football of his career but it’s questionable whether it can carry over, especially since they lost top tackle Terron Armstead. Games overseas are always wonky, making this one more tricky to gauge.

Week 5

vs. Chicago Bears

Difficulty rank: 14

Key stat: Justin Fields had the fourth highest “big-time throw” percentage per PFF

Key addition/subtraction: Lost Allen Robinson to free agency

Jaded Vikings fans would argue that you should never pick a win at Soldier Field but as the Bears have faded in roster strength, so has their curse over the Vikings. The last two trips to Chicago have resulted in Vikings wins and that trend should continue because the Bears simply do not have a competitive roster. The most common criticism of their offseason is that they did not help Justin Fields aside from drafting a mid-round receiver. Even if he does improve and carry the load, it won’t be easy to win games with a poor supporting cast.

Week 6

@Miami Dolphins

Difficulty rank: 8

Key addition/subtraction: Tyreek Hill

Key stat: 11-6 with a plus-71 point differential at Hard Rock Stadium over the last two seasons

You’d be hard pressed to find a more improved team than the Dolphins. Tyreek Hill alone is a game-changer but they also have an offensive-minded head coach (as opposed to co-offensive coordinators last year) and better offensive line. The Dolphins have won 13 of 21 games started by quarterback Tua Tagovialoa, though he hasn’t solidified himself as a top-notch starter in the NFL yet. It’s not easy to play in the Miami heat, where the Vikings will need to slow down a bunch of good weapons with their overhauled secondary.

Week 7

BYE WEEK

Week 8

vs. Arizona Cardinals

Difficulty rank: 6

Key addition/subtraction: Traded for Marquise Brown

Key stat: Kyler Murray has a better win-loss record, QB rating, TD:INT ratio and sack rate on the road

Between a DeAndre Hopkins suspension and rumors of Kyler Murray’s unhappiness, it’s tumultuous offseason for the Cardinals. Arizona hasn’t done much to improve aside for trading for Brown, who is hoping a deep thrower like Kyler Murray can unlock his talents in ways that the Ravens’ offense could not. Still the Cardinals have a mature team that deserves to have their name in the conversation for the best in the NFL. Murray’s running and big play ability gave the Vikings nightmares last year and may very well do the same again this time around.

Week 9

@Washington Commanders

Difficulty rank: 13

Key addition/subtraction: Traded for Carson Wentz

Key stat: Taylor Heinicke ranked second in “turnover-worthy plays” by PFF, Wentz was 16th

In 2021 the Commanders put together a roster strong enough to squeak seven wins out of a journeyman quarterback who was in the XFL only a few years ago. We can at least say that Wentz is expected to be better than Heinicke and that their defense has the personnel to be better than 25th in points allowed, as they were last year. Still it’s a difficult team to buy considering Wentz has a 21-23-1 record with an 87.3 quarterback rating in his last 45 games. Washington has a better chance at being a bottom dweller in the NFC East than the division champs. And if they aren’t good, the road atmosphere won’t exactly affect the Vikings.

Week 10

@Buffalo Bills

Difficulty rank: 2

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Key addition/subtraction: Signed Von Miller

Key stat: Buffalo had the No. 1 defense in the NFL in points allowed

The Bills are the favorite to win the Super Bowl because of their superstar quarterback, top-notch weapons, strong overall defense and terrific head coach Sean McDermott. Buffalo is what the Vikings are hoping to become as they work through a “competitive rebuild.” Can anyone say Diggs Revenge Game?

Week 11

vs. Dallas Cowboys

Difficulty rank: 4

Key addition/subtraction: Traded Amari Cooper to Cleveland

Key stat: Cowboys are 3-0 at US Bank Stadium. In four career matchups vs. Vikings, Cooper averaged 107.3 yards per game

The Cowboys did not improve this offseason. In fact, they lost three key contributors in Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory and La’el Collins and were not able to make big splashes to replace them due to cap constraints. However, that doesn’t mean that Dallas is falling off the side of a cliff. Despite battling injury in the second half of the year, Dak Prescott still finished with the fourth most touchdowns, third highest QB rating and the eighth best PFF grade in the NFL. The Dallas offense will be one of the toughest tests of the Vikings’ revamped defense.

Week 12

vs. New England Patriots (Thanksgiving)

Difficulty rank: 10

Key addition/subtraction: Lost offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to Vegas and No. 1 cornerback JC Jackson to free agency

Key stat: Patriots ranked sixth in points scored and second in points allowed last season

Was last year’s rookie performance by Mac Jones a sign of good things to come or was that the best version of Jones that we’ll see? How will the Patriots respond to losing their long-time offensive coordinator and dominant shutdown cornerback? Did they do anything to seriously improve their roster? All of these questions need to be answered in order to quell skepticism over whether they can be a playoff team again. Certainly Bill Belichick versus a rookie coach is a mismatch — assuming he has the same powers these days.

Week 13

@New York Jets

Difficulty rank: 12

Key addition/subtraction: Signed S Jordan Whitehead, CB DJ Reed and CB drafted Sauce Gardner

Key stat: Allowed 103.2 QB rating against in 2021, second worst in the NFL

All eyes will be on Zach Wilson’s development but the Jets’ biggest upgrades came on the defensive side of the ball, where head coach Robert Salah will have an opportunity to make significant strides with his new talented secondary. This matchup has another layer of intrigue considering the influences: Salah came from San Francisco, O’Connell from Los Angeles. The two schemes now battle it out in different colors. Still the Jets aren’t quite to the level of a fully rebuilt team that’s ready to contend. Even if Wilson improves, they should be a beatable team.

Week 14

@Detroit Lions

Difficulty rank: 11

Key addition/subtraction: Signed receiver DJ Chark

Key stat: Jared Goff went just 13-for-45 on throws over 20 yards

The Lions’ offense was miserable in 2021, finishing 25th in points scored and 22nd in total yardage. Goff had his worst season since his rookie year, grading as PFF’s 24th best quarterback. It’s worth noting, however, that Goff managed a 107.1 QB rating in his final five starts, which coincided with the emergence of receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Now Detroit has given Goff more weapons and an offensive line built through the draft that should give him a chance to return to his regular competent self and make the Lions competitive enough for a split with the Vikings.

Week 15

vs. Indianapolis Colts

Difficulty rank: 9

Key addition/subtraction: Acquired Matt Ryan from the Falcons

Key stat: Ryan ranked 13th in PFF grade with a clean pocked in 2021 but faced second highest pressure percentage in the NFL

How crazy is this: The Colts ranked in the top 10 in points for and points allowed in 2021 and missed the postseason. They went into the 2022 offseason in desperation mode to get back to the playoffs and came out with Matt Ryan playing the same role that Philip Rivers filled with them two years ago. While Carson Wentz’s traditional stats were decent (27 touchdowns, seven interceptions), his no-shows imploded the Colts’ chances to be a contender. Now they are banking on Ryan turning back the clock with one of the NFL’s best top-to-bottom rosters. Jonathan Taylor, the Colts’ O-line and their defensive line will be very difficult matchups for the Vikings.

Week 16

vs. New York Giants

Difficulty rank: 15

Key addition/subtraction: Hired Brian Daboll, drafted twice in the top five

Key stat: Giants were the most injured team in the NFL last season (per ManGamesLost)

The top storyline in New York this year is whether the offensive guru behind Josh Allen’s development can use his magic touch on Daniel Jones as well. There may be a good case for the Giants as one of the NFL’s more improved teams because of the struggles of their previous head coach and bevy of injuries last year but Jones would have to make a big jump in order for the Giants to become a scary opponent for the Vikings.

Week 17

@Green Bay

Difficulty rank: 1

Key addition/subtraction: Davante Adams traded to the Raiders

Key stat: Since 1990 the Vikings are 3-8 in December or January at Lambeau Field

The schedule makers were cackling when they put this one on the slate. The Vikings and Packers generally play knock-down-drag-out games regardless of the venue but it seems to be particularly true at Lambeau — so long as the starting QBs are playing. A slugfest in the cold favors the Packers, even if Rodgers doesn’t have the same caliber of weapon to target as years past when Davante Adams roasted the Vikings like brats over an open fire.

Week 18

@ Chicago Bears

Difficulty rank: 17

Key addition/subtraction: Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy

Key stat: Nagy went 5-3 versus the Vikings between 2018-2021, including two pivotal late-season wins at US Bank Stadium that cost the Vikings playoff position

Both teams are hoping this one is meaningful, unlike last year’s forgettable Week 18 contest. So much can change by the end of the season. Will the Bears be a plucky surprising team behind their emerging young QB or will Fields be getting “bust” labels? It’s hard to know in May. Still, the Vikings are a stronger team with higher expectations.