NFL Nation: Schedule 09 NFC North
Breakdown: The Vikings will open with two road games for the first time since 1997, thanks to Major League Baseball scheduling the Twins to play at the Metrodome on Sept. 13 and Sept. 20. The Twins will move out of the building for 2010, but that doesn't help the Vikings this year. (The full schedule is here.)
As a result, the Vikings will open at Cleveland and then play at Detroit before finally playing at home Sept. 27 against San Francisco. The payoff comes after the Nov. 8 bye, when the Vikings will play four of their next five games at home.
The NFL, at least, is expecting the Vikings to be in contention as the season concludes. They're currently scheduled for back-to-back prime-time games -- Dec. 20 against Carolina and Dec. 28 at Chicago. Both are on the road, but the Vikings will have an extra day to rest in between because the Bears game will be played on Monday night.
Complaint department: Overall, the Vikings might have the most difficult season-ending schedule in the division. Back-to-back prime-time games on the road can be brutal. And don't expect balmy weather on the night of Dec. 28 at Soldier Field. And while the Vikings close at home, it'll be against a New York Giants team that figures to be playoff-caliber. If the division is close in the final month of the season, the Vikings will face the most substantial obstacle from a schedule standpoint.
And another thing: The Dec. 28 game against the Bears might as well be the Jay Cutler bowl. The Vikings decided against entering trade talks for Cutler while the Bears scooped him up. If the winner of that game takes the division, the result will serve as a pretty fair judgment on the blockbuster deal.
Minnesota Vikings regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13 at Cleveland Browns 1:00 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20 at Detroit Lions 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 1:00 p.m.
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 5 GREEN BAY PACKERS 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11 at St. Louis Rams 1:00 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18 BALTIMORE RAVENS 1:00 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25 at Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1 at Green Bay Packers 1:00 p.m.
Week 9: BYE WEEK
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15 DETROIT LIONS 1:00 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 1:00 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29 CHICAGO BEARS 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6 at Arizona Cardinals 4:15 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13 CINCINNATI BENGALS 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20 at Carolina Panthers 8:20 p.m.
Week 16: Monday, Dec. 28 at Chicago Bears 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3 N.Y. GIANTS 1:00 p.m.
Breakdown: Despite last year's 6-10 record, the Packers will play five nationally-televised games -- including a Sunday night game Sept. 13 against Chicago and a Monday night game Oct. 5 at Minnesota. (The full schedule is here.)
We should get a good idea of where the Packers are headed after their first four games, which includes home matchups against the Bears and Cincinnati followed by trips to St. Louis and the Vikings. The schedule gods granted the Packers a bye immediately after, giving them a nice canvas -- two division games and two winnable games outside the conference -- to judge the progress of their new 3-4 defense.
The quarter point of the season is a good time for adjustments anyway, and the Packers will almost certainly benefit. They also got a nice gift for the games surrounding their Thanksgiving Day affair at Detroit. On the front end, they'll have a home game Nov. 22 against San Francisco, preventing an even shorter week before heading to Detroit.
|Packers coach Mike McCarthy talks about improving his football team for the 2009 season.|
On the back end, they will have an extra day to rest with a "Monday Night Football" matchup against Baltimore, also at home on Dec. 7.
Complaint department: It's a bit of an oddity more than anything, but the Packers' last division game is Dec. 13 at Chicago. If they're in the hunt for the title, they'll have limited control of their fate at the end of the year. It's the first time in six years the Packers have faced a similar obstacle.
Brrrrrr: Get this. When the Ravens arrive at Lambeau Field, it'll be the first Monday night game in Green Bay history during the month of December. There have been Sunday night games in December, but in general you don't want to be outdoors in the Upper Midwest at 7 p.m. or later that time of year. Why? IT CAN BE REALLY, REALLY COLD. Good luck to the Ravens -- and the fans who aren't properly, uh, "warmed up" in the crowd.Green Bay Packers regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13 CHICAGO BEARS 8:20 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20 CINCINNATI BENGALS 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27 at St. Louis Rams 1:00 p.m.
Week 4: Monday, Oct. 5 at Minnesota Vikings 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 5: BYE WEEK
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18 DETROIT LIONS 1:00 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25 at Cleveland Browns 1:00 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1 MINNESOTA VIKINGS 1:00 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:00 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15 DALLAS COWBOYS 4:15 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 1:00 p.m.
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 26 at Detroit Lions 12:30 p.m.
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 7 BALTIMORE RAVENS 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13 at Chicago Bears 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20 at Pittsburgh Steelers 1:00 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 1:00 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3 at Arizona Cardinals 4:15 p.m.
Breakdown: New coach Jim Schwartz gets three of his first five games at Ford Field, starting with a Sept. 20 matchup against Minnesota. It might sound cynical, but the schedule will give the Lions a chance to prove they are the kind of team fans should buy tickets to watch throughout the season. (The entire schedule is here.)
If the Lions struggle early on, which wouldn't be unheard of considering their offseason overhaul, they'll really have to fight to avoid some local television blackouts at the end of the season. But at least they have a chance early on to show their ticket base what they're about.
The Lions aren't scheduled to appear in prime time, but it will be interesting to see whether their season-ending game against Chicago will have NFC North implications. Could the Lions spoil the Bears' party with a victory at Ford Field? And would the drama be enough for NBC to flex into prime-time?
Complaint department: Probably the toughest stretch of the Lions schedule starts Nov. 8 at Seattle, the beginning of three road games in a four-week period that concludes with a trip to San Francisco. If the Lions have a second wind, they'll need it to kick in then.
First chance to break streak: The Lions will enter the season having lost 17 consecutive games and 22 of their past 23. But they open the season Sept. 13 at New Orleans, where presumptive starting quarterback Daunte Culpepper had one of the best games of his life while playing for the Vikings in 2005, throwing for 426 yards and five touchdowns. Overall, Culpepper is 4-1 against the Saints and has thrown for 1,671 yards and 15 touchdowns in those five games against them. Hmmmm.
Detroit Lions regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13 at New Orleans Saints 1:00 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20 MINNESOTA VIKINGS 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27 WASHINGTON REDSKINS 1:00 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4 at Chicago Bears 1:00 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11 PITTSBURGH STEELERS 1:00 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18 at Green Bay Packers 1:00 p.m.
Week 7: BYE WEEK
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1 ST. LOUIS RAMS 1:00 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8 at Seattle Seahawks 4:05 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15 at Minnesota Vikings 1:00 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22 CLEVELAND BROWNS 1:00 p.m.
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 26 GREEN BAY PACKERS 12:30 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6 at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13 at Baltimore Ravens 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20 ARIZONA CARDINALS 1:00 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27 at San Francisco 49ers 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3 CHICAGO BEARS 1:00 p.m.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Breakdown: The Bears might have the NFL's easiest schedule based on their opponents' 2008 records, but the NFL made up for it with a tough opening stretch and a total of five high-profile games on national television. (The entire schedule is here.)
Overall, the Bears will play four of their first six games on the road -- including prime-time dates at Green Bay (Sept. 13) and Atlanta (Oct. 18). Their home opener will come against the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 20.
If the Bears can hold their own during that stretch, a task of some difficulty as they break in new quarterback Jay Cutler, they'll have a nice payoff at the end of the season. Three of their four December games will be at Soldier Field, a decided advantage given Chicago's typical weather conditions in December. Included is a Monday night matchup against Minnesota (Dec. 28) that could decide the NFC North in the season's penultimate week.
|Bears head coach Lovie Smith looks ahead to the 2009 season and what is in store for Chicago.|
Complaint department: The Bears will have a short week in mid-November when they travel to San Francisco for a Thursday night game (Nov. 12) against the 49ers, who will be coached by former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary. But it could be worse; at least Chicago will be playing at home the previous Sunday (Nov. 8 against St. Louis).
Ready for prime time: Each year, the NFL allows three teams to have six prime-time games. Everyone else is allowed no more than five. Already, the Bears have five. They could conceivably be flexed out of one, a Nov. 22 matchup against Philadelphia, but they could also be flexed into a maximum of one more. Cutler's arrival earlier this month has made the Bears a premier NFL attraction.
Chicago Bears regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13 at Green Bay Packers 8:20 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20 PITTSBURGH STEELERS 4:15 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27 at Seattle Seahawks 4:05 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4 DETROIT LIONS 1:00 p.m.
Week 5: BYE WEEK
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18 at Atlanta Falcons 8:20 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25 at Cincinnati Bengals 1:00 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1 CLEVELAND BROWNS 1:00 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8 ARIZONA CARDINALS 1:00 p.m.
Week 10: Thursday, Nov. 12 at San Francisco 49ers 8:20 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 8:20 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29 at Minnesota Vikings 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6 ST. LOUIS RAMS 1:00 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13 GREEN BAY PACKERS 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20 at Baltimore Ravens 1:00 p.m.
Week 16: Monday, Dec. 28 MINNESOTA VIKINGS 8:30 p.m. ESPN
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3 at Detroit Lions 1:00 p.m.
1:00 PM ET New Orleans Atlanta 1:00 PM ET Minnesota St. Louis 1:00 PM ET Cleveland Pittsburgh 1:00 PM ET Jacksonville Philadelphia 1:00 PM ET Oakland New York 1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Baltimore 1:00 PM ET Buffalo Chicago 1:00 PM ET Washington Houston 1:00 PM ET Tennessee Kansas City 1:00 PM ET New England Miami 4:25 PM ET Carolina Tampa Bay 4:25 PM ET San Francisco Dallas 8:30 PM ET Indianapolis Denver