Get Ready for the Vikings to Zig Zag the Nation

Eric Kendrics
Eric Kendrics

With the Minnesota Vikings season – and head coach Mike Zimmer’s job security – hanging in the balance, the team embarks on a zig-zag travel schedule amid the next month.

This is not an exaggeration. The Vikings, quite frankly, crisscross the United States in the month of November. The travel schedule is relentless.

And the wild itinerary occurs at a time when Minnesota recently learned its best defensive player, Danielle Hunter, will miss the remainder of the 2021 season. Hunter tore his pectoral muscle – the same injury that sidelined Anthony Barr for 14.5 games in 2020 – in a home Halloween loss to Dallas the Cowboys. Without Hunter, Zimmer will have to be creative in actionizing a pass rush – something that emphatically did not happen in 2020 when Hunter missed the whole season. Otherwise, the Vikings 2021 season will go pear-shaped, transitioning into an era of structural change this offseason.

First, the Vikings fly to Baltimore this Sunday (a 1,100-mile jaunt). They’ll take on an angry, rested Ravens team, who recently lost at home to the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 41-17. Led by Lamar Jackson, Baltimore is a very good football team that will have encountered a full two weeks to stew over a home bludgeoning in Week 7. Not a good formula for the Vikings.

Win, lose or draw – after that, Zimmer’s team travels to the west coast for a date for the youthful Los Angeles Chargers. Losers of two straight to the aforementioned Ravens and New England Patriots, the Chargers are one game better in the win-loss standings than the Vikings, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The Vikings feel like they’re headed to a miserable finish to the season, whereas the “sky is the limit” for Justin Herbert and Los Angeles. Regardless, the 2,600-mile trek for the Vikings from Baltimore to Tinseltown is a long one.

The Vikings could be 5-4, 4-5, or 3-6 after the Chargers showdown. Then, Minnesota ventures home for an NFC North matchup with the Green Bay Packers, owners of the NFC’s #1 seed and a 7-1 record. Usually, the Vikings play the Packers quite well at home with fans in attendance – but usually Danielle Hunter is available. In any event, the game is a division rivalry, so win-loss records can be tossed out the window. Based on the way the Zimmer Vikings typically conduct business, the sentiment on this Packers game seems like one in which the Vikings will be 4-5 with a chance to “get back to .500 at home” versus their almighty foe. We shall see. Oh, and Los Angeles to Minneapolis is a cool 2,000-mile flight.

Following the Packers tryst in Minneapolis, the Vikings travel back westerly, covering another 2,000 miles. Oofta. There, Zimmer and Co. will face the San Francisco 49ers in one of their “easier” games remaining on the 2021 schedule. Currently, San Francisco has the same 3-4 record as the Vikings, struggling to display consistent quarterback performance from Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Trey Lance. When they face Minnesota, the Vikings will own one of these win-loss records: 6-4, 5-5, 4-6, or 3-7. What’s more, the Vikings don’t have a lot of luck in away games versus the 49ers – they have not won in San Francisco since 2007.

Finally with the zig-zag fest, the Vikings head to Detroit (2,400 miles) for a meeting with the Lions in Week 13. That should be a very winnable game, but it’s anybody’s guess on what the Vikings will look like after Thanksgiving.

But hey, at least they’ll be well-traveled.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).