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Game-by-game predictions: Minnesota Vikings

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The Vikings have a tough opening stretch -- they don’t play a team with a 2014 losing record until Week 8 -- but they’ll get to weather that stretch with three of their first five at home. That, combined with a late-season slate that includes three 2014 playoff teams in the final five weeks, will be the key to the season.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 14, at San Francisco, 10:20 p.m. ET

Get your coffee ready: The Vikings start the season with a late one in the Bay Area, in their first appearance on Monday Night Football since the Josh Freeman game in 2013. But it's as good a time as any to catch a 49ers team that figures to be in transition under new coach Jim Tomsula. Vikings 24, 49ers 17. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, Detroit, 1 p.m. ET

After a long flight home, the Vikings have a short week to prepare for their first division game of the season against a team that pushed them around at home last year. That's a tough matchup for the Vikings in their home opener and they'll fall to 1-1 if they can't deal with the Lions' front. Lions 17, Vikings 13. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 27, San Diego, 1 p.m. ET

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner could be watching his old protege (Philip Rivers) duel with his new one (Teddy Bridgewater). This one will be the Chargers' second straight trip east, while the Vikings reap the benefits of a week at home. That puts them over the edge and gets them to 2-1. Vikings 28, Chargers 24. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, at Denver, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Vikings will again get the benefit of facing a team coming off something of a short week (the Broncos will be coming off a Sunday night game in Detroit). But Peyton Manning is 5-1 in his career against Mike Zimmer, and expecting the Vikings to come out of Denver with a win is a lot to ask. Broncos 31, Vikings 20. Record: 2-2

Week 5: BYE

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, Kansas City, 1 p.m. ET

The Chiefs come to town for the first time since 2003 in one of the NFL's Super Bowl rematches to celebrate 50 years of the big game. The Vikings have a tall task against the league's second-best scoring defense from a year ago, but they get Kansas City's relatively tepid passing game and they'll be well-rested after a bye. Vikings 23, Chiefs 14. Record: 3-2

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, at Detroit, 1 p.m. ET

Ford Field has been a tough place for the Vikings to win in recent years, and a Week 7 matchup might not be any different this year. The Lions will be playing their third straight game at home, and they could put the Vikings at 0-2 in the NFC North. Lions 26, Vikings 20. Record: 3-3

Week 8: Sunday, Nov. 1, at Chicago, 1 p.m. ET

The Vikings haven't won at Soldier Field since Adrian Peterson's rookie season of 2007. With a Bears team in transition, that streak ends this year. The Vikings kick off the softest stretch of their schedule with their first NFC North victory. Vikings 24, Bears 14. Record: 4-3

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, St. Louis, 1 p.m. ET

The Rams present a challenge with a young, fast defense, but after blowing out St. Louis in the season opener last year, the Vikings will get a victory at home to improve to 5-3 here. Vikings 30, Rams 17. Record: 5-3

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, at Oakland, 4:05 p.m. ET

Start the playoff bandwagon: A victory against the Raiders would put the Vikings at 6-3. The last time we saw Mike Zimmer's defense match up against a Bill Musgrave offense, the Bengals hammered the Vikings in Week 16 of the 2013 season. This time, the Vikings benefit from Zimmer getting the best of Musgrave. Vikings 24, Raiders 10. Record: 6-3

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, Green Bay, 1 p.m. ET

For the third year in a row, the Vikings will play their biggest rival on this weekend. They nearly beat the Packers at TCF Banks Stadium on Nov. 23 last season, and they'll see a three-game winning streak end against Aaron Rodgers and company here. Packers 21, Vikings 17. Record: 6-4

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, at Atlanta, 1 p.m. ET

As dangerous as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones can be, the Falcons had the second-fewest sacks in the league last year, and the Vikings put 41 points on them last year in Bridgewater's first start. They'll get a road victory here to improve to 7-4. Vikings 34, Falcons 27. Record: 7-4

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 6, Seattle, 1 p.m. ET

Here's where things get tough: The two-time defending NFC champions come to town for a game that could have all sorts of subplots (Marshawn Lynch vs. Adrian Peterson, Russell Wilson vs. Bridgewater, the return of former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, etc.). In the end, Bridgewater will have a tough time in his first matchup with the Legion of Boom if the Vikings can't protect him. Seahawks 24, Vikings 13. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 10, at Arizona, 8:25 p.m. ET

This game, four days after a matchup with the Seahawks, is one of the cruelest turns on the Vikings' schedule: They'll fly west on a short week to face another contender with an imposing defense. That adds up to another loss to drop the Vikings to 7-6. Cardinals 20, Vikings 14. Record: 7-6

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, Chicago, 1 p.m. ET

A home game against the team that figures to be the NFC North's worst couldn't come at a better time. The Vikings have won three straight against the Bears at home, and they'll get another victory here to keep their playoff hopes in decent shape. Vikings 27, Bears 17. Record 8-6

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 27, NY Giants, 1 p.m. ET

Barring a NFC North title, this will be the final game at TCF Bank Stadium, and it comes against a Giants team that started 3-9 before winning three of their final four last season. The Vikings will need a victory here to boost their playoff hopes, and they'll get one on an emotional afternoon. Vikings 21, Giants 17. Record 9-6

Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at Green Bay, 1 p.m. ET

The first January regular-season matchup in this series, and just the third January game ever between the rivals, is a tough draw for the Vikings. To go to the playoffs, they might need to win in a building where they have just one victory since 2005, and where the Packers went 9-0 last season. That might be too much to ask, particularly if the Packers have something to play for, but it's possible Green Bay will be resting starters by then. Packers 24, Vikings 20. Record: 9-7