Minnesota Vikings schedule 2024: Takeaways, predictions

When Louis Riddick expects J.J. McCarthy to be Vikings' starting QB (1:08)

Louis Riddick loves J.J. McCarthy's situation in Minnesota and is optimistic as to how soon McCarthy will be starting there. (1:08)

EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' 2024 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate Wednesday.

For the most part, their schedule reflects a team that will undergo a quarterback transition, is awaiting the ascendance of a new generation of stars (aside from receiver Justin Jefferson) and is likely to have the worst odds of any NFC North team to win the division.

They'll get two prime-time games while losing a home date in order to "host" the New York Jets in Week 5 at London's Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. That game will mark the conclusion of a really tough opening to the season, one that includes matchups against three 2023 playoff teams, and could provide the Vikings with a road map for integrating rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy into the starting lineup.

Here's what's in store for the Vikings:

Week 1: Sept. 8 at Giants

Week 2: Sept. 15 vs. 49ers

Week 3: Sept. 22 vs. Texans

Week 4: Sept. 29 at Packers

Week 5: Oct. 6 vs. Jets (London)

Week 6: Oct. 13 BYE

Week 7: Oct. 20 vs. Lions

Week 8: Oct. 24 at Rams (TNF)

Week 9: Nov. 3 vs. Colts

Week 10: Nov. 10 at Jaguars

Week 11: Nov. 17 at Titans

Week 12: Nov. 24 at Bears

Week 13: Dec. 1 vs. Cardinals

Week 14: Dec. 8 vs. Falcons

Week 15: Dec. 15 vs. Bears

Week 16: Dec. 22 at Seahawks

Week 17: Dec. 29 vs. Packers

Week 18: Jan. 4 or 5 at Lions*

*Date for Week 18 is to be determined

Strength of schedule: The Vikings are tied for the 16th-hardest schedule in the league (opponents had a .502 winning percentage in 2023).

Over/Under: 6.5

Biggest takeaway

In a perverse way, the opening stanza of this schedule lends itself well to a team that will be trying to decide when to transition to a rookie quarterback. Put another way: Protect McCarthy at all costs! Running through a gauntlet of playoff-caliber teams, only one of which is a division rival, seems like the perfect job for veteran Sam Darnold. Even if they play well over those first five games, the Vikings would have a natural opening to give McCarthy some run as early as Week 7 at home against the Lions. Another opening could be the Week 9 home game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Revenge game

Week 14 vs. Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The events that occurred after Kirk Cousins departed Minnesota -- namely, the Falcons' decision to draft quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 overall pick -- has complicated what was a standard and amicable parting. The Vikings made Cousins an offer that didn't fully guarantee him more than one season, knowing they planned to draft a quarterback. The Falcons fully guaranteed Cousins two seasons, but no one knew they were considering Penix. Would Cousins have made a different decision if he knew the Falcons' full plans? He said this week that there was no sense in discussing hypotheticals. But the circumstances will add an extra level of intrigue to the typical revenge game, assuming Penix hasn't replaced Cousins as the Falcons' starter by that point.

Bold prediction

The Vikings' best stretch of the season will come during a quirky six-week period that starts with a three-game road trip and finishes with a three-game homestand. None of the six opponents in that stretch made the playoffs in 2023, and while there are always teams that make big improvements from one year to the next, this looks to be the softest part of the Vikings' schedule and the best chance to at least be relevant for the final few weeks of the season. If they want to make the playoffs, they'll need to be in pretty good position entering a final three-game stretch that includes a trip to Seattle and the NFC North's best two teams in the Lions and Packers.