The toughest teams on the Vikings’ schedule for 2021

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The Vikings have a tough road ahead if the team wants to bounce back from a disappointing season. This past season, the team finished 7-9 after a 1-5 start.

Minnesota has the fifth-toughest 2021 schedule in terms of winning percentage from 2020. That means that the Vikings are playing a lot of teams that were good this past season. Mix in a few teams that look primed for progression, and the Vikings may have a hard time salvaging the season.

In honor of the NFL schedule being released on Wednesday night of this week, here are the best teams on Minnesota’s schedule right now:

1. Green Bay Packers (Home and Away)

Oct 25, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Much of Green Bay's success is contingent upon one, big thing: Aaron Rodgers has to come back. The league MVP is “disgruntled” with the Packers and has told people in the organization he wants out, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. If Rodgers leaves, the Packers are no longer the best team on the Vikings' schedule. As it stands, Rodgers is currently on the team. With that as a reality, Green Bay is still one of the top teams in the NFL.

2. Baltimore Ravens (Away)

Nov 1, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) reacts after throwing a second half touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens kind of had a disappointing 2020. However, the team still won a playoff game. Lamar Jackson wasn't as stellar as he was in 2019, but he could go back to that level of production with better wide receiver play. Rashod Bateman could play a big factor.

3. Los Angeles Rams (Home)

Jan 16, 2021; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) against Green Bay Packers during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams had one of the best defenses in the NFL this past season. In the offseason, the team added Matthew Stafford. Don't get me wrong, this team has a lot of question marks. It's not a given that Stafford will thrive in an improved offensive scheme. Also, it's hard to maintain defensive success year over year, due to volatile stats and injury luck, as Vikings fans have seen with their team. But the potential of this team will make them hard to beat. Stafford is better than Jared Goff, so if the defense remains good, opponents could be in trouble.

4. Cleveland Browns (Home)

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski before an NFL football game at FirstEnergy Stadium, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]
Browns 31

Kevin Stefanski, once the offensive coordinator in Minnesota and now the head coach of Cleveland, will be facing off against his former team for the first time. The Browns front office has done a smart job of building a competitive team. The coaching staff has put quarterback Baker Mayfield in a place to succeed. Cleveland did a good job of upgrading the defense early in the 2021 NFL draft as well. This Browns team seems to have found a playoff window.

5. Seattle Seahawks (Home)

Dec 2, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles out of the pocket against the Minnesota Vikings during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

This is a Seahawks team that seems to always have the Vikings' number. This year, that came in the form of Seattle capping off a game-winning drive with a D.K. Metcalf touchdown reception on fourth-and-goal. Russell Wilson seemed unhappy earlier this offseason, but the case with the Seahawks is similar to the Packers: so long as their starting quarterback remains on the roster, they will be a tough out in 2021.

6. Dallas Cowboys (Home)

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) celebrates with teammates after catching a 4-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

OK, so the defense is still probably going to be bad. As the Vikings saw in 2020, though, this Dallas offense can be troublesome, even with an average quarterback. Dak Prescott is above average. Getting him back will be huge for the Cowboys.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (Home)

Jan 10, 2021; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) reacts in the fourth quarter of an AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like ages ago, but the Steelers started 2020 11-0. Pittsburgh looked good enough on offense and defense to be one of the better teams in the NFL. If Ben Roethlisberger has a resurgent season and his receivers drop less passes, the Steelers could be a tough out once again.

8. San Francisco 49ers (Away)

September 13, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) during the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it's Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance at quarterback, the 49ers should be better than they were in 2020. Injuries caused the defense to fall off from its 2019 production. Regression to the mean on health and other things probably won't lead San Francisco back to the Super Bowl, but it will make the team better.

9. Arizona Cardinals (Away)

Dec 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals made upgrades this offseason by signing A. J. Green and J.J. Watt. Watt should improve the pass rush, while Green could improve with a change of scenery. However, I don't know if either of these moves makes the Cardinals a definitive contender in a tough division.

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