When the schedule initially came out, the Vikings had 12 of their 16 games scheduled for noon starts local time. They had only one game slated for prime time (the Thursday night game vs. Tampa Bay Oct. 25) and three games scheduled for late afternoon starts (tomorrow vs. Washington, Nov. 4 at Seattle and Dec. 16 at St. Louis).
After the schedule was released, it was learned that last week's game with Tennessee, originally scheduled for an early Sunday start, was going to conflict with the Twin Cities Marathon. In order to eliminate that conflict, the game was shifted to a 3:25 p.m. start time. As a result, four of five games in Oct. and the first week of November will be non-traditional starting times. But that may be just the beginning.
Starting in Week 11, the NFL's flex schedule will kick in and games that would be of more playoff interest will be shifted into prime viewing times. Not only can league trade out the Sunday night game for a more attractive matchup, it can move early Sunday games into the late-afternoon time slots for national TV coverage.
When the 2012 season began, getting a Vikings game moved to allow a larger audience to watch them play wasn't much of a consideration. With a 4-1 start and the chance of having several more wins in the bank by Thanksgiving, suddenly games against Chicago, Green Bay and Houston down the stretch (all scheduled for noon local start times) could have much greater potential to be shifted – either to late afternoon for the national doubleheader games or even into prime time.
With success comes messed-up schedules. A team like the Vikings was scheduled to have just one prime-time game, but only because the NFL has a policy of giving every team at least one chance to play in the solo spotlight of prime time with the new Thursday night weekly matchups. Not much was expected from them. That has changed and more changes may be coming when the NFL can change the schedule.
If fans are frustrated that they have to wait until 3:25 p.m. to see the Vikings play, get used to it. Thanks to their unexpected success, fans may have to get used to more starting times to accommodate a national audience with late start times.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.