EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- The NFL schedule makers served the Minnesota Vikings dessert before the main course this season.
After wolfing down cupcakes like the Browns, Lions and Rams during the team's first 5-0 start since 2003, the Vikings' road gets measurably more difficult from here on out. They host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, followed by road games at Pittsburgh and Green Bay before the bye week.
"The next three weeks aren't going to be easy," defensive end Jared Allen said after a 38-10 victory over the winless Rams on Sunday. "We play Baltimore at home, we are at Pittsburgh and then we are back in Green Bay. The next three weeks are going to be a strong test of where we are at."
Counting home wins over San Francisco and Green Bay, the first five opponents on Minnesota's schedule have a combined record of 7-17. Their next three opponents are a combined 8-6.
The Ravens (3-2) will bring their notoriously nasty defense into the Metrodome on Sunday, and Ray Lewis and Co. will probably be as ornery as ever after two straight losses.
Then comes a trip to face the defending Super Bowl champions followed by Brett Favre's highly anticipated return to Lambeau Field.
"We're getting a lot of pats on the back," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "But 5-0 can turn into 5-11 and we play a lot of good teams coming up. We can't get content or relax because Baltimore's coming up. It's like hitting a bee's nest, rustling them up a little bit, they're going to be pretty mad coming in here."
This veteran-laden team prides itself on its ability to stay focused and not look ahead. The Vikings were able to work through the distractions of Favre's first game against the Packers two weeks ago, then didn't overlook the woeful Rams in a laugher in St. Louis.
So rather than look at the next three games as a critical stretch heading into the bye, Vikings coach Brad Childress continues to deliver his stay-the-course message.
"We're certainly not going to be talking about anything that Pittsburgh or Green Bay does this week, so logic would dictate that were pretty focused on the Ravens," Childress said Monday.