Minnesota Vikings NFL Betting Preview: Defense Gets Facelift

Posted on: August 14, 2020, 10:57h. 

Last updated on: August 16, 2020, 05:39h.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. At age 64, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is the third-oldest in the NFL. After an off-season of change, it will be quite a trick for Zimmer to field one of his typically strong defenses.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer NFL Preview
Mike Zimmer has led the Vikings to the playoffs in three of the past five seasons. (Image: Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports)

Pass-rushing defensive end Everson Griffen, run-stopping defensive tackle Linval Joseph, and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander were released or departed in free agency. Those five players are major reasons why the Vikings have posted five consecutive top-nine rankings in points allowed, including a No. 5 finish season last year.

With such uncertainty on defense, Minnesota is 10th in William Hill’s Super Bowl odds at +2,500.

Over/Under: 8.5 Wins

If the Vikings are going to get past the rival Packers in the NFC North, it will be up to the Kirk Cousins-led offense to carry the load, at least initially. While Cousins’ prime-time problems are well-documented, he finished fourth in the league in passer rating and completion percentage last season, helping the Vikings finish eighth in the league in scoring – their best mark in a decade.

FanDuel established the over/under on Minnesota at 8.5 wins (-170 for the over; +145 for the under).

The NFC North is seen as a two-team race between Minnesota and Green Bay. That should come as no surprise. Those teams have won the division crown in eight of the last nine and 11 of the past 13 seasons.

The Vikings are currently our co-favorite in the NFC North at +150 along with Green Bay,” an analyst from William Hill told Casino.org. “The line is more an indictment of the Packers, as bettors have been fading Green Bay this off-season.”

After back-to-back second-place finishes in the division, PointsBet has made the Vikings the favorite (+150) over the defending champion Packers (+175). MGM also gives the Vikings the edge (+160) over Green Bay (+175).

Introductions Needed

The potential trouble spot is at cornerback. Led by the former top tandem of Rhodes and Waynes, Minnesota has finished in the top 10 in opponent passer rating each of the past four seasons.

Without them, Zimmer will lean on an inexperienced group. Mike Hughes, a first-round pick in 2018, has only five starts and two interceptions in his career. He’ll be joined by three rookies: Jeff Gladney (first round), Cameron Dantzler (third) and Harrison Hand (fifth). Perhaps offsetting that youth is the premier safety tandem of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.

Plus, elite pass rusher Danielle Hunter is 10th on MGM’s Defensive Player of the Year board at +2,500. Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (+750), Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (+1,000) and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (+1,200) are the front-runners.

Not even the offense went unscathed, with premier receiver Stefon Diggs being shipped to Buffalo. With the first-round pick the Vikings received, they selected prolific LSU receiver Justin Jefferson to pair with former Pro Bowler Adam Thielen.

With an unproven defense and revamped passing attack, the Vikings figure to lean heavily on Dalvin Cook, who finished 10th in the league in rushing last season. At +2,500, he ranks eighth on MGM’s Offensive Player of the Year list.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of 32 NFL team previews. The series continues this week with the rest of the NFC North.