The Vikings reached the playoffs for the second time in three years in 2019 and they reached the postseason for the third time in Mike Zimmer’s six seasons. Minnesota made it a memorable playoff appearance by pulling off a stunning overtime victory over the Saints as 7.5-point road underdogs in the Wild Card Round before the 49ers wiped the floor with them in the Divisional Round. The Vikings finished with an 11-7 overall record, which included a 10-8 against-the-spread mark, and they cashed +100 odds to make the playoffs.
Minnesota finished with an even 9-9 split on totals last season after scoring 24.6 points per game (11th-most) and allowing 19.4 PPF (6th-fewest). The Vikings finished with a 3-4 record in one-score games (playoffs included) and they went 4-1 in games decided by three scores or more, with the lone blowout loss coming to the 49ers in the playoffs.
Minnesota saw its win total drop by a half game from last season to eight and a half wins despite reaching double-digit wins and winning a playoff game last season. The Vikings climbed over their 2019 win total of nine and a half victories with their Week 15 victory over the Chargers. Minnesota has -143 odds to make a return playoff appearance this season, which would be the Vikings fourth trip to the postseason in Zimmer’s seven years. Entering the season, I have the Vikings power rated as the 12th-best team in the NFL (+2500 to win Super Bowl LV), as the seventh-best team in the NFC (+1100 to win the conference), and as the best team in the NFC North (+150).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||Green Bay Packers (-3.5)||1|
|2||@Indianapolis Colts (+3)||1|
|5||@Seattle Seahawks||8:20 (Sun)|
|8||@Green Bay Packers||1|
|10||@Chicago Bears||8:15 (Mon)|
|14||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||1|
|16||@New Orleans Saints (+6)||4:30 (Fri)|
Key Off-season Moves
Justin Jefferson (WR)
Jeff Gladney (CB)
Ezra Cleveland (OT)
Cameron Dantzler (CB)
Tajae Sharpe (WR)
Dan Bailey (K)
Stefon Diggs (WR, Buf)
Everson Griffen (DE, FA)
Trae Waynes (CB, Cin)
Mackensie Alexander (CB, Cin)
Xavier Rhodes (CB, Ind)
Stephen Weatherly (DE, Car)
Andrew Sendejo (S, Cle)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||8.5 (-150/+123)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Vikings replaced both their offensive coordinator (Kevin Stefanski) and their defensive coordinator (George Edwards) from 2019. For most teams this year, that would be a major concern because of the lack of off-season workouts and preseason games during the on-going global health crisis, but the Vikings are in a unique position to have a smooth transition. The Vikings went with continuity over new ideas for their 2020 offense after rising coaching prospect Stefanski bolted to Cleveland. The Vikings promoted Gary Kubiak to OC after he served as an offensive advisor for Stefanski last season so this offense shouldn’t look too different from 2019.
HC Mike Zimmer will continue to call the shots on the defensive side of the ball, but he elevated his most trusted assistants, Andre Patterson and his son Adam Zimmer, to co-defensive coordinator roles. The Vikings shouldn’t miss a beat on offense or defense this season because of their coordinator hires, which is better than most teams with new coordinators can say. The Vikings are undergoing major changes at cornerback this season, but they still have blue-chip players all over their defense in DE Danielle Hunter, S Anthony Harris, S Harrison Smith, and LB Eric Kendricks. Zimmer’s teams have had plenty of success since he came from Cincinnati in 2014 as his squads have gone over their win totals in four of his six seasons, including 2019.
The Vikings had some of the worst fortune in close games among the teams that finished with a +10 turnover differential or better last season. Minnesota went 2-4 in one-score games during the regular season despite owning a +11 turnover differential. However, the Chargers did do their best to skew those numbers in a 39-10 loss to the Vikings in Week 15 as Minnesota finished with a 7-to-1 turnover edge in that contest.
The Vikings have a slightly easier schedule than the Packers this season, with Minnesota drawing matchups against the Seahawks and the Cowboys for their extra NFC contests — the Packers have the 49ers and the Eagles for their extra games. The Vikings have a rare three-game homestand in Weeks 11-13 with some winnable contests against the Cowboys, the Panthers, and the Jaguars. The Vikings will need to take advantage of a seven-game run in Weeks 9-15 to make a run at the playoffs or at winning the division, and the stretch features five total home games (Det, @Chi, Dal, Car, Jax, @TB, Chi).
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
Minnesota underwent a major roster overhaul this off-season, which started with the front office shipping disgruntled WR Stefon Diggs to Buffalo. They then let their starting CBs from last season — Trae Waynes (Bengals), Xavier Rhodes (Colts) and Mackensie Alexander (Bengals) — walk during free agency. The Vikings also took some big hits along their D-line with NT Linval Joseph (Chargers) and DE Everson Griffen (FA) leaving the franchise and with free-agent signee Michael Pierce opting to sit out the season due to the pandemic.
The Vikings will be banking on first-round WR Justin Jefferson to step into Diggs’ old spot, and they’ll have young CBs Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney, Holton Hill, and Cameron Dantzler learning on the job this season. The Vikings will need these young players to avoid being liabilities or else they could be hard-pressed to finish above .500 this season. Minnesota at least has Adam Thielen on offense and outstanding safeties Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith to cover up these young players if they struggle. Minnesota’s passing offense and/or passing defense could really struggle if Thielen, Harris, or Smith miss time at any point this season.
The league is trending toward having no fans or toward having limited attendance at games this season, and the Vikings could be one of the teams that’s hurt the most. They’ve posted a winning home ATS record in every one of Mike Zimmer’s six seasons, and they’ve covered the spread in 67.3% of their home games under Zimmer. That record includes a 21-11-2 ATS mark (65.6% cover rate) since they opened U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016.
The Vikings have three standalone TV contests this season, and they all happen to be on the road against the Seahawks in Week 6, the Bears in Week 10, and the Saints on Christmas in Week 16. Kirk Cousins has notoriously played dreadfully in primetime games during his career as he owns a 7-15 record (.318 winning percentage), which includes an 0-9 record on Monday Night Football. The Vikings play the Bears in their lone MNF contest this season.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Kirk Cousins: passing yards (3800.5), passing TDs (24.5), MVP (+6600)
Fantasy Points Projections: passing yards (3725), passing TDs (27)
Best-case Scenario: The Vikings can’t sustain their rushing efficiency from last season and their defense takes a step back, which gets Cousins north of 540 pass attempts and 4000 passing yards once again.
Worst-case Scenario: Cousins misses Stefon Diggs and Kevin Stefanski even more than anticipated and their play-action passing attack isn’t nearly as effective after averaging 8.1 YPA in 2019.
Adam Thielen: receiving yards (1100.5), most receiving yards (+2500)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (1025), receptions (81)
Best-case Scenario: Thielen is the clear top option in this passing game and he gets back to his 2017-18 form when he averaged 148.5 targets per season with a massive 26% target share.
Worst-case Scenario: Thielen, in his first season in his 30s, struggles again with soft-tissue injuries, which ravaged the final 10 games of his 2019 campaign.
Justin Jefferson: receiving yards (675.5)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (725), receptions (61)
Best-case Scenario: Jefferson steps right into Stefon Diggs’ old role and he quickly becomes the #2 option for Kirk Cousins, averaging 6-8 targets per game as a rookie.
Worst-case Scenario: Jefferson doesn’t see consistent targets and he struggles transitioning from being a slot-only WR in college to playing against bigger, stronger perimeter cornerbacks in the NFL.
Best Bets and Leans
I initially had the Vikings power rated a half point ahead of the Packers in my initial ratings after the draft. After digging into every NFC North team for these previews, I’m a little lower on the Vikings now and I’d have the Packers as the top-rated team in the NFC North, but I’m not feeling particularly bullish about any team in this middling NFC North. I’m most concerned about Minnesota’s secondary with its young and brand-new starting CB group, and I also have concerns about this passing offense without Stefon Diggs and behind a weak pass-blocking offensive line.
The Vikings are also hurt more than most teams when it comes to losing some of their home-field advantage this season. Since U.S. Bank Stadium opened in 2016, the Vikings have won 71.9% of their home games (23-9) and they’ve covered an impressive 65.6% of those contests (21-11-2). They also got the short end of the stick when it came to their standalone TV games this season. Each of their three national TV games coming on the road against the Seahawks in Week 6, the Bears in Week 10, and the Saints in Week 16.
I’m expecting the NFC North to be a jumbled race for most of the season, and I would be mildly surprised if the division title race doesn’t come down to the final two weeks of the season. With Minnesota’s potential passing game issues on both sides of the ball and with their lack of a home-field advantage in 2020, I’m betting the Vikings to finish under nine wins this season. Be sure to shop around on the Vikings’ win total because there is a split between nines and eight and a halfs in the market. I could see Minnesota getting to nine wins this season, which would push on my wager, but I don’t see the Vikes getting to double-digit wins.
Best Bets: Vikings to finish under nine wins (-120, FoxBet). Risk one and a half units to win 1.25 units.