The Vikings have alternated non-playoff seasons with playoff seasons since Mike Zimmer became the head coach in 2014. However, it was Zimmer’s defense that was the cause of their struggles in 2020 as Minnesota ranked outside the top-10 in points allowed for the first time in his seven-year tenure. Minnesota went into a full rebuild on defense with nine players gone from their 2019 unit, which resulted in the Vikings missing the playoffs (+115) with a 7-9 record (6-10 ATS). Minnesota’s offense overtook its defense as the strength of the team last season thanks in large part to Justin Jefferson, whom they landed with a pick acquired from the Bills in the Stefon Diggs trade. Jefferson set an NFL record for receiving yards by a rookie since the merger with 1400 yards.
The Vikings allowed the fourth-most points per game (29.7) and they scored the 11th-most points per game (26.9), which resulted in an 11-5 mark toward overs. Minnesota ended the year 6-4 in one-score contests and 0-3 in games decided by three scores or more, and they finished with the league’s 11th-worst point differential (-45).
Minnesota’s 2021 win total (9) dropped by half a victory after it fell well below expectations last season. The Vikings fell below their 2020 win total by 2.5 victories and they locked in the under with their seventh loss of the season to the Buccaneers in Week 14. Entering this season, I have the Vikings power rated as the 12th-best team in the NFL (+5000 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the seventh-best team in the NFC (+2200 to win the conference), and as the second-best team in the NFC North (+225).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|10||@Los Angeles Chargers||+3||4:05|
|11||Green Bay Packers||-3||1|
|12||@San Francisco 49ers||+7||4:25|
|14||Pittsburgh Steelers||-2.5||8:20 (Thurs)|
|15||@Chicago Bears||-1||8:15 (Mon)|
|16||Los Angeles Rams||+2.5||1|
|17||@Green Bay Packers||+3||8:20|
The Vikings will face the 14th-easiest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football) and the easiest schedule in the NFC North thanks to a pair of matchups against the Lions and Bears and extra pairings with the Bengals and Panthers. Minnesota has three straight home games against the Seahawks, Browns, and Lions in Weeks 3-5, and they have other matchups with the Bengals, Cardinals, and Panthers in the first six weeks so they have a chance to get off to a strong start.
Minnesota’s toughest stretch comes in Weeks 8-12 when they’ll face five straight teams lined at 9+ wins in the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, Packers, and 49ers. The Vikings will face two opponents coming off byes including Dallas in Week 7, which will negate Minnesota’s Week 6 bye — the Vikings will also play the rested Ravens in Week 8. The NFL scheduled the Vikings for four primetime games, which includes a road MNF game against the Bears in Week 15 and a road showdown with the Packers on SNF.
Key Off-season Moves
|Mason Cole (C)||Christian Darrisaw (OT)||Mike Boone (RB, Den)|
|Stephen Weatherly (DE)||Kellen Mond (QB)||Kyle Rudolph (TE, NYG)|
|Dalvin Tomlinson (DT)||Chazz Surratt (LB)||Riley Reiff (OT, Cin)|
|Mackensie Alexander (CB)||Wyatt Davis (OG)||Ifeadi Odenigbo (DE, NYG)|
|Patrick Peterson (CB)||Patrick Jones (DE)||Anthony Harris (S, Phi)|
|Xavier Woods (S)||Kene Nwangwu (RB)||Todd Davis (LB)|
|Sheldon Richardson (DT)||Camryn Bynum (CB)||Eric Wilson (OLB, Phi)|
|Bashaud Breeland (CB)||Janarius Robinson (DE)||Shamar Stephen (DT, Den)|
|Nick Vigil (OLB)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||9 (-115/-105)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 8.5 (+123) in late March to 9 (-115)
Super Bowl: +4000 in early February to +5000
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
Our John Hansen dubbed HC Mike Zimmer as “Mr. Every Other Year” for his penchant to bounce back and forth between a middling campaign and double-digit victories in alternating seasons. The trend even applies to Minnesota’s season win total results as the Vikings have never finished under their win total in consecutive seasons under Zimmer. He owns a 4-3 mark toward overs since becoming the head coach in 2014.
The Vikings have quietly gone about their business this off-season, improving their three biggest weaknesses in the secondary (Patrick Peterson) and along their offensive and defensive lines (Dalvin Tomlinson). They specifically attacked their offensive line issues during the draft by selecting Christian Darrisaw in the first round, who figures to be a Day One starter at left tackle. The Vikings have invested plenty of draft capital into their offensive line in recent seasons and they could cement themselves among the league’s best offenses with even above-average offensive line play.
Kirk Cousins is coming off one of his best seasons in 2020 after he averaged a career-high 8.3 YPA with a career-best 35 TD passes. He also has some of the best players at their respective positions at his disposal. Dalvin Cook is one of the few running backs who moves the needle after he averaged a silly 137.0 scrimmage yards per game last season. Justin Jefferson is already one of the best receivers in the league after he set an NFL rookie record with 1400 receiving yards. Add in WR Adam Thielen, who is one of the league’s best end-zone threats, and rising TE Irv Smith, who looks primed for a breakout campaign, and this Vikings’ offense has the potential to be elite this season.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
Zimmer might be consistently inconsistent with his yearly records, but his defense uncharacteristically fell behind his offense last season. Minnesota ranked outside the top-10 in points allowed for the first time in his seven-year tenure. The Vikings went into a full rebuild on defense last season with nine players gone from their 2019 unit. It showed as they allowed the fourth-most points per game (29.7) and the sixth-most yards per game (393.2).
The Vikings’ defense had a ton of bad luck and they’re far from guaranteed to bounce back this season. Free-agent DT Michael Pierce opted out before last season while DE Danielle Hunter (neck) didn’t play a single snap and LB Anthony Barr (pec) lasted just two games in 2020. Rookie CBs Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler also got thrown right into the fire last season and they certainly struggled. This defense has a chance to bounce back this season but they’ll need their young cornerbacks to take big steps forward while having Peterson return to his previous form at 31 years old. They also need Barr, Pierce, and Hunter to return to high levels of play after each player essentially missed all of last season. The Vikings have plenty of room for improvement on defense but they’ll need a lot of things to go right for it to happen.
Notable Player Props
Kirk Cousins: passing yards (4200.5), passing TDs (28.5), MVP (+2500), OPOY (+4000), most passing yards (+2500)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4315), passing TDs (30)
Best-Case Scenario: Cousins continues to efficiently sling it at one of the highest levels, and the passing attack becomes of the league’s best with three studs in Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Minnesota’s passing attack takes a small step back with Jefferson unable to keep up his pace from his rookie season and with touchdown regression hitting Thielen.
Dalvin Cook: rushing yards (1375.5), rushing + receiving yards (1624.5), rushing TDs (13.5), MVP (+6500), OPOY (+1400), most rushing yards (+550)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (1365), rushing + receiving yards (1735), rushing TDs (13)
- Best-Case Scenario: Cook is in the running to be the top fantasy RB and he resets the career highs he set in 2020 behind the best offensive line he’s played behind in his career.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Cook is unable to log a full season for the fifth straight year to start his career and he shows a little wear and tear after handling 25.4 touches per game in 2020.
Justin Jefferson: receptions (90.5), receiving yards (1325.5), receiving TDs (8.5), OPOY (+3300), most receiving yards (+850)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (92), receiving yards (1335), receiving TDs (8)
- Best-Case Scenario: Jefferson continues to ascend in his second season after setting a new standard for rookie receiving yards (1400) and he establishes himself among the game’s elite at the position.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Jefferson is unable to keep up his breakneck pace from his rookie season and an improved Vikings’ defense limits the team’s overall passing volume in 2021.
Adam Thielen: receiving yards (990.5), receiving TDs (9), most receiving yards (+5000)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (945), receiving TDs (12)
- Best-Case Scenario: Thielen is still a route-running technician and he gets a small bump in targets with Justin Jefferson taking a small step back off his record-breaking rookie season.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Thielen starts to show his age some at 31 years old and his efficient play near the goal line tails off after he led the league in end-zone targets (20) and touchdowns (13) of those targets.
Irv Smith: receptions (49.5), receiving yards (575.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receptions (56), receiving yards (625)
- Best-Case Scenario: Despite talk of his role not changing in his third season, Smith does see an increase in playing time and his skill set finally shines through after flashing at times in his first two seasons.
- Worst-Case-Scenario: Much like Kyle Rudolph before him, Tyler Conklin proves to be a thorn in the side for Smith who is unable to fully break out with a less than full-time role.
Minnesota Vikings to win the Super Bowl (+5000, DraftKings). Risk .5 units to win 25 units.
Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC (+2500, BetMGM). Risk .5 units to win 12.5 units.
Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC North (+260, FanDuel). Risk one unit to win 2.6 units.
Minnesota Vikings over nine wins (-110, William Hill). Risk one unit to win .91 units.
The Vikings’ defense has a chance to bounce back in a big way after a rocky 2020 season. Mike Zimmer’s defense fell behind his offense last season with Minnesota ranking outside the top-10 in points allowed for the first time in his seven-year tenure. The Vikings’ defense had a ton of bad luck with free-agent DT Michael Pierce opting out before the season. DE Danielle Hunter (neck) also didn’t play a single snap while LB Anthony Barr (pec) played in just two games. Rookie CBs Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler also struggled in big roles as rookies. The Vikings added CB Patrick Peterson and DT Dalvin Tomlinson to bolster the group in free agency, and this defense has a chance to be a top-10 unit once again if their sophomore cornerbacks take big steps forward and if they can get Barr, Pierce, and Hunter to return to their old form.
There are obvious questions if Kirk Cousins is good enough to get this team over the top, but he’s coming off one of his best seasons in 2020 — he averaged a career-high 8.3 YPA with a career-best 35 TD passes. He also has some of the best skill players at their respective positions at his disposal in Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, and the Vikings could have the best offensive line they’ve had in quite some time. Minnesota’s win total has drifted up this off-season but I still think there’s some value in all of their season-long props at some big plus prices.
None of note.