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The Minnesota Vikings started off 1-5 in 2020. They improved and finished the season 6-4, good enough for a 7-9 finish. But they ended up in third place in the NFC North and out of the playoffs.
Many felt the Vikings had the best overall team in the NFC North and therefore they became good NFL futures bets. But the viking ship sank, and they probably cost you a few bucks if you bet on them to go places.
Of course, if you bet the under in 2020, you won.
So what’s the difference heading into 2021?
Can the Vikings become a more sensible futures bet?
Today’s post explains why they may and why they may not.
The Vikings Have the Right Offensive System
If the Minnesota Vikings have one big thing going for them, it’s the fact they’re playing in the right system. Just like former offensive coordinators Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak, their new coordinator, Klint Kubiak, son of the latter, runs the same philosophy.
Run the ball often, get the tight ends involved, and throw to the receivers when necessary. And the system has worked in Minnesota, where the team racked up 430 points, good for 26.8 points per game.
They also have all the players necessary for the system, including 2 fantastic running backs in Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, a budding tight end in Irv Smith Jr., a group of maulers with the offensive line, and a gadget quarterback with Kirk Cousins.
The Vikings also proved in 2020 that they can put up points against anyone.
They put up 30-plus points in 6 contests, and put up 26-plus points in 12 games. The Vikings can score, no doubt about it.
And with division rivals the Detroit Lions rebuilding again and the Chicago Bears lacking a quarterback, the Vikings can easily solidify themselves as the second-best team in their division on just the offensive side of the ball.
And after their 4-2 record in the NFC North, with their biggest loss against their division rivals coming by just 9 points in 2020, a slightly better defense may give this team a huge advantage within the North in 2021.
Let’s talk about the defense.
Zimmer’s Defensive Wizardry
Head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive wizard. And while his Vikings allowed an inexcusable 475 points, or 29.68 points per game, you can’t count this unit out. Not with a guy like Zimmer who often boasts a top-rated defense.
And look for it to occur in 2021.
So what went wrong in 2020?
For one, a rash of injuries plagued the unit, with Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, and Mike Hughes going on IR. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce opted out because of COVID-19.
Also, the Vikings were already thin in the secondary, with Hughes, Cam Dantzler, Jeff Gladney, and others starting at corner for the first time. And with injuries and opt outs for the pass rush, it meant the team often played their second and third guys.
With new corners, it’s a bad situation alone. But when you add the injuries along with the lack of offseason and preseason, the Vikings relied far too much on an offense that, while talented, couldn’t overcome the number of points the defense allowed.
But Zimmer has the brains to fix the unit, both in the offseason by adding fresh personnel and making necessary adjustments, and on the field. In fact, few guys in the league can fix this mess on defense, and Mike Zimmer is one of the chosen few.
The Vikings are lucky to have Zimmer as their head coach as he oversees changes on defense. And given the talent that the team had on offense in 2020, a defense even a fraction better than it was in 2019 will take this team a long way. Perhaps even past that notorious NFC Championship Game.
But don’t think today’s post favors the Vikings as the right team to place a futures bet on. Anything can happen. And the team still has its flaws. And of course, Zimmer has done nothing to fix the defense at the time of this writing.
The following sections will show you a few struggles the Vikings still must deal with, one of them being the notorious Green Bay Packers.
Playing Second Fiddle in the North
Let’s face it. The Green Bay Packers have owned the NFC North. From 2011 to 2020, the Packers 7 NFC North Championships. The Vikings have won just 2. And the Chicago Bears, 1.
Want more fun?
In 4 of the last 5 seasons, at least one team from the NFC North has played in the NFC Championship. The Vikes played in the 2017 game. The Packers played in the others. Together, they combined for an 0-4 record.
History clearly isn’t on the Vikings’ side. And history also favors the Packers. Even if they face the same roadblock in the NFC Championship as the Vikings.
But the Packers have dominated the NFC North. They have played in most of the NFC Championship Games. And if the North had one Team of the Decade, it’s the Packers. And in the 2020s, the Packers are 1 for 1. The Vikings and the others are 0 for 1.
So the first order of business for the Vikings, if they’re to become a good futures bet to even win the NFC North, is to find a way around the Packers.
The Packers beat them handedly in Week 1, going into prevent later in the contest. Which is the real reason the final score was 43-34. They also beat the Packers in a thriller at Lambeau Field.
But far too often, the Packers outduel the Vikings.
And given the Packers’ talent, the Vikings need to take advantage of tiebreakers. And that means sweeping the Packers. Sure, they must beat Detroit and Chicago. But they must sweep the Packers and keep up with them against common opponents.
Hard to do.
Plus, the Packers finished the last 2 seasons at 13-3. So it goes to show just how much the Vikings need to do regarding common opponents if they’re looking to win the division. Clearly, you can see that they’re a much higher risk to bet futures than the Packers.
Especially if recent history has its way.
Speaking of schedules, let’s dissect who the Vikings are playing. We’ve already touched on the NFC North and dedicated this section to the Packers, ever the thorn in the Vikings’ side.
The next section will touch on the common opponents, and just how tough the Vikes have it in 2021.
The Vikings Must Overcome a Tough Schedule
The Vikings lost the Luck of the Draw for 2021. We know they’re slated to play the NFC West and the AFC North.
Not a fun schedule when they went 2-7 against teams who finished .500 or better in 2020. Take out the 8-8 Chicago Bears, and the Vikings finished 1-6 against teams with winning records.
In 2021, they get to play the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, and Los Angeles Rams. Each of whom finished .500 or above in 2020. Add in the Packers and the Bears, and you got 4 more opponents.
Now, add the San Francisco 49ers, ravaged by the injury bug in 2020. Still, the Niners eeked out a 7-9 record and if they’re healthy in 2021, they’re every bit as dangerous.
That’s 11 tough opponents, all capable of finishing above .500 in 2021. The Bears may be the only exception here, given their turmoil at quarterback. They also face the Dallas Cowboys, who should see Dak Prescott back at full go by September.
That leaves the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, and Detroit Lions as teams who fall below average on the team’s schedule. Only 4 games. And the Vikings went 5-2 against teams with losing records, including a loss to the Cowboys in a nail biter.
It’s clear the Vikings thrive against teams with losing records, and they struggle against teams who finish with winning records.
And since their schedule boasts tough opponents all over the place, the schedule alone can sink this Viking ship once again.
Before you bet on the Vikings, be sure to dissect this schedule further. Which you can do once they release the dates and times in the spring.
This team has a lot going for them. But they have little going in terms of scheduling.
The Minnesota Vikings have a stellar offense. And that’s huge for a team looking to overcome a porous defense from 2020. Plus, their defensive unit has a year under their belts, and head coach Mike Zimmer is a genius in fixing these units. Trust him to add the right personnel.
But the Vikings play in the same division as one of the NFL’s greatest franchises, the Green Bay Packers. And as long as Aaron Rodgers stays in the green and gold, they’ll always be a cut above the Vikings. Finally, the Vikings have a tough schedule.
And if 2020 is an indicator, it’s that they don’t fare well against tough opponents. Not a good combo heading into 2021.
What are your thoughts on the Vikings? Will they do enough to become a good futures bet at NFL betting sites in 2021?