2011 Minnesota Vikings Predictions and NFC North Futures Odds
by Alan Matthews - 8/22/2011
It’s funny how two teams can look at a 6-10 record from the year before so differently heading into a new season. My first NFC North preview here at Doc’s was on the Detroit Lions. They won six games in 2010 and considered it a giant step forward and a possible steppingstone to a playoff berth in 2011.
And then you have the Minnesota Vikings. Coming off an overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game in 2009 and with Brett Favre deciding to return for a 20th season in 2010, the Vikes were among the preseason Super Bowl favorites last year. But just about everything that could go wrong did for Minnesota. Its 6-10 record was an abject disaster, and this franchise now appears to be headed the wrong way.
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Last season it all started with Favre, who clearly should have stayed on his Mississippi ranch instead of returning. Favre was picked off 19 times and his 69.9 quarterback rating was the lowest of his career. His struggles led to the Vikings starting the season 3-7, at which point Coach Brad Childress was fired and replaced by defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. In addition, Favre was fined $50,000 for failure to cooperate with an NFL investigation into allegations that he sent lewd photos and messages to a game-day hostess when both worked for the New York Jets in 2008.
On top of that, Favre’s consecutive game streak of starts ended at 297 when he missed a Week 14 matchup against the Giants with a shoulder injury. Oh, and the Vikings were the “home” team in that Monday night game played in Detroit because the Metrodome roof collapsed on Sunday. The next week, the Vikes played a home game outdoors at the University of Minnesota and Favre’s final NFL play proved to be a crushing sack by Bears rookie Corey Wootton. The future Hall of Famer would sit out the final two weeks, an inglorious end to a glorious career.
The veteran-laden Vikings still think they have one more playoff run in them, with Frazier now the full-time head coach.
You can tell that Minnesota thinks it can still contend because the Vikings could have just handed the keys to the offense over to Christian Ponder. The Vikes surprised many by “reaching” for the former Florida State quarterback with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Instead, Minnesota will go the Hall of Fame route again (I presume he’s a Hall of Famer) with Donovan McNabb. It’s a pretty low-risk move for Minnesota, giving up just a 2012 sixth-round pick and conditional 2013 sixth-rounder. McNabb wasn’t good in his one season in Washington, getting benched twice last season and throwing 15 picks and 14 touchdown passes in 13 games. He did throw for a solid 3,377 yards on 58 percent completions. There’s no doubt McNabb starts Week 1, but look for Minnesota to turn toward Ponder around midseason if things aren’t going well of if McNabb gets hurt, which is a very real possibility. The Minnesota offense will rely heavily on Adrian Peterson, who is in line for a monster contract after this season and will thus be plenty motivated. Peterson rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and had 12 TDs in 15 games last year. And he only fumbled once – fumbling used to be his No. 1 weakness. Minnesota has some questions at receiver after losing Sidney Rice to free agency. Percy Harvin is a good one when he plays, but he’s always a migraine away from missing time. And projected No. 2 Bernard Berrian has been a disappointment.
The Vikings defense was still pretty good last year, ranking No. 8 overall in average yards allowed per game. The run defense, which had been one of the league’s best for the past few years, slipped to No. 9, however. Minnesota was right in the middle of the pack in terms of average points allowed at 21.8 per game. That Minnesota line won’t have stud run-stopper Pat Williams or defensive end Ray Edwards this season. The once-fearsome front four now features Remi Ayodele at nose tackle instead of Williams and Brian Robison at defensive end instead of Edwards. It’s still not clear if tackle Kevin Williams, the anchor of the defense, will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the year because of that Starcaps positive test that has been in a legal fight for a few years. As usual, the key to the defense, however, is end Jared Allen. He had 11 sacks last year, but 10 of those came in the final nine games when the Vikings were already pretty much done. He wasn’t the same force as in the previous two years.
Minnesota is more than solid at linebacker. The secondary is the potential weak link. Antoine Winfield remains a very good player, but he is 34. Fellow cornerbacks Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook missed a combined 24 games in 2010 due to knee injuries. And safety Madieu Williams was let go in a salary-cap move.
2011 Minnesota Vikings Schedule Analysis
The Vikings are tied for 10th in strength of schedule, with an opponents’ 2010 win percentage of .516. The Vikings have seven games against playoff teams from last year, but that’s mainly because four of those are against Green Bay and Chicago in the division. The others are at K.C., at Atlanta and vs. New Orleans. After Week 3, the Vikings alternate home and road games for the rest of the season. The only exception is road games in Weeks 8 and 10, but those are broken up by a bye week.
2011 Minnesota Vikings NFL and NFC North Futures Odds
Minnesota is +850 to win the NFC North, +1500 to win the conference title and +3500 to win the Super Bowl on Bodog. The Vikings’ ‘over/under’ win total on WagerWeb is 6.5, with the over a big -160 favorite.
2011 Minnesota Vikings Predictions
You will know where this team is headed by that Week 9 bye. Three of the first five are at home and all three are winnable: Tampa Bay, Detroit and Arizona. And the Vikes’ final road game before the break is at Carolina, which is also winnable. So presuming losses in San Diego, Kansas City and Chicago as well as home to Green Bay, that’s 4-4 heading to the second half. Can the Vikes win three more to go ‘over’ the 6.5? At a minimum they should beat Oakland and Denver at home and certainly could win in Detroit or Washington as well as at home in the season finale vs. the Bears. Minnesota won’t be winning the division, but 7-9 looks about right. But you are betting on McNabb’s health by taking the ‘over’ 6.5 wins for my NFL season win totals prediction.
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