Just about every year in the NFL you can count on four teams that didn't make the playoffs the previous season to get into the postseason the next. And I know many are high on the Minnesota Vikings off a 7-9 record in 2014. It looks like they have a keeper in second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and they might still have the NFL's best running back in Adrian Peterson. Clearly Peterson would rather play somewhere else after the team abandoned him last season amid those child abuse charges, but clearly the Vikings are going to stick to their guns and he's either going to play in purple or sit home and not get paid. Peterson said all the right things at the team's recent OTAs.
This is the last season Minnesota will play outdoors at the University of Minnesota so the last season the weather will be a factor in home games. The team's new stadium, which looks awesome, will be ready for 2016. The Vikings were 5-3 at their temporary home last season, 5-3 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." Their 2015 home schedule ranks as the 10th-toughest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 combined winning percentage of .547. That's the second-toughest in the NFC North behind Green Bay.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 20 -- Lions (pick'em): Short week for Minnesota as it is in San Francisco in the Monday night late game in Week 1. Detroit also is on the West Coast in Week 1, visiting San Diego. The Vikings' worst offensive game last season probably was a Week 6 17-3 home loss to the Lions. Bridgewater looked like a rookie, throwing for only 188 yards with three picks. He was also sacked eight times. The Vikings had only 212 yards, which is a shame because their defense played quite well, holding Detroit to 255. Key trend: Vikings 6-2-2 ATS in past 10 at home in series.
Sept. 27 -- Chargers (pick'em): San Diego is off a trip to Cincinnati in Week 2, so the Bolts might just stay in the Midwest to practice rather than go back and forth from California for this one. Here's something odd in this series. The teams have alternated wins and losses in each meeting, 11 total. Guess that means Vikings will win here as they lost most recent meeting in San Diego in 2011. Key trend: Vikings 4-6 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC.
Oct. 18 -- Chiefs (+1): This is off the bye week for Minnesota, while Kansas City hosts Chicago in Week 5. The Chiefs are a lot like the Vikings in that many like them as an AFC non-playoff team to reach the postseason in 2015. Both have good running backs and defenses. Teams haven't met since 2011, and Chiefs haven't visited since 2003. Key trend: Vikings 3-6-1 ATS in past 10 after bye (any location).
Nov. 8 -- Rams (pick'em): This follows trips to Detroit and Chicago for Minnesota, while St. Louis is home in Week 8 against San Francisco. Don't laugh, but the winner here could have an important wild-card tiebreaker as I expect much more from the Rams this season, too. The Vikings opened last season in St. Louis and won 34-6, their most lopsided win of the year. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson ran for 102 yards on just three carries, with a 67-yard scoring run off a pitchout. That was the only game Peterson played in 2014. He rushed 21 times for 75 yards. Matt Cassel was the team's starting QB then and had two TD throws. Key trends: Vikings 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC West.
Nov. 22 -- Packers (-3): Minnesota is off a trip to Oakland in Week 10, and Green Bay hosts Detroit the previous Sunday. Vikings played visiting Green Bay tough in Week 12 last season but lost 24-21. The Vikings cut the lead to three with 3:23 remaining on Bridgewater's second touchdown pass of the game but couldn't get the ball back. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer admitted he should have called for an onside kick from the 50-yard line after a Packer penalty put the ball there after that touchdown. Key trend: Vikings 6-4 ATS in past 10 as home dog in series.
Dec. 6 -- Seahawks (-4.5): Minnesota plays in Atlanta the previous Sunday, while Seattle is off a Week 12 home game against Pittsburgh. I don't expect many points in this one, especially in December outdoors in Minnesota. Teams last met in 2013, an easy Seattle home win. Key trend: Vikings 6-4 ATS in past 10 as a home dog of at least 4 points.
Dec. 20 -- Bears (+2.5): Bit extra time here for Minnesota as it plays at Arizona on Thursday in Week 14. Chicago is off a home game against Washington. Minnesota closed last season at home against the Bears and won 13-9. Bridgewater threw the go-ahead 44-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the third quarter and finished 17-for-25 for 209 yards with a pick. Linebacker Audie Cole had 11 tackles, three assists and a pass breakup in his first start of the season. It was Minnesota's only division win of the year. Key trend: Under has hit in past four at Minnesota in this series.
Dec. 27 -- Giants (+1.5): After this, Vikes close at Green Bay. New York is home to Carolina in Week 15. Last meeting was a 23-7 Giants home win on a Monday night in October 2013. Vikings fans may remember how terrible Josh Freeman was that night, going 20-for-53 for 190 yards and a pick. Thus ended the brief Freeman experiment. Key trend: Vikings 6-4 ATS in past 10 at home vs. NFC East.
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