2021 Minnesota Vikings Predictions with Odds to Win Super Bowl
The Minnesota Vikings are one of the biggest “close, but no cigar” type teams. Aside from the Bills, who lost four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s, the Vikings have been to the NFC Championship Game four times since 1998, the most recent being in 2017, but they always find a way to fall short at the penultimate hurdle. Whether that be a lack of preparation, or just flat-out bad luck, the Vikings find ways to lose football games at the worst possible times. This year, I expect much of the same. They have a very good offensive unit. However, the defense, which was once a dominant unit, has taken a step back and will likely be the crutch holding this team back.
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The Vikings open up their schedule on September 12 with a trip to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. From there, the team travels to Arizona to tangle with the Cardinals before returning home for a three-game homestand against the Seahawks, Browns and Lions, respectively. A Week 6 trip to Carolina precedes the Week 7 bye week, and then from there the going gets extremely tough with games against the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers, Packers and 49ers. We should know by Week 7 if the Vikings are a good team or bad team as they have at least four winnable games.
As of writing this, the Vikings are relative longshots to win the Super Bowl as they check in at +400 which is well behind the favorites. If you believe the Vikings can at least win the NFC and get to the Super Bowl, you can grab them at +2000. And if you believe they can win the division, they can be yours at +250.
Let’s take a look at what to expect from each unit heading into this season.
Key Players: Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook
Since arriving in Minnesota for the beginning of the 2018 season, Kirk Cousin has been a very polarizing figure for all the wrong reasons. He made a massive stink about getting “guaranteed” money, which is good for him. However, prior to signing the contract, he was talking like he should be paid like the best quarterback in the league, which he most certainly is not. Three seasons later, and Cousins has stats to quiet the haters, but the results speak for themselves, and that’s no division titles or trips to the Super Bowl. Cousins threw for 4,266 yards last year while completing 67.6 percent of his passes and connecting on 35 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Those are decent enough numbers, but the fact of the matter is that the offense couldn’t pick up the slack for the poor defense. If Cousins and his supporting cast can put up good numbers again this year, and the defense takes a major step forward, the Vikings will be in the mix for a playoff spot come late December.
Speaking of the supporting cast, the loss of Stefon Diggs really hurt the Vikings. However, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are two guys that proved they can fill the void. Thielen caught 74 balls last season for 925 yards and 14 touchdowns. The yards and yards-after-catch were down from 2018 (his last injury free-season), but the 14 touchdowns are a career-high. So where did the yards go? Well, they went to Justin Jefferson. Jefferson, the rookie out of LSU, set a rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He’s on the injury report to start the preseason with an AC joint injury, but he’s not expected to miss any time.
And in the backfield, Dalvin Cook will be looking to build off a tremendous season in which he ran for 1,557 yards in just 14 games while finding the endzone 16 times and once as a receiver. Cook has had his fair share of issues staying healthy, but he finally looks fit and ready to become one of the best running backs in the game.
Defense & Special Teams
Key Players: Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson
Defensively, the Vikings were a massive disappointment last season. After having such strong defensive units over the last handful of seasons, the Vikings couldn’t stop any offense from moving the ball or putting up points. The Vikings ranked 29th in the league in points per game, allowing teams to average nearly 30 points per contest. Against the run, the Vikings really struggled as they ranked 27th overall in rushing yards allowed, giving up 134.5 yards per contest. They were a bit better at defending the pass but still finished 25th overall in the league, giving up 258.8 passing yards per contest. If the Vikings are serious about contending for a playoff spot and getting to the Super Bowl, the defensive unit is going to need to have a big bounce-back type season as those numbers simply won’t cut it, especially behind an offense that struggles to score points at times. As for special teams, the Vikings will rely on Greg Joseph and he’s an unknown commodity in the NFL world. The Vikings will be hoping he can do his job and not cost them any games, which would cost them a spot in the postseason.
The offense has the pieces to do big things. They have a quarterback who likes to take chances and push the ball downfield. They have two solid and reliable wide receivers, and they have an elite running back who can take over games. The issue is their defense. As noted above, the defense was atrocious last year. It finished in the bottom seven of the league in each major defensive category. There is no way a team can consistently win games or compete for a title if the defense gives up almost 30 points per game. If the defense has major improvement, the Vikings can be right in the playoff mix and go on a deep run. If not, this is an 8-9 or 9-8 team at best.
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