Defense will be Key to Success in Minnesota

During his time in Minnesota, Kirk Cousins has been the center of blame for the Vikings not being able to reach elite status in the NFC. Last season was a different story. Cousins led the Vikings to their second-highest total touchdowns in team history (55). 

The Vikings scored 27 or more points in 11 games last season. The team won just five of those games and finished with a record of 7-9. As a result, Minnesota missed out on the playoffs by one game.

With the bulk of the offense returning this season, Minnesota will need to rely on better production from the defensive side of the ball to challenge for a division title and get back into the playoffs.

According to BetUs — one of the Top Sportsbooks at onlinebettingsport –, the Vikings’ over/under win total for the season is set at 9. Betting odds for the Vikings to hit the over are -125, while taking the under has betting odds of -105. 

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Which Quarterback Will Show Up?

Last season, Kirk Cousins tossed a career-high 35 touchdowns to go along with his 4,265 yards through the air. With Cousins leading the charge, the Vikings’ offense finished fourth in total offense on the season with just over 393 yards per game — one spot better than division rival Green Bay.

But as has been the case with Cousins throughout his career, there were also some bad. The Minnesota QB also tied a career-high with 13 interceptions and lost eight fumbles — also a career-high. 

With a porous defense as the Vikings had last season, Cousins simply cannot turn the ball over anywhere close to 21 times. 

Other Key Players

Another reason for the success of the offense last season was due to the immediate impact rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson had. The LSU product broke the NFL record for receiving yards by a rookie, since the merger, with 1,400 yards on 88 receptions. The Pro Bowler also had seven touchdowns.

Adam Thielen finished second to Jefferson in receptions (74) and yards (925) while leading the team in touchdowns with 14.

Despite missing two games, Dalvin Cook racked up 1,557 yards on the ground and 16 touchdowns on the way to a Pro Bowl berth. Cook also caught 44 passes for 361 yards as he finished 82 yards shy of 2,000 yards for the season from scrimmage.

Irv Smith, Jr. and Tyler Conklin will be Cousins’ top two targets from the tight end position, while Alexander Mattison will complement Cook in the backfield.

Another Slow Start on the Horizon?

Last season, Minnesota lost five of its first six games, which all but sealed its fate. The team did rally to win five of the next six to have a fighting chance down the stretch, but the slow start proved to be too steep a hill to overcome.

This season, the Vikings will have their work cut out to try and avoid another slow start.

After a NFL Week 1 meeting in Cincinnati, the Vikings travel to Arizona before returning home to face Seattle and Cleveland. A 1-3 start could be likely, but it would not be the end of the world. Games against Detroit (home) and Carolina (on the road) await in NFL Weeks 5 and 6 before hosting the Dallas Cowboys in NFL Week 8. Minnesota has its bye week in NFL Week 7.

According to Bovada — another Top Sportsbook at Online Betting Sports –, the Vikings enter their NFL Week 1 matchup as a 3-point favorite against the Bengals. Bettors will have -125 odds at the Vikings to cover and -180 in taking Minnesota on the Moneyline. 

Other Key Non-Divisional Matchups

Minnesota travels to AFC North Favorite Baltimore in NFL Week 9 before taking on the Los Angeles Chargers on the road in NFL Week 10. 

NFL Week 12 has Minnesota on the road against San Francisco, and in NFL Week 16, the Vikings welcome the Los Angeles Ram and new quarterback Matthew Stafford to town.

The Vikings may need to pick up three wins here to have a chance at the North and a playoff bid.

Key Final Stretch

As important as getting off to a fast start and picking up some wins in a few swing games throughout the season will be, Minnesota will need to come up big in the homestretch. In addition to its NFL Week 16 matchup against the Rams, Minnesota has three divisional games in the last four weeks.

The pivotal stretch starts with a Monday night matchup in Chicago before finishing at Green Bay in a Sunday night game in NFL Week 17 and hosting the Bears again in NFL Week 18.

Last season the Bears broke the hearts of the Vikings with a win in Minnesota in NFL Week 15 which pretty much served as a play-in game for the playoffs. The Bears snagged the final playoff spot in the NFC with an 8-8 record. The two games against Chicago this season could be just as important.

According to BetOnline, Minnesota has +220 odds of winning the NFC North, second to Green Bay, who is the heavy favorite at -150.

Prediction

As mentioned above, the Vikings have plenty of firepower on the offensive side of the ball. But can Cousins protect the ball and not turn it over, and can the defense make a significant improvement from last season? The latter will play more important than the former here, even if Cousins plays at MVP caliber. 

Winning the majority of swing games will be the key to hitting the over/under total of 9 here and ultimately determine their playoff fate. 

2021-22 Season Record: 9-8, Second in NFC North (win tie-breaker over Bears).

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