The Vikings 2020 season was a rollercoaster ride, starting 1-5 before the bye week. They then went 6-4 to finish the year 7-9, tying head coach Mike Zimmer’s worst record from his first year with the team (2014). Can the 2021 Vikings overcome last year’s injury bug and lackluster defense?
Vikings Defense dance and pose after forcing a turnover
Vikings look to take the North
Minnesota and their fans are looking wipe last year’s disappointing season from memory, and set their sights once again on the Lombardi trophy. The NFC North is always a tough division and this year will be no different. From Aaron Rodgers staying in Green Bay this season, Goff getting traded to the Lions, and the Bears drafting Ohio State’s Justin Fields, the Vikings are gonna have a lot to deal with defensively. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has always had good defensive teams, with the Vikings usually ranking in the Top-10 for points and yards allowed per game.
Vikings ranked 29th in points allowed and 27th in yards allowed in 2020.
Can the Vikings shake last year’s poor defense? Or has the Zimmer magic faded out? One thing is for certain, the Vikings are focusing on that side of the ball. Adding longtime Cardinal Patrick Peterson should help solidify the back and bring some veteran leadership to the defensive backfield. Also Adding Dalvin Tomlinson will bring some depth to a traditionally tough defensive line.
As stated before Mike Zimmer is the one who runs the defense, taking over play-calling duties in 2014. Returning players like Harrison Smith and Danielle Hunter have anchored this defensive, along with Eric Kendricks who is the overall 3rd ranked Linebacker by Pro Football Focus. Michael Pierce was added in free agency to sure up a defensive line that allowed 19 rushing touchdowns in 2020, 8th most in Vikings history. The Vikings recorded zero touchdowns on returns of any kind (fumble recovery, interception, kick return, punt return, punt block). It was the first time that Minnesota hasn’t scored at least one touchdown on a return since 2000.
“First you learn how to compete. Then you learn how to win. Then you learn how to handle winning. And then you learn how to be a champion.” – Mike Zimmer
The focus of last season’s 7-9 record was their terrible defensive play but the offense was a spark that kept the Vikings afloat. Last season Minnesota scored 430 points which ranks 3rd most in Vikings history. Led by quarterback Kirk Cousins and dynamic running back Dalvin Cook, the Vikings offense scored 55 touchdowns, which ranks second behind the 1998 squad who scored 58. Minnesota scored 35 of those touchdowns through the air, with Cousins setting a new career high, and finished with the 2nd most passing TD’s in Viking history.
Wide receiving duo Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson should continue their dominance, along with Irv Smith replacing longtime tight-end Kyle Rudolph. Minnesota also upgraded their defensive line, which had struggled in giving Cousins time and keeping him upright. The Viks added two O-lineman in the draft, Christian Darrisaw (First Round) and Wyatt Davis (Third Round) to help out this sub-par line. Pro Football Focus ranks the Vikings O-line as the most improved unit after the 2021 Draft.
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Minnesota Vikings Odds
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2021 NFL Season Win Total Odds: 8.5 OVER -160
Pre-draft NFL Win Total Odds: 9 OVER +125 / UNDER -152
2020 Record: 7-9
Average Wins 2014-20: 9.14 (so about 9 wins per year since Zimmer took over)
Odds to win the Division: +240 (finish 2nd place)
Net Strength of Schedule: 4th toughest schedule
Vikings are projected to finish 2nd in the NFC North behind Green Bay (-125). The Bears despite making the playoffs last season are +325 to win the division with the Lions coming in at +2200. The schedule isn’t going to be easy but if Green Bay’s disfunction leaks on the the field that could open a chance for the Viks to take the North.
- The Vikings take on the Packers in Week 11 (Home) and Week 17 (Away)
With a tough 2021 schedule the Vikings path to the playoffs will be full of tough games. They open the season with a trip to the Cincinnati to take on the Bengals and have road visits to the Cardinals (Week 2), the Ravens (Week 9), and the Chargers (Week 10). The Viks also host the Seahawks (Week 3), the Browns (Week 4) and the Steelers (Week 14) which all could be tough games.
- The Vikings are 31-22 (70%) vs the AFC North in their history
The Vikings have two Sunday Night Football game, one in their Week 8 meeting with the Cowboys and one with the Packers in Week 17 that could decide the fate of the division. Another game to watch out for is Week 3 against the Seahawks who the Viks have lost 7 straight games to. Minnesota has one Monday Night Football game in Week 15 where they travel to Chicago to take on the Bears.
Minnesota Vikings Trends
Kirk Cousins has been known as a good quarterback but has struggled in primetime games.
- 9-18 ATS in Primetime games, though last year he was 2-0 in those games
The Vikings have some tough home games this season and if they are a home dog look for this trend to apply
- The Vikings are 17-5 ATS (3.41 ppg) since Sep 25, 2011 as a home dog.
The Vikings have played very well since moving to their new home stadium going 26-14 (53%) since 2016.
- The Vikings are 12-5 OU (5.09 ppg) since Oct 13, 2019 as a favorite.
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