Vikings Look Like Top Contender Again in NFC

Addition of QB Kirk Cousins Expected to Make Vikings Primary NFC Threat

Following a 13-3 season, NFC North division title and appearance in the NFC Championship game, the Minnesota Vikings are expecting even more in 2018. As the season approaches, head coach Mike Zimmer can count on his defense to be dominant again with nearly everyone returning plus the addition of free agent DT Sheldon Richardson.

Last year, the Vikings defense ranked #1 in scoring (15.7 PPG), and were tied for #1 in both yards per game (290) and yards per play (4.8). The run defense was stout allowing just 84 YPG to rank #2 and opponents had the third fewest rushing attempts against them despite Minnesota facing a top-5 schedule of rushing offenses. They are stronger up the middle with Richardson, and the defense looks dominant again with a ton of talent and a roster filled with Pro Bowl level players.

The biggest news of the offseason for Minnesota was the signing of quarterback Kirk Cousins from the Washington Redskins. Injuries derailed the Vikings offense last year at quarterback and running back. What appeared to be a makeshift offensive line with new players last year turned out to be a strength. Now talented second-year RB Dalvin Cook returns from injury and Cousins should shine with Thielan, Diggs and TE Rudolph as prime receiving targets.

“The Vikings went 13-3 SU and a league-best 11-5 ATS last season…”

The Redskins offense suffered numerous injuries last year ranking top-3 in most injuries to OL, RB’s and TE. The WR’s were not far behind in injuries and starts lost. Yet Cousins still passed for more than 4,000 yards against a top-5 pass defense schedule. His 7.6 yards per pass, 64% completion and 94 passer rating placed him as one of just five QB’s to hit those benchmarks last season. Over the past two seasons, no QB has faced a tougher schedule of pass defenses than Cousins, as he’s faced 13 top-10 pass defenses.

The Vikings should be stronger on offense but the players and now Cousins have to learn a new offense with a new offensive coordinator, as Eagles QB coach John DeFilppo comes over to replace Pat Shurmur, who is the new head coach of the NY Giants. Still, Cousins is set up for his most productive year, and with a balanced offense and top-tier QB to join an elite level defense, Minnesota should be one of the top teams in the NFL in 2018 and reach double-digit wins barring a number of significant injuries.

In the betting market, expectations are also high for Minnesota. The Vikings went 13-3 SU and a league-best 11-5 ATS last season. The average betting line for the Vikings was -3.4 and they were favored in 11 games. Minnesota will take more betting action this season, which should make covering games more difficult.

The Vikings current odds before training camp:

  • 5-1 to win the NFC
  • 10-1 to win the Super Bowl
  • 10 over/under season win total

Minnesota does face three of their toughest opponents on the road in the opening five weeks against Green Bay, LA Rams and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia. The Vikings play in one of the two toughest divisions in football and will get more teams best shot in 2018. Yet this a very talented, well-coached and cohesive team with a dominant defense, and at least 10 wins looks completely attainable with a return trip to the playoffs likely.

Article posted at extra.betamerica.com.

No play yet on Vikings as we evaluate preseason, players, teams and schedules further. Lasts year’s best bet season win total on the Denver Broncos under 8.5 wins was a tap-in birdie as the Broncos finished 5-11 and in last place in the AFC West.

Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports analyst and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful handicappers and professionals. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay