- Win Over/Under: 10 (-140/+120)
- Make NFC Playoffs: -330 (77%)
- Win NFC North: -125 (56%)
- Win NFC Championship: +500 (17%)
- Win Super Bowl: +1000 (9%)
The Action Network’s Projected Wins: 9.89 (5th)
It’s hard to bet against an elite defense — especially one that led the league in points per game allowed, tied for the league lead in yards per play allowed and had the sole distinction of finishing top-two in both passing and rushing yards allowed last season.
It’s hard to bet against a defensive line that added Sheldon Richardson to a unit that already includes Everson Griffen (three straight Pro Bowls), Linval Joseph (two straight Pro Bowls) and Danielle Hunter (career average of 8.5 sacks per season and a top-10 run-defense grade from Pro Football Focus for 2017).
It’s hard to bet against a secondary with Harrison Smith (first-team All-Pro), Xavier Rhodes (first-team All-Pro) and Andrew Sendejo (top-12 PFF grade).
It’s hard to bet against a passing game that features Adam Thielen, a pristine route-runner capable of putting up 200 yards in a game; Stefon Diggs, an Antonio Brown comp capable of single-handedly winning a game; and Kyle Rudolph, who has caught more touchdowns than all but one tight end over the past two seasons. It’s even harder to bet against it when the offense is going from Case Keenum to Kirk Cousins at quarterback.
It’s hard to bet against a running game that features star-in-the making Dalvin Cook, especially when reports indicate he’s going Adrian Peterson with his ACL recovery. It’s also hard to bet against it with Latavius Murray as the backup after he piled up 74.5 yards per game en route to eight touchdowns over the final 10 games of 2017.
It’s even hard to bet against an offensive line that ranks outside PFF’s top 25 heading into 2018 when it returns the same starters that allowed the seventh-fewest sacks (27) in the league last season and enabled Cook to rip off 4.8 yards per carry through his four rookie games.
But it’s also hard to bet against history.
History tells us to expect win-total regression from the NFL’s best teams. Since 2003, the average 13-win team manages only 8.7 victories the following season. Only 36% of those teams won even 10 games the next year.
According to data from SportsOddsHistory.com, the over for NFC teams with double-digit win totals is 0-8 over the past three seasons and only 3-12 since 2013. In fact, if you did nothing but bet the under on any team with double-digit win totals since 2010, you would have won 71% of your bets.
But if you’re going to bet against history, there might be no better team to do it with than one coached by Mike Zimmer.
It’s not only that the Vikings have gone over their win total in three of four seasons under Zimmer, beating it by an average of 2.8 games per season. (The one season they missed, it was by a half-game.)
It’s that Zimmer’s 43-21 (.671) record against the spread gives him the highest winning percentage of any NFL head coach since he was hired in 2014 and the highest ATS winning percentage of any head coach since 2003 (min. 16 games) … including Bill Belichick (.620).
Zimmer has posted a winning ATS record in each of his four seasons as the Vikings head coach, according to BetLabs, and he did it with three different quarterbacks and two different offensive coordinators.
Zimmer has shown tremendous growth as a coach, generally learning from his mistakes and not making the same ones twice.
He’s a defensive mastermind who gradually started taking more control of the offense and making smart hires at offensive coordinator like Pat Shurmur and now former Eagles quarterbacks coach and red-zone architect John DeFilippo.
The DeFilippo hire could also help in more ways than one, considering the NFC Championship Game was one of the few in recent memory where Zimmer clearly got out-coached on defense.
The Vikings’ four toughest games are on the road against the Packers, Rams, Eagles and Patriots. But whether you use implied odds from the spread or the Vikings’ track record against winning teams on the road, they should be expected to win at least one to two of those games.
The Vikings also have tough home matchups against the Saints, 49ers and Packers. But Minnesota beat New Orleans twice at home last year, and is 4-1 in its last five games against Green Bay (2-1 when Aaron Rodgers plays a full game).
Every other team on the schedule has a win total under 8, and the Vikings were undefeated against teams that finished with a losing record in 2017.
I’ll pass on laying money on what look like tight playoff and division races, but I wouldn’t want to be caught without a conference championship and Super Bowl ticket on Minnesota.
The Vikings are a perfect example of why there’s always a percentage of teams that don’t regress toward the mean. – Chris Raybon
The Bet: Over 10 Wins, Win NFC Championship, Win Super Bowl
Minnesota Vikings 2018 Schedule
- Games Favored: 11
- Avg. Spread: -3.4
- Strength of Schedule: 24th (1 = Easiest, 32 = Hardest)
Survivor Pool 101
- Use the Vikings: Week 3 vs. BUF, Week 6 vs. ARI, Week 15 vs. MIA
- Use Vikings’ opponents: Week 13 @ NE
Fantasy Football Outlook
- Top Picks: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Adam Thielen, WR Stefon Diggs
- Sleeper: RB Latavius Murray
Best of “I’ll Take That Bet” on ESPN+
“After the Rams, the Vikings have the most Super Bowl tickets. We are also taking a lot of over bets on Minnesota.”
– Westgate bookmaker Jeff Sherman to The Action Network’s Michael Leboff
Dalvin Cook Over/Under 8.5 Touchdowns? (-125/-105)
While I believe Cook should be near 100% by Week 1 following the ACL tear he suffered in Week 4 last season, this prop offers slight value because a running back returning from an ACL tear is never a sure thing.
Another factor working against Cook is that Murray will likely steal goal-line carries, meaning Cook will have to earn every one of his scores and can’t bank on many cheap one-yarders. – Sean Koerner
The Bet: Under 8.5 Touchdowns
Stack Kirk Cousins with Kyle Rudolph in Divisional Games
Expect Rudolph to continue to have a strong relationship with his quarterback: The correlation between quarterback and tight end has been above average for both the Vikings (0.45) and Cousins’ Redskins (0.52) since 2014.
The eighth-year tight end has been especially potent against his biggest rivals. According to the FantasyLabs NFL Trends tool, Rudolph has averaged a +3.0 Plus/Minus and 27% Upside Rating against the NFC North since 2014. – Ian Hartitz