Vikings vs. Bengals Odds, NFL Week 1 Predictions, Pick: Back Minnesota’s Offense To Dominate Cincinnati
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images. Pictured: Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, left, and Justin Jefferson.
|Vikings Odds||-3 (-110)|
|Bengals Odds||+3 (-110)|
|Time||1 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
The 2020 season was marred by injury for both the Vikings and Bengals. In Minnesota, the injuries mostly racked up on the defensive side of the ball. This led to the Vikings’ worst defensive performance since bringing in Mike Zimmer as head coach in 2014.
After focusing on rebuilding the defense with a stable of veterans this offseason, Minnesota should bounce back to its elite standard. It will be up to the offense to show it can build on its success from last season.
In Cincinnati, the injuries hampered the offense as then rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and running back Joe Mixon missed several games to end the season. Even with the return of their stars, the Bengals will face many questions this year.
First, how will the offensive line hold up? Little was done to improve what was one of the worst units in 2020. Second, how will the defense hold up? Several key defenders left via free agency and the moves made to replace them were “meh” at best. Unless the line or defense far exceeds expectations, scoring last in a shootout will be the Bengals’ main path to victory.
Let’s dig deeper to see which side has value in the season opener for both teams.
Defensive Improvement Key For Minnesota
Since Zimmer’s arrival in 2014, the Vikings had never had a defense ranked in the bottom half of the league until last season. Opposing offenses went up and down the field on Minnesota’s defense as it allowed the fourth-most points and sixth-most yards. Despite its struggles, though, Zimmer’s defense ranked 10th on third down and 11th in the red zone. The Vikings are now hoping their haul of defenders in free agency can translate those situational numbers into success on every down.
After being forced to start two rookie corners, Minnesota aggressively addressed its cornerback room. The Vikings brought in Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander to provide depth and experience.
Minnesota brought in Dalvin Tomlinson from the Giants to anchor the line. The Vikings also get free help from within as Danielle Hunter returns after hernia surgery that forced him out of 2020. The Vikings also brought back veterans Sheldon Richardson and Everson Griffen after stints away from Minnesota. Richardson and Griffen are getting older, but should still cause problems for offenses as complements to Tomlinson and Hunter.
Offensively, the Vikings chose to run it back after a strong 2020. The payoff of drafting Justin Jefferson last season gave Minnesota the second receiving option it needed after trading Stefon Diggs.
Between Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook, Minnesota has three skill position players that all ranked top six at their position last season, per PFF. With the defense revamped and elite weaponry, all eyes will be on their big-money quarterback to take this team to the next level.
It’s All About Burrow For Bengals
Cincinnati has focused on putting weapons around sophomore quarterback Burrow to ensure his success. The Bengals have a dynamic slot receiver in Tyler Boyd to give the young QB a safety valve, and drafted Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase the last two seasons to provide explosive threats outside.
In 2020, Boyd and Higgins showed they can be a deadly combo with Burrow as each was on pace for a 1,000-yard season before the quarterback’s injury. Then, the Bengals drafted who they hope to be a third playmaker outside in Chase. However, Chase has had a rough time converting to the NFL as he posted four drops in the preseason.
Chase was brought in to replace A.J. Green after Green’s 47 catches on 104 targets were not good enough. If he cannot shake this case of the yips, it may not be long before it costs him playing time.
Chase’s ability to catch may matter less than expected if the Bengals’ line continues to struggle. The two additions Cincinnati made to one of the worst units in the NFL were the signing of Riley Reiff and selection of Jackson Carman in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Reiff, however, still grades below average, per PFF, and Carman has struggled to break into the rotation. The struggles up front will likely continue and Burrow’s surgically repaired knee will be put to the test.
Defensively, there was a lot of movement in free agency for Cincinnati, but it was all running to stay still. The Bengals let William Jackson, Mackensie Alexander, Carl Lawson and Geno Atkins go. To replace the defensive backs (Jackson and Alexander), Cincinnati brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple. Both new corners are graded by PFF at 55.3 or lower.
Trey Hendrickson and Larry Ogunjobi were added to fill in for Lawson and Atkins. While Hendrickson should be a fair replacement for Lawson, Ogunjobi has been underwhelming since an impressive rookie season.
Between Burrow, Higgins and Boyd, the Bengals will have enough offensively to keep them in games. However, unless Cincinnati’s new additions dramatically turn things around, another top-10 pick is likely.
Both teams experienced a bad year due to injury in 2020 and each handled it much differently. The Vikings added enough defensive players to improve their baseline and necessary depth. They even traded for a new tight end when Irv Smith Jr. went down in the preseason.
The Bengals, on the other hand, made offseason moves to simply fill the voids of the players who left. While Burrow showed potential when healthy, it was not enough to cover for a bad offensive line and porous defense.
Against the Bengals’ weak offensive line, Minnesota’s defensive front will have no problem creating pressure. And on offense, Cincinnati’s corners have no chance at stopping either of the Vikings stud receivers.
Back Minnesota to start the season with a big road win and cover. I’d play this up to -4.5.
Pick: Vikings -3 (+100) at PointsBet