With the Vikings set to begin a much anticipated season Sunday, the only question that really matters is this: How many games will they win?
Win totals in the NFL are volatile because a handful of plays can make the difference between winning the division and getting a coach fired, but the consensus in Las Vegas has been to set the Vikings’ over-under win total at 10. That’s not much fun, though, so let’s go with the number offered by a few prop bet sites: 10.5.
What will it be: Over or under?
First take: Michael Rand
Well, first let’s just acknowledge the obvious: Vegas has giant casinos and most of us live in modest houses because the folks that set the odds know what they’re doing. But if the number is 10.5, I’m taking the under.
So many things went right for the Vikings last year, from good health on defense to a favorable schedule that included just seven true road games to dodging Aaron Rodgers for most of two games.
Their defense set an NFL record by allowing opponents to convert on just 25.2 percent of third downs. Even before we account for some genuine concerns, they’re due for a regression in that area and others.
Chip Scoggins: This is exactly why I would NEVER become a bettor. I might as well just hand over my wallet. (Not that there is much in there to find.) But I’ll take the over. Slightly.
I’ll put the Vikings’ record at 11-5. I think they will have a better team with a worse record than last season. With the exception of the New England Patriots, it’s unrealistic to expect — or predict — any NFL team to post consecutive 13-win seasons.
But 11 wins feels achievable even considering how the schedule looks.
Rand: On paper, this team is more talented than last year’s group that won 13 games. So why do I think they’ll win 10 or fewer? Let’s go on:
Special teams are a concern — or at least an unknown, with an untested rookie kicker, a new punter (also the holder) and coverage teams that were shaky in the preseason.
Offensive line depth improved with the Brett Jones acquisition and the seemingly soon return of Pat Elflein, but the ceiling seems to be “as adequate as last year,” while the floor is much lower.
And, well, this is Minnesota sports: The good seasons tend to come out of nowhere and the bad ones come when you expect something good.
I don’t think this year will be a disaster, but I think FiveThirtyEight.com is right with its simulation that has the Vikings at 10 wins.
Scoggins: Here is why you took the under, Michael: Their road schedule includes games at Packers, Rams, Eagles, Patriots and Seahawks. That’s not a walk in the park.
Plus, the offensive line remains a legitimate concern, even if everyone is healthy. Nobody can predict injuries so any season prediction is subject to what happens in that area.
But the Vikings should have a top-three defense and enough skill players on offense to avoid a significant drop-off despite a challenging schedule. The one thing I’m curious about is something you alluded to: expectations. How do they deal with the pressure of being viewed as a Super Bowl contender, especially if they have a few losses early?
Rand: The last Vikings team with sky-high expectations coming off an NFC title game appearance was the 2010 group. What could go wrong?
Last word: Scoggins
Hey, the Metrodome roof won’t collapse again. Symbolically. That 2010 team was old. This one is built around talented players in their prime. But you’re right, expectations are identical: Super Bowl or bust.
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