The Vikings come into the 2020 season with a good chance of ending the season as the North Division champs. Recent additions and signings may have outweighed what they lost. Playing in the NFC North, can be a daunting experience. Although Minnesota has been in the conversation for playoff contention, Green Bay and Chicago have always been a thorn in their craw.
The biggest loss before the preseason started was trading Stefon Diggs to the Bills for a 2020 1st round draft pick, which the team turned into a possible replacement in LSU's Justin Jefferson. Jefferson is set to make an immediate impact, but to expect him to make up for the lost production from Diggs is a tall order.
There was a contract issue from starting running back Dalvin Cook. Heading into the 4th year of his deal, Cook is eligible for an extension. The position has trended downward when it comes to paying running backs long term. But Cook was a top-5 rusher last year, and 2nd only to Panthers Christian McCaffrey in all-purpose yards.
Cook was set to make a measly $1.3M this year, which is 46th among his position, and 18th on his own team. All of that was taken care of on September 12th when the Vikings and Cook agreed on a 5-year, $63M extension. With their start running back shored up for the next six years, a star rookie that can hopefully make up some of the production lost by Diggs' departure, and Adam Theilen returning.
Defensively this squad is exciting everywhere you look. Early this season, one of the bookends on the edge, Danielle Hunter has been placed on short-term IR, so he will be missed for the first three weeks. But the major acquisition made this year was via trade with Jaguars for DE Yannick Ngakoue. He's a monster on the edge, a guy that wreak havoc from any place on the line, so even though Hunter will be missed, their pass rush should not be affected too much.
The rest of the defense is also tops in the league. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks have the middle of the linebackers unit known as a formidable opponent when trying to make plays between the hashes. Mike Hughers and Holton Hill are one of the better tandems in the NFL, with Harrison smith and Anthony Harris playing safety.
The Vikings joined the NFL in 1960 as an expansion team. Officially starting play in 1961, it took the club three years to gain a winning record, at 8-5. Four years after that they reached the playoffs for the first time, losing to the Baltimore Colts. But in 1968 the won their first NFL Championship, but lost the Super Bowl to the Chiefs. They would miss the playoffs only once over the next decade. Minnesota would reach the Super Bowl three more times, but never came away with a victory.
Players of record that have been members of the Vikings are Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham (who led them to their best season finishing 15-1, but came up short of the Super Bowl), Adrian Peterson, Randy Moss, Chris Doleman, Jim Marshall, Cris Carter, and Fran Tarkenton. They boast 15 players in the Hall of Fame.
A major player in the NFL when thinking of best franchises in history, the Vikings have reached the playoffs in 30 of the 60 years they've played. Four Super Bowls, although not walking away with any victories.
Regardless, Minnesota is always a team that needs to be in the conversation of winning a championship. Although the have had years of obscurity, this team is one that has a history, not just a legacy, of playing at a very high level.
Minnesota Vikings Betting Preview
The Minnesota Vikings have been trending up since last season. The Kirk Cousins experiment has led to two straight 2nd place finishes in the NFC North for the Vikings, with their record steadily improving with each season. Last year they went 10-6, made the wild card round and beat the Saints before losing to the eventual NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. The Minnesota Vikings found themselves with the 8th best offense in the league last year, and the 5th best defense.
The defense forced 31 turnovers, one of the highest marks in the NFL. They did most of their damage on offense through superstar running back Dalvin Cook, who rushed for at least 100 yards in 11 of 16 games last season. After last season's success, fans should excited to watch their team progress into the 2020-21 season.
The Vikings had a very busy offseason that should have pleased its passionate fanbase. Before we get into the trades and draft picks, let's talk about the key extensions. Starting in March, the team reached a two year extension with Cousins. The Vikings then followed that up with a three year extension for head coach Mike Zimmer and a five year extension for superstar running back Dalvin Cook. These signings hopefully solidified a winning culture for years to come.
Minnesota was active early and often this offseason. In March, they began by adding DT Michael Pierce from the Baltimore Ravens, a huge addition to the front 7 and run defense. The team followed that up with a trade sending the unhappy Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for the Bills' 2020 1st, 5th, and 6th round picks, and a 2021 4th round pick - Quite the haul for a guy who underwhelmed in the 2019 season. They then used the 1st round pick from the Bills to find his hopeful replacement in LSU receiver Justin Jefferson.
Other standout picks in the draft that are set to have an immediate impact are Cornerback Jeff Gladney, Tackle Ezra Cleveland and Linebacker Troy Dye. In terms of key losses, the Vikings allowed CB Xavier Rhodes and veteran DE Everson Griffin to walk. However, they were able to replace Griffin along the defensive line with Jaguars standout Yannick Ngakoue through a trade in late August.
Top 3 Players
1: RB Dalvin Cook
Cook, now set up with a 5 year extension, is set to explode once again in 2020. He's coming off a season where he played in 14 games and rushed for 1,100 yards on 250 attempts. He topped it all off with 13 TD's. Cook was constantly the answer for the Vikings offense. This year figures to be much of the same. Mike Zimmer employs a run-first offense that puts Dalvin in a great position to continue to dominate as one of the leagues best RB's. Draftkings has Cook at +1400 for Most Rushing Yards in 2020-21, something he can easily win with a full season of playing time. He sits at +10000 for MVP and +2400 for Offensive Player of the Year, which are of course far less likely.
2: QB Kirk Cousins
Last season, Cousins failed to reach at least 4,000 passing yards for the first time ever as a starter. In 2019, Cousins finished the year with 3,603 passing yards along with 26 TD's. Cousins' major bright spot in 2019 was throwing only 6 INT's, which was a career best for him. Entering his 3rd year in Minnesota, I expect him to continue to improve his efficiency and accuracy. It's very possible we see Cousins get back to throwing for over 4,000 yards in 2020. Draftkings has Kirk at +3300 for Most Passing Yards in 2020-21, which is probably unlikely, though the odds are nice. Cousins threw for over 4,900 yards in 2016. If he can lead the league in passing yards he'd be a serious candidate for MVP, where he sits at +6600. Cousins O/U on passing yards sits at 3,800 yards at -110 on either side. I lean towards the over here.
3: WR Adam Thielen
Thielen had a disappointing 2019, only playing in 10 games due to injury and failing to even reach 500 yards receiving. However, he was coming off of a monster 2018 campaign where he saw 153 targets and caught 113 for 1,300 yards receiving. This version is what we should expect from Thielen in 2020. After shipping Diggs away, the Vikings will be leaning on a healthy Thielen to lead a young receiver core. Fanduel has Thielen at +2600 to lead the league in receptions and +2600 to lead the league in receiving yards. These are two solid bets that could go his way as the lead receiver on this team.
For two years in a row now, this team has ended 2nd in their division. That could change this season, though this Sunday's loss to the Packers was a tough start. Minnesota had the most productive offseason of all the NFC North teams and is set to be a top contender to win the division. Draftkings has the Vikings at +175 to take 1st place in the NFC North and +1300 to win the Conference.
Last season the Viking went 10-6, an improvement of 2 wins from the 2018 season. With a loaded offense, this team should be able to easily reach 10 wins this year and maybe more. Draftkings has Minnesota's win total at O/U 9 wins. A good bet to take is the over, which is set at +123. The Vikings sit at +2800 to win the Super Bowl.
Prediction for the Season
Minnesota is set up in almost every way to have another great season. Extending their starting QB, RB and their head coach solidifies a winning culture. I believe the Vikings will end the season at 11-5, which should be enough to win their division. The playoffs are a much different animal though. As much as I see this team winning the NFC North, I don't see them beating the likes of San Francisco to win the conference and make the Super Bowl. If all the pieces fall into place, it could happen, but that's a lot to ask.