Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 9:30 AM
The Minnesota Vikings have every reason to walk around with their chest out. Back-to-back wins over Green Bay and Carolina have solidified the Vikings as a legitimate contender. They’re 3-0, both straight up and ATS. Las Vegas has taken notice.
Minnesota is a relatively short 14-1 price to win the Super Bowl in February, the sixth-best odds in the league. They’re 6-1 to win the NFC crown, third-best in the conference. They’re a 3-2 bet to repeat as NFC North champs. With the Packers still the solid 5-8 favorite this might be the best place to find long-term value on the Vikings...but when a 3-2 price tag is the best value spot left that means the market is falling head over heels for the Vikes.
Are they worth it though? There’s no denying what Minnesota is capable of. Mike Zimmer is a proven defensive mastermind and he’s at it again this year. The Viking defense ranks third in the NFL in points allowed. They’ve forced nine turnovers, second-best in the league. In Las Vegas, they’ve played two of three games to the Under—and the one exception, a 25-16 win over Tennessee in Week 1, only went Over 40 by a single point and it took two Minnesota defensive touchdowns to do it.
The Vikings have also made a seamless transition from Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Bradford at quarterback since Bridgewater’s season-ending injury just prior to the start of the regular season. In two games, Bradford has completed 67.8% of his passes, gets 7.7 yards-per-attempt and has yet to throw an interception.
So what’s the problem? Well, without trying to be too much of a naysayer, here are the things that have to concern bettors…
*For all of Zimmer’s coaching ability, the only individual defensive player operating at a high level is safety Harrison Smith. Over the course of a long regular season, solid coaching and scheme can win you enough games to get into the playoffs. To get to that proverbial “next level” though, often requires game-breaking talent. Maybe Minnesota can get it if Anthony Barr steps up his game. It has to come from somebody .
*The offensive line has been a persistent problem for this franchise and it’s been covered up by Adrian Peterson. Now that A.P. is on injured reserve, the line issues are likely to be further exposed, which can result in a complete deterioration of the run game. That, in turns, leaves defenses free to tee off on Bradford. How long can he interception-free—or healthy for that matter, if opposing coordinators have nothing to fear from turning the dogs loose?
*The passing game is top-heavy reliant on Stefon Diggs. As dynamic a talent as the wide receiver is, an NFL passing attack requires complementary targets. Somebody has—preferable a couple somebodies—has to step up.
It’s easy to like the Vikings. They play hard every week. They’re well-coached and they don’t make mistakes. But the wins over the Packers and Panthers may be pushing Minnesota to a level in the market that they don’t have the individual talent to sustain. Two interesting home games against the Giants and Texans will offer us a good look at whether the Vikings can handle the spotlight.