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Minnesota Vikings Predictions

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The Minnesota Vikings stumbled to a 5-10-1 record in 2013, which easily had them finishing last in the NFC North. It came just one year after Minnesota surprised everyone by going 10-6 and earning a Wild Card spot.

With last year’s failures the Vikings decided it was time for a change at the top. Minnesota parted ways with head coach Leslie Frazier and replaced him with Mike Zimmer, who has been one of the more respected assistants in the league. Zimmer spent the last 6 years as the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati and prior to that served the same role with both the Falcons and Cowboys.

Bringing in Zimmer makes a lot of sense, as the Vikings desperately need to improve a defense that ranked 31st in yards allowed (397.6 ypg) and dead last in scoring (30.0 ppg). While George Edwards will serve as the defensive coordinator, you can bet Zimmer will be highly active on that side of the ball. On offense, Zimmer was able to lure Norv Turner away from Cleveland to become the new offensive coordinator, which may go down as one of the more underrated moves of the offseason.

To get a better idea of what Minnesota will bring to the table this season, let’s take a closer look at what the Vikings will be sending the field on both sides of the ball in 2014.

Last Season
NFC North
Record
ATS Record
Home ATS
Road ATS
Over/Under
4th
5-10-1
9-7
5-3
4-4
11-4-1
Offense Rank
Defense Rank
Turnover Margin
Points For
Points Against
13th
31st
-12
24.4
30.0
2014 Roster Changes
Draft Picks
DE/OLB Anthony Barr, QB Teddy Bridgewater, DE Scott Crichton, RB Jerrick McKinnon, G/OT David Yankey, CB/S Antone Exum, CB Kendall James
Additions
WR Lestar Jean, TE Allen Reisner, G Vladimir Ducasse, DE Corey Wootton, DT Linval Joseph, DT Tom Johnson, ILB Jasper Brinkley, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Derek Cox, S Kurt Coleman
Losses
QB Josh Freeman, RB Toby Gerhart, WR/QB Joe Webb, TE John Carlson, DE Jared Allen, DT Kevin Williams, DT Letroy Guion, ILB Erin Henderson, ILB Desmond Bishop, CB Chris Cook, CB A.J. Jefferson
2014 Preview
2014 Minnesota Vikings Schedule
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/7 @ Rams
+6
0.29
9/14 Patriots
+3
0.41
9/21 @ Saints
+10
0.16
9/28 Falcons
+1
0.49
10/2 @ Packers
+10
0.16
10/12 Lions
+1
0.49
10/19 @ Bills
+2.5
0.45
10/26 @ Bucs
+3
0.41
11/2 Redskins
-1.5
0.53
Week 10 BYE
-
-
11/16 @ Bears
+7
0.25
11/23 Packers
+4.5
0.33
11/30 Panthers
+3
0.41
12/7 Jets
-2
0.53
12/14 @ Lions
+7
0.25
12/21 @ Dolphins
+4
0.34
12/28 Bears
PICK
0.50
Estimated Wins: 6.00

It appears the days of watching Christian Ponder start in Minnesota have come to an end. Ponder started 9 games last year, but was less than impressive and eventually gave way to veteran Matt Cassel. All signs point Cassel being the starter in Week 1, but how long he remains the starter is up in the air. The Vikings traded back into the 1st round to select Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. The plan is to let Bridgewater to learn as a backup before taking over the reigns in 2015, but if things go bad he could end seeing the field in 2014.

With Turner running the offense and Ponder not diminishing the stats, Minnesota should be able to improve on their 23rd ranked passing attack (214.2 ypg) from 2013. Another key part in that is the expected growth and more touches for 2nd year wide out Cordarrelle Patterson, who was an All-Pro kickoff returner. Patterson caught 45 passes for 469 and 4 touchdowns and added another 158 yards and three scores on the ground. The Vikings will also welcome back a healthy Kyle Rudolph at tight end after injuries limited him to just 8 games last year. The other weapons on the outside include veteran wide outs Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson.

If the Vikings can get the passing game going and keep opposing defenses from stacking the box, All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson should be in for a monster season. Despite being hampered by a groin injury for nearly half of last season and poor quarterback play, Peterson still managed to rush for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns. Backup Toby Gerhart left in free agency, which means Minnesota is going to need rookie Jerick McKinnon to step in and play well.

As important as it is for the Vikings to get better play out of the quarterback position, the offensive line is the unit that I think really needs to pick it up in 2014. Minnesota has all five starters coming back up front for a third consecutive year, but the unit did not perform up to their potential last year. The Vikings 44 sacks allowed was tied for the 20th most allowed in the league. Two big keys here is for left tackle Matt Kalil needs to regain his focus that made him a standout in 2012 and veteran center John Sullivan has to stay healthy.

As for the defense, it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of impact Zimmer and Edwards can have in their first year on the job. Based on Zimmer’s track record of getting the most of the players on this side of the ball, there’s no reason not to expect this unit to be better. The big question is whether or not he has the pieces in place to really see a big improvement.

The Vikings defensive line lost two key pieces in the offseason when veteran defensive end Jared Allen and veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams left via free agency. Minnesota did a solid job replacing Williams by adding in Linval Joseph from the Giants, but they are going to need 5th year defensive end Everson Griffen to be a force rushing the passer. One of my big concerns here is whether or not the production of defensive end Brian Robinson, who was second on the team with 9 sacks, will suffer a decline now that he will be the focal point of opposing offensive lines.

One player who could help the Vikings pass rush avoid a dropoff is rookie outside linebacker Anthony Barr, who Minnesota selected with the 9th overall pick in the 1st round. Barr fits the mold of a pass-rushing linebacker that Zimmer covets in his defense. It’s going to be extremely important that he doesn’t disappoint in his rookie season. As for the other two starters at linebacker, the Vikings are set at the other outside spot with veteran Chad Greenway, who led the team in tackles for a 6th consecutive season in 2013. The big question mark comes in the middle, where Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole will fight for playing time.

Where Minnesota has to get better is in the secondary. Last year the Vikings ranked 31st against the pass (287.2 ypg) and their 37 passing touchdowns allowed ranked dead last. There’s reason to be optimistic that things will get better in 2014. For starters, the Vikings will have a healthy Harrison Smith back at safety after injuries derailed most of his season in 2013. They also added in veteran corner Captain Munnerlyn from Carolina, who is a huge upgrade over Chris Cook. At the other corner spot, Minnesota is really excited about the potential of Xavier Rhodes, who was better than expected during his rookie season.

Odds
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC
to Win Super Bowl XLVIX
6
50 to 1
110 to 1
Odds Courtesty of Bovada
Predictions

I’m not convinced this team is going to be able to make the kind of progress they are hoping for in 2014. As good as Peterson is, you have to have strong play at the quarterback position to win in today’s NFL. Cassel is better than Ponder, but he’s average at best. Unless Peterson puts up another historic season, the Vikings are going to struggle to score points and in a division that features three potent offenses in Green Bay, Chicago and Detroit, it’s hard to see Minnesota being able to climb up the standings.

I strongly believe that one of the key things that has to happen for a team like Minnesota who is trying to rebound, is to get off to a strong start. Unfortunately for the Vikings the schedule doesn’t figure to allow that to happen. Minnesota has to open on the road against a dangerous St Louis team, they then have to host New England before traveling to New Orleans. It doesn’t getting any easier after that, as they then have to host the Falcons before going on the road to face the Packers. There’s a good chance this team will be sitting at 0-5 and that’s a tough task to overcome.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Vikings will have to play their home games outside at TCF Bank Stadium (Minnesota Golden Gophers home field), while their new stadium is being built. This may not seem like a big deal, but teams in similar situations have really struggled in this spot in the past.

I will say that I think the Vikings are a stronger team than last year and I like the addition of Zimmer at head coach and the decision to add Turner to guide the offense. However, I believe the schedule and the fact that they are essential playing all 16 games on the road is going to have them finishing with a worse record in 2014. I have Minnesota going just 4-12. On the bright side, that should have them in contention for one of the top picks in the 2015 NFL drat, which could allow them to take Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

Projections
NFC North Finish
Division Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
4th
1-5
4-12
UNDER 6
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