The Minnesota Vikings were unable to ride the crest of a wave to the Super Bowl last season, falling just short of becoming the first team to host the event inside their own stadium.
Stefon Diggs produced one of the most memorable moments in recent playoff history when he caught a walk-off touchdown pass from Case Keenum to defeat the New Orleans Saints.
The victory put the club in the NFC Championship game where they were hammered by the eventual Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles.
It has been an off-season of change and tragedy for the Vikings. Offensive line coach Tony Sparano passed away unexpectedly before the start of training camp, leaving a void on the coaching staff.
Keenum was not re-signed, while quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater were also moved on. Minnesota won the race to sign Kirk Cousins, handing them a potential top-10 quarterback, and a real opportunity to make a stronger run to the Super Bowl.
The defense remains intact with the Vikings returning one of the elite units in the NFL. Should they maintain their high level of play from last season they will be able to put forward a strong claim to retain their NFC North title.
The addition of Cousins will be huge for the Vikings. Bradford played at a high level in the 2016 campaign after the club were forced to trade for the veteran. Bridgewater’s devastating knee injury put Minnesota in a bind, but they were rewarded for their gamble as Bradford played a solid level. He started the 2017 campaign in the same manner, but was then ruled out for the term after playing just one game. It thrust Keenum into the starting role, and although he enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career to lead the Vikings to the NFC title, the moment got too large on the road against the Eagles.
Cousins will provide an immediate upgrade at the position. He has been a stellar operator at quarterback for the Washington Redskins since he assumed the starting position after Robert Griffin III’s career flamed out. The 29-year-old has thrown over 4,000 yards in each of his last three seasons, notching 81 touchdowns to just 36 interceptions. He comes into a side full of talent on defense along with excellent players at the skill positions, something which he did not have at the Redskins.
It begins with the wide receivers. Adam Thielen has developed into one of the leading wideouts in the NFL. Thielen’s rise has been remarkable over the past two years. He became Keenum’s go-to-man down the stretch, recording over 1,200 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Diggs got the headlines for his catch in the Divisional Round.
The 24-year-old has been just as vital for the Vikings, handing Cousins a vital redzone target. Kyle Rudolph fills out the group at tight end, becoming one of the leading players at his position in the league. With those three targets alone Cousins has ample talent around him. Should Dalvin Cook return to his best after his rookie season was curtailed by an ACL injury, the Vikings will have one of the most potent offenses in the league.
The Vikings have elite talent at all three levels of their defense. It begins with Everson Griffen on the defensive line. He has been dominant as a pass-rusher over the last four seasons, notching 14 sacks on the term in 2017. Griffen’s pushes the pocket from the right side of the line, collapsing the offensive line not only collecting sacks himself, but also allowing his team-mates to thrive.
Danielle Hunter is a fine player in his own right, but he has been one of the main beneficiaries of Griffen’s form. The defensive end has 25.5 sacks over the last three seasons, giving the Vikings arguably the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL. Sheldon Richardson comes into the mix in the middle of the line, with Linval Joseph already present. Richardson can provide push from the centre, making life downright impossible for opposing quarterbacks next term.
Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr occupy the linebacking spots. Both players are outstanding at their positions, offering enough athleticism to cover tight ends and running backs, while also playing with power against the run. The Vikings have probably the best tandem in the NFL on their day, with few teams boasting the same effectiveness at the position against both run and pass.
Minnesota added further strength to their secondary by selecting Mike Hughes in the first round of the 2018 Draft. Hughes could put Trae Waynes under pressure for a starting place after he struggled in the NFC Championship Game. Mackensie Alexander and Pro Bowler Xavier Rhodes will have a lock down on two of the cornerback positions, with the latter developing into an elite operator. Harrison Smith rounds out the top-class unit, who was also named in the All-Pro team. The defense was the number one ranked unit in the league last season and it should not take a step back this term.
The Vikings are a Super Bowl contender, narrowly missing out on hosting the event last season. They’ve improved the most important position on the field with the addition of Cousins. He has enough talent around him and the support of an elite defense to take the club on step further than the last campaign. Back the Vikings to win the Super Bowl at odds of +1100 with TopBet. To get there they’ll have to get over the hump and win the NFC title game this time around.
Odds of +700 are available at BetOnline for Cousins and company to win the conference for the first time since 1976. The Green Bay Packers will attempt to knock them off in the NFC North. However, Minnesota should have enough to secure the division crown once again at odds of +115 with BetOnline. The club won 13 matches last season, therefore they should be in the same region again. Take them at -118 to win over 10 games this term with 888Sport.
Hughes steps into a defense full of talent, but could see playing time in the slot. Back him to make enough of an impression at odds of +3300 to win defensive rookie of the year with TopBet. Cousins has passed for over 4,000 yards in his last three seasons. Back him to do it once again at odds of -120 with BetOnline on the over of 4,071 yards. Also take the quarterback to throw over 26 touchdowns at odds of -105 . Cook is returning from an injury and will not be as effective as he returns to fitness. Take the under on 1,099 rushing yards and eight touchdowns at odds of -125 and -105 respectively. Thielen has been brilliant in the past two seasons. As a result take the over on 1,099 receiving yards at -115 , but the under on five touchdowns at -115 .
Minnesota Vikings To Win Super Bowl
Minnesota Vikings To Win NFC Championship
Minnesota Vikings To Win NFC North
Minnesota Vikings To Win Over 10 Matches
Kirk Cousins To Throw Over 4,071 Yards
Kirk Cousins To Throw Over 26 Touchdowns
Dalvin Cook To Rush For Under 1,099 Yards
Adam Thielen To Record Over 1,099 Receiving Yards