The Minnesota Vikings are coming off of a draft that could go down as one of the most important in the history of the franchise. With 15 total picks before getting in undrafted free agents, and holes to plug in more places than not on the defense, all eyes are one rookies like Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler and D.J. I’m Wonnum. That’s just on the defense.
The offense is a bit more complicated as while there are holes on the line or in the receiving corps, there’s a lot of competition for those starting (and depth) spots.
Now that we know there will officially be no pre-season this year, the start to the 2020 regular season will essentially be the first real game experience a lot of the Vikings rookies will see (not to mention how hard it will be to make cuts without the above).
You’d think, then, that those in the betting world would have the Vikings as massive underdogs in their season opener against the Green Bay Packers.
Sure, it’s a home game and the Vikings have been great at US Bank Stadium, and sure, the Packers are a bad start away from imploding thanks to their first-round draft pick QB Jordan Love and the increasingly hypocritical Aaron Rodgers, but we’ve seen Rodgers pick on young corners many times including in last seasons first meeting when he essentially opened the game by throwing exclusively to the receiver “covered” by Kris Boyd when Xavier Rhodes went out for one of his 5,000 “injuries”.
What am I even talking about? Where am I? Who sent you? WHO SENT YOU?
Sports Betting Dime’s spread for Vikings/Packers I- Next time it’s Personal have the purple as 3.5 point favorites.
I may be the guy who everyone at the black jack table yells at for doubling down too much, but I do know that this means that at least for now those who make a living hoping you’ll hove them what you make for a living are saying this game is a push.
Home teams are usually spotted 3.5 points, for all those field goals and … extra points where the ball lands perfectly on the crossbar? So, this essentially is the betting equivalent of saying things are too up in the air right now to really know what to think.
Add to that that this is a divisional game, where things are always wonky thanks to the familiarity between the two teams (like kissing your first cousins, or in the case of Wisconsin, marrying them) and it isn’t hard to see why people have yet to really predict how week one will go.
Another aspect of things is that those that set lines do so go entice more bets, and with Vikings:Packers, they know people will bet based on emotion and so keeping things mostly even they’ll get both sides hopping online…. or in the case of Wisconsin, attempting to pawn their “stock” in the team only to realize that they don’t actually own part of the team, which’ll be the start of an intense self-destructive spiral that ends with panning for meth shards in the run off from those tunnels under the Las Vegas. You know, that old chestnut.
At least they’ll be able to make informed bets when they’re on the strip! And if that doesn’t work, they can always marry their cousins.
I don’t want to be THAT guy, but I have a feeling it’ll take a few weeks for the Vikings to get up to speed. There are just too many rookies at positions that are considered the most difficult to acclimate to in general, but are especially difficult in Zimmer’s system. With both the recently departed Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, even with Rhodes being part of the pre-Zimmer Vikings, it took a couple of SEASONS before they essentially weren’t a liability.
The same went for the similarly gone nickel corner Mackenzie Alexander. So, with Mike “Boom or Bust” Hughes as the elder statesman of that unit (*shudder*), and Rodgers, even the new Rodgers (that is clearly a shell of his former self), being savvy enough to take advantage of young corners, combined with the fact that the Vikes are replacing 75% of their starting defensive line… And it’s not a huge surprise that especially without a pre-season, I’m a bit apprehensive when it comes to facing anyone Week 1.
If there was a season in which the Vikings really, extra needed a pre-season, this would be it and it isn’t even close. Let’s look at each starting position really quickly so we can… Essentially panic?
I’ll name either the locked in starter or who is competing for that position, with (V) signifying veterans, (R) signifying rookies and (o) signifying Zimmer’s remaining good eye.
Positions with new projected starters will be italicized where as positions with projected new rookie starters will be italicized and bolded.
Left tackle: Riley Reiff (V), Ezra Cleveland (R)
Left Guard: Pat Elflein (V), Ezra Cleveland (R), Dakota Dozier (V), Dru Samia (V)
Center: Garrett Bradbury (V)
Right Guard: Dakota Dozier (V), Dru Samia (V), Aviante Collins (V)
Right Tackle: Brian O’Neill (V)
Wide receiver: Adam Thielen (V)
Wide receiver: Justin Jefferson (R)
Wide receiver: ‘Bisi Johnson (V), Tajae Sharpe (V), Chad Beebe (V), KJ Osborn (R), Dillon Mitchell (V), Alexander Hollins (V), Dan Chisena (R), Davion Davis (R)
Tight End: Kyle Rudolph (V), Irv Smith Jr. (V)
Running Back: Dalvin Cook (V), Alexander Mattison (V), Mike Boone (V)
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins (V)
Defensive End: Danielle Hunter (V)
Defensive End: Ifeadi Odenigbo (V)
Tackle: Shamar Stephen (V)
Nose Tackle: Michael Pierce (V)
Strong Linebacker: Anthony Barr (V)
Middle Linebacker: Eric Kendricks (V)
Weak Linebacker: Eric Wilson (V)
Corner: Holton Hill (V), Cameron Dantzler (R)
Corner: Jeff Gladney (R)
Nickel: Mike Hughes (V)
Strong Safety: Harrison Smith (V)
Free Safety: Anthony Harris (V)
That means that the Vikings could have 10 new starters across a potential 23 positions (with the nickel spot adding to the 22 typical starting spots). Of those 10 new starters, there could be four rookies starting from receiver Justin Jefferson, tackle/guard Ezra Cleveland, corners Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler.
Beyond that you’ll have rookies like DJ Wonnum contributing heavily, as well as veterans with limited game experience like Mike Hughes, Dru Samia and/or Bisi Johnson and Irv Smith Jr.
That is a lot of change for a team that had 10 of 11 starters returning at this time last season from 2018 (with the 11th starter being a year removed from also starting for the Vikings). The Vikes also had multiple starters with five or more seasons playing under Zimmer.
2020 will be a big change for the offense, especially, as they’ll be without their biggest deep threat in Stefon Diggs. I may be labeled as a Justin Jefferson hater at this point (because It makes sense that I’d root for one of the most important draft picks in my lifetime to fail on the team I’ve devoted my life to covering), but asking him to go from running free out of the slot in college to instantly being able to overcome press coverage on the outside without any pre-season experience also seems like a bridge too far.
Then there’s Dalvin Cook’s hold out. If he is still not reporting, the Vikings could be without their two biggest weapons from this time last year, and a second year back in Alexander Mattison and a cadre of unproven receivers like Tajae Sharpe, Bisi Johnson and Chad Beebe to replace them.
Then again, things aren’t great in Green Bay right now and with Rodgers on the decline and his heir apparent being on the roster being a sign that Matt Lafleur and company are both over Rodgers’ bullshit and tacitly projecting that Rodgers isn’t Rodgers anymore, all bets are off as to how things will go for both teams week one.
Or rather, all bets are a sign that those behind sports betting lines are as lost as the rest of us when it comes to predicting the 2020 season.