The NFL will commence a 17-game season for the very first time in 2021, and the Minnesota Vikings, per Vegas, are “supposed to” finish with a weird record of 8-9 or 9-8.
Win totals are out @WilliamHillUS
12 – KC
11 – Balt, GB
10.5 -Buff, Rams
10 – Cle, Indy, SF, Sea
9.5 -Dal, NO, Ten
9 – LAC, MIA, NE, Pitt
8 – Ari, LV, WFT
7.5 – Car, Chi, Den
7 – Atl, NYG, Philly
6 – Jax, NYJ
5 -Det, Hou
— David Bearman ESPN (@DBearmanESPN) April 16, 2021
As the pandemic slowly inches toward a finish line, pundits and fans can expect items like homefield advantage to mean something again. Presumably, the Bearman forecast above via The William Hill sportsbook accounts for that. The Vikings will play nine away games versus eight home games this season — with the final game of the year taking place in Los Angeles during a date with the Chargers.
The “8.5 wins” is somewhat customary for Vikings predictions. Fans will often slap a “9-7” label on Minnesota before the season starts, so here we are again. The interesting aspect about the Vikings as a “9-7 team” again? Minnesota has not ended a season with that record since 2005 — the year that head coach Mike Tice was canned and Daunte Culpepper was lost forever.
Therefore, it is indeed cliché to toss the 9-7 stamp on the Vikings, but they seldom end seasons with that mark — and they never will again with the updated 18-week format.
The William Hill sportsbook prognostication is familiar to last year, as well. The Vikings were slated to win about 9 games (surprise, surprise) at this time in 2020, but the team bumbled to a 7-9 standing, casting 2021 as a pivotal season in franchise history.
Head coach Mike Zimmer’s team tends to perform good-then-mediocre-then-good in alternating seasons. It sounds silly, but the pattern checks out. The best seasons under Zimmer occurred in 2015, 2017, and 2019. If this was an internet IQ test asking one to find the next logical answer in the sequence, well, 2021 shall be on the list.
To be sure, 2021 is a referendum on Zimmer, quarterback Kirk Cousins, and maybe even general manager Rick Spielman. Zimmer and Cousins are arguably a package deal and if the enterprise underwhelms in 2021 — change is afoot. Spielman has a notable track record of draft success (misfires like Laquon Treadwell notwithstanding). But he might just survive the wrath of change if 2021 goes poorly, instead serving as the person that effectuates the change rather than a personality ransacked by it.
Interestingly, the Vikings are scheduled to win more games in 2021 than the Arizona Cardinals, per the aforementioned sportsbook. And that is supremely bizarre.
Why? The Cardinals have on roster a quarterback nearing the precipice of busting out into stardom, a Top 3 wideout in DeAndre Hopkins, a “young, offensive-minded head coach” (people consider those infallible), and now J.J. Watt to terrorizes on the edges. An eight-win forecast for the Desert Birds is outrageously low — at least per the hype that is in the NFL stratosphere at the moment. But, for Vikings fans, they’ll take it.
The NFL draft transpires in less than two weeks. Theoretically, the Vikings could nail the draft — like they did in 2020 with Justin Jefferson and Cameron Dantzler — and revamp this win projection.
This is a necessity, in fact. Otherwise, an 8.5 win total will result in mammoth change from the head coach to the quarterback on down for 2022.