Should You Consider Betting Vikings To Win NFC North?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on August 30, 2022
NFL Betting

With the betting market taking shape in recent weeks, there’s been plenty of NFL line movement. Let’s delve into the NFC North in particular, as the Vikings have seen their division odds dip from +300 to at BetMGM Sportsbook.

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NFL Betting: Evaluating Minnesota’s Prospects

Sticking with the same proprietor, the Packers () are the odds-on favorite to win the NFC North. Their odds haven’t shifted since the market initially opened at BetMGM, either.

Believe it or not, Green Bay provides valuable historical context that can be applied to this Minnesota team.

The Cheeseheads kicked off their 2019 season with Matt LaFleur replacing Mike McCarthy as head coach before eventually falling to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game. That isn’t to say the Vikings will generate the same level of success. However, going from an ultra-conservative coach in McCarthy to an evolved offensive mind in LaFleur paid dividends.

Comparably, Minnesota exchanged an old-fashioned Mike Zimmer for Kevin O’Connell, who most recently served as the Rams’ offensive coordinator under Sean McVay.

Sure, McVay showcased somewhat of a conservative approach on the road to Los Angeles winning Super Bowl 56. Nevertheless, his offensive scheme was miles ahead of Zimmer’s, as the Rams ran 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end on the field) at the league’s highest rate (84.9%) while the Vikings did so at the fourth-lowest clip (42.4%).

Enter O’Connell, who proved that his game plan will often resemble what he helped design in Southern California. In Minnesota’s three preseason contests, it utilized 11 personnel 73.8% of the time (via Pro Football Focus). Expect that percentage to increase a bit in the regular season by nature of a more meaningful game script, too.

To top it off, O’Connell has a familiar face by his side in Wes Phillips — the former Rams tight ends coach and passing game coordinator. Now, he’s the Vikings’ offensive coordinator.

Related: 5 Things You Need To Know Before Betting On The NFL This Season

Offensive Upside For The Vikings

Last season, Minnesota’s offense delivered the 17th-fewest Expected Points Added (EPA) per play, according to RBSDM. For bettors who are unaware of that metric, EPA is calculated by the expected points scored based on the down, distance, and field position at the start of a play ⁠— juxtaposed to the end result.

Blame Kirk Cousins if you must, but you’re inevitably pointing the finger at the subordinate source. The veteran signal caller notched the 10th-highest EPA per play among quarterbacks with at least 320 snaps in 2021. He also tallied a Completion Percentage Over Expected (CPOE) that was neck-and-neck with a future first-ballot Hall of Famer in Tom Brady.

Hence, the Vikings’ inability to manufacture an above average offense was more so a systemic issue than anything else. The blame should be placed on Zimmer and the Kubiak’s.

This time around, Cousins is paired with O’Connell, sharing continuity from their time together with Washington in the 2017 season. Place Cousins, Justin Jefferson — one of the 2022 Offensive Player of the Year () favorites — Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborne and Irv Smith in a space-oriented scheme, and their overall efficiency should rise.

On top of that, star tailback Dalvin Cook accrued 5.8 yards per rush attempt out of 11 personnel a campaign ago. Just 27.5% of his career carries have come via that package. He’ll seemingly have extra room to operate on the ground behind a slightly refined offensive line.

Related: Super Bowl 57 Odds

Defensive Recovery In The North Star State?

Now led by well-respected coordinator Ed Donatell, the Vikings were hindered by their defense. It collectively missed the sixth-most games because of injuries last season.

Similar to the Ravens, which is another team I’m invested in, Minnesota’s lengthy list included a bevy of starters. That alone forced unproven pieces onto the field. Although the Vikings’ pass defense remained respectable because of their pass rush, they wound up yielding the league’s fourth-most EPA per carry due to their injury misfortune.

NamePositionInjuryGames Missed
Danielle HunterLBTorn Pectoral Muscle10
Michael PierceDTElbow9
Anthony BarrLBKnee6
Patrick PetersonCBHamstring4
Bashaud BreelandCBGroin4
Cameron DantzlerCBAnkle/Calf3
Eric KendricksLBQuad/Arm2
Harrison SmithSCOVID-191

Moreover, Donatell operates a 3-4 base defense — another breath of fresh air from Zimmer’s ways. With it comes the additions of ex-Packers edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, who missed a chunk of last season as well, run-stopper Harrison Phillips, and nickelback Chandon Sullivan, along with some depth via the draft.

Assuming those signees — plus Minnesota’s returning assets like Danielle Hunter — can avoid an array of injuries in 2022, the Vikings’ defense should establish itself as an above average unit.

NFL Betting Conclusion

Although Green Bay produced a favorable offseason for Joe Barry’s defense, it lost Pro Bowl receiver Devante Adams, fellow wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and a pair of versatile pass-blockers in Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick. The offseason lovefest surrounding the Lions has trimmed their NFC North odds considerably, and the Bears fail to present a competitive roster.

Therefore, even with Minnesota’s price tag shortening up in recent weeks, its implied probability at +250 to win the division (28.57%) still churns out enough NFL betting value. Don’t go lower than that number, though.

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Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

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