Minnesota Vikings 2016 NFL Expert Picks
Adrian Peterson, the same guy you incessantly trolled on Twitter for being a “child-beater” and branded as an old washed-off running back in last year’s offseason, single-handedly carried the Vikings on his back when he ran for an NFL-high 1485 yards plus 11 touchdowns while leading Minnesota to an NFC North-best 11-5 record to go along with the best regular-season ATS mark in 2015 (at 13-3).
Revenge certainly is the best medicine, especially if you are a villain!
Peterson, whose sterling season saw him jump from No. 62 (in 2015) to No. 5 of NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2016, is back with designs on putting up even better numbers in 2016 and there is little reason to believe he will fail in his quest now that the Vikings have retooled their squad with solid pieces all over roster to help him and QB Teddy Bridgewater take Minnesota to the next level.
Will the Vikings hit or miss in the 2016 NFL odds as they move into the new U.S. Bank Stadium? Below we take a succinct look at what NFL bettors can expect from Minnesota in the upcoming season, particularly with regards to their regular season win total.
Minnesota Vikings 2016 NFL Expert Picks
Roster and Playing Schemes Analysis
At 31 years, Peterson is well-aware that his banged up body will soon be giving away to Father Time, so he must make the most of it while he still can. Fortunately for him, the Minnesota Vikings have invested wisely in building their offensive line over the last couple of seasons with players like Matt Kalil—and additionally made some marquee additions in the offseason such as run-block specialist Alex Boone and former Cincy star Andre Smith—which will play an important role in keeping the star running back healthy. The return of John Sullivan after he missed the entire 2015 season will also be a big boost to the O-line.
And it won’t just be Peterson benefitting from this O-line, third-year signaler Bridgewater will also get the needed protection whenever he needs to use his mobility to run the ball or escape pressure from on-coming defenders. As you all know, Minnesota’s offense heavily relies on running the ball—it averaged 138.2 YPG rushing in 2015 (4th-best in NFL) as opposed to ranking second-last in the NFL in passing yards per game (183.0)—so keeping the chains moving will be key.
It should, however, be noted that Minnesota may not need to necessarily run the ball as much as it did last season, thanks to the rise of Stefon Diggs as a reliable receiver and the drafting of an excellent big-man receiver in first-round pick Laquon Treadwell. As per his profile and his showings in the OTAs, Treadwell is an intelligent and pacey receiver, which should offer Bridgewater a formidable option for vertical ball movement, especially when opposing defenders concentrate on Peterson and leave solid options for the QB to move the ball aerially.
As for Minnesota’s defense, well, things have been on the upswing since head coach Mike Zimmer joined the team. The biggest part of this defense has been Minnesota’s strength in using blitz, as opposed standard pass rush pressure. According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings allowed only 5.2 yards per pass when rushing five-or-more defenders in comparison to seven yards when utilizing a standard pass rush. If the Vikings D can continue perfecting their blitz-heavy system, while mixing it up with more ball-hawking, I don’t see why the defense shouldn’t be even better than it was last season.
Schedule and Divisional Preview
Having won the NFC North title in 2015, their first title since 2009 when they defended their divisional crown from the previous year (in 2008), there is great sense of optimism that the 2016 Vikings—who are arguably more talented on paper than their 2009 counterparts that finished the regular season with a 10-6 record—will be able to do even better.
Schedule-wise, things aren’t that bad for Minnesota, as the team will be going against an 18th-ranked strength of schedule in 2016, a much-needed favor compared to the 12th-ranked SOS from 2015. Facing the likes of Dallas, Carolina and Arizona offer the most challenging non-divisional tests for Minnesota, but the biggest concern for Minnesota in 2016 is likely to come from NFC North betting favorites, the Green Bay Packers. The Aaron Rodgers-led Packers have been a tough nut to crack in the division, most recently winning four straight NFC North titles from 2011 to 2014, and finishing a close second (with a 10-6 mark in 2015) despite being hampered with injuries. Finding a way to best the Packers, while also not dropping the ball against divisional foes Detroit and Chicago (and doing well outside the division as well), will thus be very crucial if Minnesota is to repeat as NFC North champion.
Final Remarks and Early Minnesota Season Total Prediction
Having won 11 games in 2015 despite having a weak passing game, I’d expect the Vikings to do even better in 2016 now that there looks to be some hope in Treadwell and Co. bringing a new lease of life to the offense. All this will, however, depend greatly on how Bridgewater plays and whether he can take his game a notch higher. Historically, the QB has improved in every season since his rookie year, so there is reason for optimism, but tempered hopes are recommended because anything can always happen.