NFL · Sun (9/12) @ 1:00pm ET
|Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio|
After lackluster years in 2020, both the Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals hope to turn things around in 2021. A win over the other in Week One will be a step in the right direction for whoever comes out on top. But that does not mean things will have ‘turned around’ for that team.
It will just mean they played well enough to earn their first win of the 2021 NFL season. While oddsmakers favor the Vikings to win this one, it would be foolish to overlook a Bengals team with the talent it has on the roster.
Generating yards has not been hard for the Minnesota Vikings under the guidance of quarterback Kirk Cousins. With rookie Justin Jefferson emerging early as a reliable target, Kirk Cousins was able to have his second 4000+ yard season for the Vikings. He also set a new personal best with 35 touchdowns.
With Dalvin Cook pacing the run game, the Vikings offense is as balanced as they come. But, considering the yards the Vikings offense generated (fourth in total yards), they should have scored more (11th overall; 26.9 points/game).
The ability to produce is there, but the offense— especially Cousins – needs to become more efficient. If Cousins and the offense can, Minnesota may not need the defense to improve too much for them to become a contender.
However, if they are going to contend in the division, conference, or for the Super Bowl, the defense will need to be much better than last year. To that end, they did add a few pieces via free agency and the draft. But on paper, it is hard to say just how good the unit may be until we see them play.
Could the changes be enough? Will the defense be ‘good enough’ if not good? Only time will tell as week one approaches.
There was an improvement in the Bengals from Zac Taylor’s first season as head coach to his second. But between the two seasons, the Bengals recorded just six wins. If he is going to get off the hot seat this season, the Bengals will need to win more than six games in what stands to be a very competitive division.
Whether the Bengals win any games (let alone six) will depend on the health and progression of their quarterback, Joe Burrow. Burrow has been cleared to practice and appears to be okay after injuring his knee last season. But rumor has it that he has had some struggles during training camp.
According to reports, Burrow and the offense have been turning the ball over a lot during practice. Burrow has had a hard time throwing the ball downfield and getting on the same page as his receivers. His struggles have made many wonder if he is apprehensive about playing on his repaired knee (or getting hurt again).
While Burrow has a great trio of wide receivers to work with, it remains to be seen if his offensive line will give him enough time to throw. It was not a great offensive line last season, and it is not expected to be a good one this season (despite the changes).
As for the defense, it was not a great unit last season. They added quite a few new pieces via free agency and the draft. But it remains to be seen if they can come together to form a decent defense or not.
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Neither team looks especially great on paper. Both made some attempts to improve their defense. But even on paper, it does not look like either did enough. However, their respective defenses are not the biggest issue.
Neither has a good offensive line. We know that Dalvin Cook can still make some magic happen. As for Joe Mixon—he was unimpressive last season, and that was with the threat of the passing game via Joe Burrow.
While the Vikings pass rush is not overly impressive, it is good enough to put some pressure on Burrow against the Bengals o-line. A little pressure could be disastrous for a guy lacking confidence in his game and knee, like Burrow.
It would be nice to say the Bengals will put up a fight—but they will not. Take the Vikings against the spread.