The Minnesota Vikings will be traveling to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday afternoon to kick off the NFL season and face the Cincinnati Bengals. The Vikings missed the playoffs by going 7-9 and need quarterback Kirk Cousins to do that next step as he finished with 4,265 passing yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions a year ago. The Cincinnati Bengals also missed the playoffs last season as they went 4-11-1 and lost quarterback Joe Burrow to a torn ACL, MCL, and PCL against the Washington Football Team and added wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the NFL Draft.
These teams are trying to take that next step as they have playoff ambitions and need to show improvement in some facets of the game. Let’s take a deeper dive into the matchup to determine whether we should bet the Vikings or Bengals here.
Cook-ing with FireThe Minnesota Vikings have weapons on the offensive side but none might be as important as running back Dalvin Cook is for this team. He finished the 2020 season with 312 carries for 1,557 yards (5.0 yards per carry) with 16 touchdowns and all those stats were in the top two. He also caught 44 passes for 361 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield as well. He had 100+ rushing yards in eight games last season and could be one of the best running backs in the game again this season. If Minnesota can continue to have Cook dominate out of the backfield, it will do wonders for the Vikings.
The Minnesota Vikings needed to make improvements on the defensive side of the ball as they allowed 29.7 points per game last year. Minnesota allowed the sixth-most rushing yards and the fifth-most passing yards per attempt. They revamped their secondary as they added cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland as well as free safety Xavier Woods. If the secondary can do their job, they will be in a great spot.
Cincy Needs Some Tee-DsThe Cincinnati Bengals had a decent offseason as they drafted wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the first round but wide receiver Tee Higgins has the chance to breakout this season. He finished the 2020 campaign with 67 receptions (108 targets) for 908 yards with six touchdowns. He definitely deserves a bigger role in the offense this season with the departure of veteran A.J. Green but it will be interesting to see a full season with quarterback Joe Burrow under center with him. His two best games last season with Burrow on the field as he had over 100+ receiving yards. It will be interesting to see how the offense gets going and how large of a target share Higgins will have.
The Cincinnati Bengals were not a terrible defense last season as they allowed 26.5 points per game. They do need to improve on getting pressure on the opposing quarterback as they recorded just 17 total sacks last year, which was last in the NFL in 2020. They need to work on getting that push from the defensive line as Cincinnati was only ahead of the Houston Texans with 5.1 rushing yards per carry. They added defensive end Trey Hendrickson to help with that and if they can get some pressure, they have a chance to surprise a lot of people.
- Minnesota: 4-1 ATS in their last 5 Week 1 games