2011 Minnesota Vikings Team Preview and Prediction

The 2010 NFL season was a disaster for the Minnesota Vikings, in more ways than one. But are the Vikes really as bad as they looked last year?

Heading into ’10 Minnesota, a season after losing the conference championship game in overtime, was fully expected to once again contend for the conference crown. Most sportsbooks sent the Vikes off last year at right about 3/2 to win the NFC North and 7/1 to win the NFC.

But Minnesota started 0-2, losing close games to the Saints and Dolphins. They got to 2-3, then lost four of their next five. And after getting embarrassed at home by the hated Packers to fall to 3-7, the Vikings canned Coach Childress. Minnesota then finished 3-3 under interim Coach Frazier, which was enough for him to take over as HC for this season.

QB Brett Favre got beat up along the way, and eventually got knocked out of a game and had his consecutive starts streak snapped. Even their stadium gave out of them, as the Vikes had to finish the season playing at the University of Minnesota’s new outdoor facility.

Playing with those great preseason expectations Minnesota turned out to be one of the worst teams in the league to bet on last year, going 5-11 ATS.

Statistically speaking, with the great Adrian Peterson doing his thing Minnesota ranked 10th in the league in rushing last year at 121 YPG. But the passing game struggled, even when Favre was playing, and Vikings QBs combined to post a 14/26 TD/INT ratio. Which is exactly backwards of what it should be.

Defensively the Vikes remained solid, ranked eighth overall, allowing 313 YPG, and ninth vs. the run, giving up 102 YPG.

Overall Minnesota ranked 16th in total yardage last year at +2 YPG.

This off-season the Vikes parted ways with several veterans, including Favre, DE Ray Edwards, DTs Pat Williams and Jimmy Kennedy, OL Bryant McKinnie and WR Sidney Rice; added QB Donovan McNabb and WR Michael Jenkins; and used their first pick in the draft to take Florida State QB Christian Ponder. Now, is McNabb the answer for the short-term, for a team that could still compete for a playoff spot this year? Or, how quickly will Minnesota turn the offense over to young Ponder?

This year the Vikes have a new OC and a new system that emphasizes the short passing game. How well either of those QBs fits that style is uncertain.

But Minnesota still has Peterson and a very good defense. And when RB/KR Percy Harvin is healthy he’s a real weapon. Problem is, he’s not always healthy.

This year’s schedule calls for seven games against teams that made the playoffs last year, along with the two games with improving Detroit, a game at San Diego and home dates with Tampa Bay and Oakland. Overall Minnesota’s strength-of-schedule is tied for 10th-toughest.

BetOnline.com is listing the Vikings at +750 to win the NFC North this season, +2,250 to win the NFC and +4,000 to win the Super Bowl, with a regular-season wins total of seven. And some of those odds would be tempting if Minnesota didn’t have to deal directly with Green Bay. But the Vikes are not that far away; if they can get something close to good play from the QB position they could very well rebound to contend for a playoff spot. So we’ll play the over seven wins on the Minnesota total.

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Donald Phillips

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