Oddsmakers aren't very high on the Vikings; Are they right or wrong?
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While we sit here in the Twin Cities, mostly optimistic about possibility of a Mike Zimmer-led, revamped defense, and a Norv Turner-led offense with weapons-galore at the skill positions, oddsmakers apparently see something different when they examine the Minnesota Vikings.
The Las Vegas Hilton set the Vikings' 2014 over/under win total after the draft at 6. Bovada also has the number at 6 (at -140 for the over). Other people have chimed in via email to say some sports books in Vegas have the number as low as 5.5. NumberFire.com - a statistical projection site that runs millions of simulations - has the Vikings' average win total at 6.3.
Side note: Vegas sets these lines as a hook to generate the best action, not necessarily as pin-point projections for how many wins a team will have, but it's telling that the number is around 6 instead of, say, 7 or 7.5.
Personally, when I see the Vikings' over/under set at 6 wins I'm sprinting to the betting window (Monopoly money, of course) to mash the over. Like, I'm tripping over chairs and doing spin moves around the floor staff.
That said, below are some reasons why Vegas and other objective outlets might not be so high on the Vikings in 2014:
• The Vikings have been atrocious on the road in recent years. Since 2010, including the playoffs, the Vikings are just 7-25-1 away from home. Considering the home schedule is no cake walk (see: games against the Patriots, Panthers, Packers and Bears), the Vikings will likely need to win some road games to flirt with .500. Vegas probably isn't buying that notion.
• As bad as the Vikings have been on the road, they've been even worse outdoors. Including playoffs, the Vikings are 5-18-1 outdoors since 2010, including 1-10-1 over the past two years. The only win was in London. Vegas believes this matters, as the Vikings will be playing eight games at TCF Bank Stadium.
• While many people look at the Vikings schedule and see home games against two teams with putrid records in 2013 - the Falcons and Redskins - Vegas probably sees rebounds for those two opponents. Atlanta is getting Julio Jones and Roddy White back and healthy, while Washington gets a healthier RGIII and Desean Jackson.
• The Vikings play four of the best quarterbacks in the NFL within the first five weeks of the season - Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers. One could make a strong case that three of those quarterbacks are among the greatest of all-time. Vegas appears to be making that case, anyway.
• If the Vikings get off to a poor start - say, 0-5 or 1-4, which are scenarios Vegas believes are very possible - Vegas might project them to switch from Matt Cassel to Teddy Bridgewater. How likely is it that Bridgewater would lead a 1-4 team to a 6-5 record down the stretch? It's possible, but not incredibly likely.
• While many Vikings followers view Cassel as a perfectly serviceable option at starting quarterback when given proper weapons, Vegas likely sees Cassel as one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL - which is mostly true over the past few years. Since 2011, Cassel owns a 74.8 QB rating in 27 games, and he has thrown more interceptions (30) than touchdown passes (27).
Despite all of the above, I'd still lean toward the over. I'm on the record with a 9-7 prediction via the 9a-1p radio show on 1500 ESPN (*subject to change before Week 1). I see an improved defense, a more creative and explosive offense, and a coaching staff that will motivate until the finish.
What do you guys think?
For some additional listening, here's the latest episode of the Purple Podcast in which Andrew Krammer and Derek Wetmore discuss what they saw with Norv Turner's offense and the two quarterbacks in the first preseason game.