Vikings vs. Bengals NFL Week 1 Preview and Best Bet

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Kellen Mond #11 of the Minnesota Vikings calls the play. David Berding/Getty Images/AFP

The Minnesota Vikings have visions of division titles and playoff berths in their heads as the 2021 season opens. The Vikings should have an explosive offense this season, and the team has revamped the defense after that unit was a weakness in 2020. While the Vikings look to contend, the Bengals are hoping to be one of the season’s surprise team as Cincinnati looks to improve following a four-win 2020 season. Let’s check out the NFL odds for this game.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, September 12, 2021 – 01:00 PM EDT at Paul Brown Stadium

Upswing This Season?

Under Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have made the playoffs every other year. Now in year eight and coming off of a 7-9 record, this should be an “up season” for Minnesota if things stay on track. The team ended last season on a positive note despite missing the postseason. The team won six of its final 10 games following a 1-5 start.

Even with a losing record, the Vikings had one of the top offenses in the league last year, with Kirk Cousins piloting a top-10 unit. Dalvin Cook established himself as one of the top running backs in the NFL, and the team found a rookie star at wide receiver in Justin Jefferson who gives Cousins a target opposite Adam Thielen. There are some question marks on offense. The line has been shuffled, due to player departures, most notably LT Riley Reiff, and injury. The injury bug also hit the team at tight end, where it will be without Irv Smith.

Still, despite the handful of concerns on offense, the real issue with the Vikings coming into the season was the defense. The team was near the bottom of the NFL in most categories and finished the year by surrendering 52 to the Saints in late December. The unit should be better just based on the players the team will get back. Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter missed all of the season due to either injury or opt-out, and Eric Kendricks went down during the season. All should be back at 100 percent. The team also added Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Xavier Woods.

Getting Back Burrows

The Bengals’ 4-11-1 record is somewhat misleading, because the team showed far more promise early, when rookie quarterback Joe Burrows was running the offense. Burrows went down with torn knee ligaments in November. He’s back and ready to pick up where he left off last year.

Cincinnati helped Burrows by signing veteran tackle Riley Reiff—from the Vikings—and drafting three offensive linemen. The team also drafted a target for Burrows in LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, although he’s struggled with inconsistency in the preseason. Still, he’s an addition to a stable of young skill position players that shows great promise. Receivers Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd give Burrows two experienced pass catchers, and running back Joe Mixon should be back to full strength after missing 10 games last season. The offense should be explosive, but the opener will be an intriguing test as the Bengals try to win a shootout with the Vikings O.

Like the Vikings, the Bengals had a defensive makeover, signing four free agents that are expected to start and drafting at least two potential starters. The team finished last in the NFL with 17 sacks last year and will look to pressure opposing quarterbacks better this season. The team took a hit early in game week, with the announcement that veteran cornerback Trae Waynes, a former Viking, won’t get the chance to play against his old team. Waynes has been ruled out for the week with a hamstring injury suffered in training camp.

The Pick

This should be a fun game with two high-powered offenses and two defenses that had much-needed offseason overhauls. Expect a shootout in Cincinnati. While the Bengals offense has promising young talent, the Vikings are more established and should be able to set the pace in this game. Minnesota’s defensive upgrade appears to be more solid as well. For our NFL picks, look for the Vikings to get a road cover as the favorite.

NFL Pick: Vikings -3 (-125) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.