Vikings

What Is Vegas Trying To Tell Us About the Vikings?

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Vice and hedonism ring in the hallways of buildings throughout Las Vegas, from Mandalay Bay to the Bellagio. The walls would have stories to tell if they didn’t have to keep their secrets. But like a twisted and knotted Giving Tree, they occasionally have advice for people lost in the myopia of fandom.

Entering the 2022 season, Vegas favored the Green Bay Packers (-200) to win the NFC North with an 11.5 over/under, followed by the Minnesota Vikings (9.5, +275), Detroit Lions (6.5, +900), and the Chicago Bears (6.5, +1200). The Packers (8-9) and Lions (9-8) outperformed their Vegas lines, but the oddsmakers were right about the Vikings.

Nobody could have predicted that Minnesota would have beaten the Packers 23-7 in Week 1, won 11 one-score games, and lost to Daniel Jones and the New York Giants in the playoffs. But the oddsmakers came close. The Vikings won one game as an underdog, their overtime victory in Buffalo, and Vegas had them favored against the Giants in the postseason. Cut the oddsmakers some slack. Justin Jefferson had to make a miracle catch against the Buffalo Bills, and the Vikings shouldn’t have lost to Danny Dimes in the Wild Card round.

A year later, the oddsmakers didn’t react to Minnesota’s 2022 season. The Vikings finished with a minus-three-point differential in 2022, and they weren’t going to win 11-straight one-score games again. Entering last season, Vegas had Detroit (9.5, +130) finishing first in the division, followed by Minnesota (8.5, +300), Chicago (7.5, +325), and Green Bay (7.5, +400). The oddsmakers were right about the Lions (12-5) and the Bears (7-10), and they couldn’t account for Kirk Cousins getting injured in Week 8. However, like the consensus at the time, they underestimated Jordan Love’s impact on the Packers (9-8).

The oddsmakers don’t have crystal balls. They also aren’t trying to guess win totals or a team’s place in the standings. Instead, they use analytics to determine best how to get equal money on each side of a betting line. Still, their odds can give us an objective view of how nonpartisan football analysts believe each team will finish. Vegas favors Detroit (10.5, +130) to win the division again this year, followed by Green Bay (9.5, +210), Chicago (8.5, +370), and Minnesota (6.5, +750).

Odds are always subject to change, and the lines will move once we know who each team takes in the draft. There are still meaningful variables, including Caleb Williams’ impact on the Bears in his first year and who Minnesota takes at quarterback. But we know that the Lions have bought into Dan Campbell’s message, and Love has become Green Bay’s third consecutive franchise quarterback.

Minnesota may benefit most from variance, though. We have a pretty good idea of who the Lions and Packers are, and much of Chicago’s fate rests on Williams’ shoulders. But nobody knows which quarterback the Vikings will take or how Minnesota’s new-look defense will perform under Brian Flores. Vegas favors Maye (-135) to go third overall. However, they give him the second-best odds (+170) to go second overall, where he’s probably out of reach for the Vikings.

In February, DraftKings and FanDuel favored the Vikings to land J.J. McCarthy (+300/+450) in the draft. The former Michigan quarterback will likely be the fourth quarterback off the board, and Minnesota may choose him if they can’t get the New England Patriots to move off the third pick. DraftKings and FanDuel didn’t have odds for Maye, but gamblers can wager on the Vikings taking Bo Nix (+470/+1600), Michael Penix (+480/+650), and Jaden Daniels (+1200). They could even bet on long-shot odds (+5000) to take Williams.

Despite what some fortune tellers and mystics on the strip will tell you, nobody knows what the Vikings will do in April or how they will fare when the season starts in September. Vegas is generally objective and correct, though. Minnesota has some work to do to compete in the NFC North, let alone make the playoffs. They must draft the right quarterback in April and develop him well enough to tap into the talent they have on offense.

The walls in Vegas always have a story to tell, but they’re often reticent to disclose them. If only we could hear the echoes from the owner’s meetings in March, we’d know how close Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was to convincing new Patriots GM Eliot Wolf to move the third pick. But we all know about what happens in Vegas.

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