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NFL betting preview: Minnesota slight favorite in NFC North

Updated August 28, 2020 - 2:07 pm

This is the 21st in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Sept. 10 season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.

Throughout his career, the narrative surrounding Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been that he can’t beat good teams.

It’s been a fair criticism based on his 7-30 career record against teams with winning records. He silenced the critics for a week, when he led the Vikings to a 26-20 road win over the New Orleans Saints on an overtime touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in last year’s NFC Wild Card playoffs.

But the next week, the Vikings were limited to 147 yards of offense in a 27-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, ending their season and reigniting questions about Cousins.

The Vikings were 16th in the NFL in total offense but eighth in scoring offense. That was aided by a defense that forced 31 turnovers, the fourth most in the league.

“Cousins isn’t a gunslinger. He has to play within the framework of that offense,” Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said.

The Vikings offense is aided by a dynamic running back in Dalvin Cook and one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league in Adam Thielen.

They traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills and used the first-round pick they got back to select Louisiana State wide receiver Justin Jefferson. They hope he can help blow the top off the defense like Diggs did, allowing Thielen to operate underneath.

While the Vikings have similar personnel offensively, the same can’t be said about their defense. They lost seven starters on defense and special teams, but that’s not a concern to Westgate vice president of risk Ed Salmons.

“When you think of the Vikings, you think of a really good defense and a great home field,” Salmons said. “Mike Zimmer is such a good defensive coach that he’ll scheme something up. I wouldn’t be surprised if their defense is on par with what they’ve had.”

The Vikings’ season win total is nine, and that line is shaded toward the under at -130 despite being seen as a slight favorite in a competitive NFC North race.

While Esposito said he’s seen more under play because of the Vikings’ question marks, Salmons leans slightly to the over but not enough to bet it.

“At the low end they’ll win eight, at the high end 11,” Salmons said. “I feel like Minnesota is a notch above the rest of the teams in the division.”

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter

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