So the Vikings. The state's favorite squadron. What are the betting expectations for the Vikings this NFL season? (look for the best odds from Sportbet.com). Sportbet has the over/under for wins at 6.5, and if I'm a betting man, and I am, I'm going for the over (cautiously). Matt Cassell is boring, and far more boring than my guy Teddy Bridgewater, but he is a competent QB which is a major upgrade from your guy Christian Ponder. Cordarrelle Patterson is supposed to do that thing everyone says and become good, and don't forget Greg Jennings didn't just forget how to be a major league receiver, it's just Ponder did things like throw the ball into the ground and throw the ball into the ground again. Cassell tends to do things more like throwing the ball in the air. That's a plus. And of course if Bridgewater ever gets to start the Vikings will start putting up 50+ points per game, but that's a given.
A lot of people seem to be excited about an upgraded defense, which makes sense, since the team is going from a defensive minded coach to a defensive minded coach and somehow this new one is better than the old one I guess. I don't know. Personally, I'm more excited about the personnel changes. I mean, these guys have some sweet names: Captain Munnerlyn is one of the best names in the league, and Linval Joseph isn't that far behind except that he's slower now after getting shot. Really though those guys are upgrades, Anthony Barr has looked good this preseason, Harrison Smith is healthy, and Sharrif Floyd should be better because he can't be worse. Plus Xavier Rhodes is awesome.
What's realistic for the Vikings? If Cassell starts all year they'll be somewhere around 8-8. If Bridgewater starts they'll win every game he plays, up to 15-2 and a Super Bowl victory.
Other quick NFL hits:
- The Panthers will be terrible
- The Cardinals will be the surprise breakout team, led by Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington
- Dallas will be a complete dumpster fire, but they'll give up so many points that Dez Bryant will have a career year and one of the best receiving years in history
- Atlanta will be a playoff team with a bounce back year from Matt Ryan
- The Eagles will regress badly
- The Packers will be annoyingly good and probably make the Super Bowl
- The Colts will win the Super Bowl
- Cleveland will win 3 games or less
- Derek Carr will win Rookie of the Year
- C.J. Spiller will re-breakout.
- Matthew Stafford will have even more weapons, put up even better stats, and still somehow screw the Lions into a 6-win season
- Ryan Tannehill will become a top 10 type QB
All of this will come true.
Now onto the college game, which is also fun! And the internet tells me our beloved Gopher footballers are going up against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders. Whoa that sounds scary! And they're 1-0! And they won 61-7 last week! Are the Gophers doomed? Is their run to the BCS playoffs over before it really even starts? No. MTSU beat Savannah State who once had something like a 60-game losing streak in basketball so they're probably terrible in football too. Let's look at these "Blue" "Raiders" a little more carefully, but keep in mind I'm only looking at stats like some kind of nerd who lives in his mom's basement because I have to admit I have never seen MTSU play football. Nor have I heard of anyone on their team. Seriously if you want a "real" "preview" I'd check out Still Got Hope, who are back and cranking out some seriously awesome Gopher football love (they're the kind of nerds who go watch practice, so you know it's detailed info).
Last season the Blue Raiders went 8-4 including 6-2 in the Sun Belt, probably, and made the Armed Forces Bowl where they lost to Navy 24-6. They played two real teams and lost to North Carolina by 20 and BYU by 27. So far the intimidation level is low to quite low. Which I suppose it should since the Gophers are favored by 16.
Last year they ranked 83rd in passing offense, 31st in rushing offense, and 62nd in total offense. That's some good running, boys, but a bad passing attack may be worse as their QB has moved on to do something else. They do have both of their top RBs and one of their top WRs back, but not having a thrower guy back and replacing him with a guy who completed 45% of his passes last year is not a positive. This new guy, Austin Grammer (Kelsey's son), did play well against Savannah completing 15 of 17 for 250 yards, but I assume those DBs were basically played by folding chairs so whatevs. The running backs are worth looking at since the two returnees (Jordan Parker and Reggie Whatley) both had over 650 yards last season and they added a new guy, Tony Rowland, who split carries with those two in their first game. Rowland and Whatley are both tiny (5-7) so they're both probably really fast, and Parker is built like a real running back so he's probably good and stuff. I'd keep my eye on those guys.
Defensively they ranked 26th in passing yards allowed and 107th in rushing yards allowed, which is good for Minnesota because they hate passing anyway and would rather have one of their 20 running backs or their QB who is built like a grizzly bear and throws with similar accuracy to run down your face and smash into you over and over again. Maybe their biggest strength last season was turnover margin, where they finished 12th in the country at a +12. Their two safeties picked off 8 passes between the two of them last year and they're both back, so probably still not a good idea to throw the ball.
Basically both teams suck at passing and are good at running. Whoever stops the other team from running the ball well will win and that should probably be the Gophers. Plus all this running and stuff probably means the under 52.5 is kind of money. So let's do this. Just as the Gopher basketball crushed the hopes and dreams of the Middle Tennessee basketball team in the NIT two years ago, so now will these Gophers crush MTSU's dream of a National Championship.
Gophers 28, Blue Raiders 10.