Summer is only a few weeks away, but it’s already football season for those planning to beat the books in the NFL. Our predictions are starting to take shape as we match each team’s offseason actions with the challenges that await them in September. Of course, an important factor in evaluating a team’s potential success is the schedule. Life isn’t fair in the NFL, and the nuances of the schedule each year are a stark reminder. There are many factors to consider, including travel, rest benefits, number of prime-time games, potential bye time and position. With the 17-match format, even the number of home and away matches is no longer equal.
Navigating these challenges can be daunting for a novice coach, especially early in the season. I’m not saying instant success is critical, but a good start can go a long way toward building trust in a new organization. Or, conversely, it can be difficult to get a team on board once the losses start piling up in September. BetMGM offers a unique market where you can bet on the odds of any NFL team starting 4-0 or 0-4. Looking over each team’s schedule, I noticed that the NFL didn’t do any favors for several new head coaches. There was one that jumped off the board, which might surprise you.
Minnesota Vikings will start the season 0-4 (+1100)
Wow! The Vikings won eight games last year despite Mike Zimmer’s conservative offensive philosophy and transitioned to Sean McVay protégé Kevin O’Connell, who enjoyed success coaching Kirk Cousins as Washington’s quarterbacks coach in 2017. The Minnesota pair are considered for a wide-open play made in heaven , which resulted in the Vikings’ best wideout, Justin Jefferson, becoming a popular bet to lead the NFL in receiving yards. Plus, a coaching change should make all the difference for a team that lost so many close games last season. So how do we justify an 0-4 start?
Before we get started, I want to make it clear that I like the hiring of O’Connell and the direction the Vikings are going. But punters are betting on numbers, not names, and +1100 is a big enough number that it might be worth splurging on as a long odds. So let’s take a look at Minnesota’s first four games of the season.
Imagine starting the season as a rookie head coach against Aaron Rodgers and Matt LeFleur in your first game. Talk about pressure. LeFleur is 41-13 as the Packers’ head coach and has owned NFC North opponents to a stunning 15-3 record. The Vikings won last year’s game in Minnesota, but it’s not pretentious to expect Minnesota to start the season with a loss against one of the conference favorites.
The next three games are where it gets interesting. Minnesota travels to Philadelphia projected as an underdog for the second week in a row. The Eagles were a playoff team in 2021, and with the addition of AJ Brown in the offseason, they are positioned higher than the Vikings in the Super Bowl, the conference title and wins overall. Minnesota was 0-5 on the road last season against teams that qualified for the postseason. Home to Philadelphia Monday Night Football is a tough place for a team that doesn’t travel well. Rookie head coaches are 6-18 SU since 2017 in their first games away. So it’s realistic to see the Vikings go 0-2.
After being the underdog the first two weeks, Minnesota finally got a must-win game, but the schedule makes it more demanding than it should be. The Vikings return home to face Detroit in O’Connell’s first attempt to prepare for a short week. Barring injuries, the Vikings will be the clear favourites, but it’s important to note that Dan Campbell’s Lions gave them a shot last year. The two teams split the season series 1-1, with each game decided by just two points. Detroit vs. Minnesota in Week 3 is the mainstay to cash in on this bet. If we get a little lucky and the Vikings fall to 0-3, the odds increase dramatically in our favor as they will put themselves in a dire situation, having to travel to London and beat the Saints to avoid an 0-4 start.
The gamble isn’t an indictment of the Vikings’ roster so much as the schedule it faces. Betting on any potential playoff team to lose its first four games is a risk, especially one with Minnesota’s offensive talent. However, they are still a defensively challenged team, especially in the secondary, where they will rely heavily on defensive rookies Andrew Booth and Lewis Klein. It’s not uncommon to see first-year starters struggle in coverage as they transition to the NFL, so it’s fair to expect the worst version of Minnesota’s defense early in the year. A debut against Rodgers, your first Monday Night Football road game and a trip to London make for a brutal first month for O’Connell as he leads Minnesota into a new era. The early season glove should make the Vikings a valuable future bet in October, and you could have a +1100 winner in your pocket by then.