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Vikings vs. Bengals Free NFL Picks for Week 1

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Vikings vs. Bengals Free NFL Picks for Week 1
Joe Burrow #9 of the Cincinnati Bengals on August 29, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dylan Buell/Getty Images/AFP

It’s safe to say things didn’t go to plan for either of these teams last year, the Vikings had a poor defense which kept them from the playoffs and the Bengals lost their star rookie QB halfway through the season, so will either be able to turn it around this year? Let’s see the NFL odds.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Sunday, September 12, 2021 – 1:00 ET at Paul Brown Stadium

It’s been a rough off-season for the Vikings as the NFL Covid rules have caused chaos in their QB room with players refusing the vaccine. Reports suggesting that the Vikings are the lowest vaccinated team in the league will add question marks over players' availability all the way up to game-time each week.

I’m all for personal freedoms and allowing people to make up their own minds, but from a gambling viewpoint it’s going to be very difficult to bet on the Vikings each week. It could be something that hurts the team going forward as the rules of the league punish teams who have to forfeit a match.

How Are the Bengals Looking?

It’s a good test for them as Coach Zim returns to the team he built his reputation against to take on Joe Burrow coming back from a season-ending knee injury in his first competitive start. Despite taking a whole three snaps in the final preseason game, Burrow is sure to be rusty and probably apprehensive that his offensive line can keep him protected.

If they can give Burrow time then the Bengals have one of the best offensive groupings in the league with Joe Mixon leading the backfield, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd both did around 1,000 yards last year and first round pick Ja’Marr Chase adding more talent to the receiving corps.

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There are definite worries about Chase, who’s had a rough offseason filled with drops. They’re not really a surprise after he sat out of his final year in college but they will be a concern for the team. I’m hoping that once he’s properly hit it will clear his head and he’ll realize he’s fine with a bit of contact.

Surely the Vikings Will Be Better This Year?

With the best online sportsbooks expecting the Vikings to finish second in their division they will be looking to kick off with a win here.

The Vikings will be expecting Dalvin Cook to return in the form he was in last season and will be looking to use him as much as possible to move the ball, a plan which should work well against a Bengals team who struggled to stop the run last season.

Using play-action off of the run game worked brilliantly for them last season and the emergence of Justin Jefferson as a top receiver in the passing game was eye-catching alongside Adam Thielen who has established himself as a good pass-catcher. Last year tended to be Jefferson getting the yards and Thielen the touchdowns so it will be interesting to see how they go this year.

Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Mixon #28 of the Cincinnati Bengals in action during training camp workouts. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images/AFP

There’s not a whole lot behind those two in the passing game though after they lost Irv Smith to a season-ending knee injury. So despite signing Chris Herndon as his replacement it all looks a little shallow behind the big two.

What Are the Keys to the Game?

The keys to the game come on the Bengals side of the ball, namely, can they protect Joe Burrow, and has the defense improved to an adequate level.

Despite not taking Penei Sewell the Bengals invested in their line and the starting lineup looks stronger than what they finished with last year, they’ve gone with experience and didn’t allow a sack in the three preseason games, so I’m hopeful on that side of things.

Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images/AFP

They welcomed back last year's big-money signings from injury with DJ Reader and Trae Waynes coming back into the defense. Also, they look like they’ve got a bit of pass-rush finally which they sorely lacked. I believe they’ve strengthened there,

I don’t want to touch the bookmakers' spread line, I think one team will win by a fair amount of points, but I’m not sure which way the game will go.

So my best bet for this one will be on the total. With the Bengals defense seemingly improved, Burrow' return and the issues for Chase on offense I’ll have reasons to take the under on the total.

NFL pick: (visit our Sportsbook Review)

*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.