The Minnesota Vikings are +280 to win the NFC North. There are many that think they’ll contend for a playoff spot, but few who believe they can capture the division. Mike Florio even went so far as to say the Packers were his biggest lock of any divisional race in the entire NFL.
If Minnesota does want to challenge Green Bay they will obviously have to improve on last year’s dismal defensive performance. An off-season filled with free agents, and the return of two injured stars (Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr) will certainly help that cause. But it’s the return of a 2020 free agent that CBS Sports and Jason La Canfora believe could shift the balance of power in the division.
La Canfora picked one player from each division who could make an ultimate difference in each race and for the NFC North he chose Michael Pierce:
The massive defensive tackle (340 pounds) opted out last season due to COVID-19, and realized he wasn’t close to being done playing this game. One of the jewels of Minnesota’s 2020 offseason can do an awful lot for a man of his size, and Mike Zimmer is just the kind of coach to know how to best deploy him. More than just a run-stuffer – though his mere presence alone will add heft and girth to a DL that sorely needed it a year ago – he can also penetrate from the inside and collapse the pocket. He should be as fresh as ever and fortified for the longer season after not taking a hit last season. He has no shortage of motivation and if the Vikings can close the gap on the Packers this season I suspect Pierce has plenty to do with it. Not the first guy you think of, but a potential glue guy for this defensive line and someone who could give Aaron Rodgers some fits, especially as Green Bay works through some injuries up front. His return, and Danielle Hunter getting back in form, could transform a defense that fell hard a year ago.
There are a lot of reasons to believe that +280 would be money well spent on the purple, but I have to agree with La Canfora on Pierce being a difference maker. The middle of the Vikings defense last year was virtually nonexistent and combining Pierce’s return with the signing of Dalvin Tomlinson could create a dominant front that reminds Vikings fans of the Williams Wall days.
In fact anytime this team has gone on a dominant run they’ve had monster play at the tackle position. Johnny Randall and Jerry ball in 98, Pat and Kevin Williams in 09, and big Linval eating up the middle during the Minnesota miracle.
The Vikings defense was horrific last year and they still went 7-9. If Michael Pierce and the other new faces on defense come to play +280 will be the best value you can get anywhere in the league.