Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals kicks off Saturday (12/16/23) at 1 p.m. EST in Cincinnati as a home game for the Bengals. Get Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals predictions and best bets below. Our best bet is on the Vikings +3.5 as this contest should be tighter than the spread implies.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals Prediction & Best Bet
The Joshua Dobbs experiment has temporarily come to an end as the Vikings announced that Nick Mullens will be getting the starting nod. This comes after one of the worst NFL games of the season, a game where the Vikings won 3-0 against the lowly Las Vegas Raiders. While the Raiders pass coverage has steadily improved, it was still incredibly shocking to see Dobbs be held to just 63 passing yards while completing 10 of his 23 passes.
That eventually led to a mid-game benching, giving Mullens the chance to shine. He nearly doubled Dobbs QBR, showing a more aggressive downfield-throwing ability. That throwing ability may be called upon at a high rate as the Bengals secondary has continued to regress throughout the season. They did manage to put up a respectable performance against an underwhelming Colts pass attack, yet they still rank near dead last in Def Pass Success Rate and Def Pass EPA.
It’s been a common theme for the Bengals back end that they struggle when they do not create turnover worthy plays. While they get the benefit of taking on a backup, they also get the unfortunate favor of having to defend Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson. Two very skilled pass catchers who excel at creating separation and exploiting gaps in coverage. Mullens should also find himself in a relatively clean pocket as the Bengals rank well below average in Pressure Rate.
As for the Vikings defense, this unit has clearly shown immediate success under defensive coordinator Brian Flores. They went from near dead last in Def DVOA last year to now top-10. They excel at defending both the pass and rush at a high rate per DVOA and EPA while bringing the heaviest dose of the blitz. This may be a nightmare for the backup Jake Browning to deal with, bringing him back down to reality after his recent hot stint. A conservative approach revolving around screens is not enough to beat this stout defense, meaning Browning will need to take chances which may result in stalled out drives and early outs.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals Prediction & Best Bet: Vikings +3.5
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals Betting Odds
Oddsmakers feel comfortable about Jake Browning’s recent performances, opening the Bengals as a -5 favorite against the Nick Mullens led Vikings. Bettors believe that was a major overreaction, backing the Vikings down to +3.5 as of writing. Nick Mullens may be an upgrade after Dobbs past performances, giving the Vikings a more vertical passing threat against a weak Bengals secondary.
As for the total, oddsmakers believed points would be scored at a slow pace as they opened the number at 40.5. Bettors believe points may come at an even slower rate, backing the under down to as low as 39.5 in some shops. With quarterback uncertainty on both sides of the ball, as well as the Bengals Havoc minded defense taking the field, the total market is an immediate pass as the field can flip at a moment’s notice.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals Key Injuries
Skill players dominate the injury news heading into this contest as Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Justin Jefferson, and Alexander Mattison are all listed as questionable on the injury reports.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals Key Matchups
Can the Vikings ground game give their offense any sort of support against the Bengals front seven?
Minnesota Vikings Run Game vs. Cincinnati Bengals Front Seven
A productive ground game has eluded the Vikings offense for the better part of the season as they currently rank near dead last in Rush DVOA and EPA. Alexander Mattison was expected to make a leap under his new starting role, failing to find any sort of consistency and losing out on carries. A productive ground game goes a long way in helping out a backup quarterback succeed.
Here’s every Nick Mullens pass attempt from today’s game. Went 9/13 for 83 yards with three key third-down conversions on the game-winning drive.
He’s a backup-caliber QB, but he at least provides some pocket presence and can make throws in rhythm. pic.twitter.com/ZbMUmZW1gw
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) December 11, 2023
His injury may be an addition by subtraction, giving Ty Chandler an opportunity to give this offense some life. He may be in a position to succeed right away as the Bengals rank 25th or worse in Def Rush DVOA, EPA, and Success Rate. Should Nick Mullens stretch out the secondary, then the Vikings running backs should find themselves with plenty of open field for them to work with.