May 20, 2024

A pair of fringe playoff teams duke it out this weekend, as the Minnesota Vikings travel to Paycor Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL’s first Saturday action of the season.

Despite losing quarterback Joe Burrow for the season, the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) have barely missed a beat on offense. The Bengals are 2-1 in the three games that Jake Browning has started and have scored 34 points each of the last two weeks. They’ve even taken down playoff hopefuls like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts. The team may be last place in the crowded AFC North, but the Bengals are right in the thick of the playoff race, and a win on Saturday would help them out tremendously.

The Minnesota Vikings (7-6) are in a similar boat. Fortunately for them though, the path to the playoffs is in their hands. If the postseason started today, the Vikings would be in as the NFC’s six-seed. That said, they should not feel good about their situation. While the midseason addition of Joshua Dobbs looked great at the start, he slowly tailed off leading up to being benched last week against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Vikings will roll with veteran Nick Mullens as their starter, marking it the fourth starting quarterback they’ve had this year. This will be Mullens’ first start since 2021, and he may not even have star wideout Justin Jefferson for it.

Predictions:
Sportsbook Wire: Under 39

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Sportsbook Wire points out that the Minnesota Vikings have been one of the best teams to bet the under on all year. In their 13 games, the Vikings have only eclipsed the over in three. With the unproven Mullens under center and Browning facing his toughest defense yet, under-39 could be a solid play.

Sports Illustrated: Bengals (-3.5)

Mark Lammey writes, “Dobbs was benched during last Sunday’s game, as the offense was held scoreless for nearly the entire game. It took a field goal with two minutes left to win an ugly 3-0 game. That may speak to a solid Vikings defense, but we’ve seen what this Cinci offense can do with the weapons surrounding Browning.”

Fox Sports: Cincinnati 23, Minnesota 18

Fox Sports points out that while the Bengals have not covered once this year as 3.5-point favorites or greater, the Vikings’ offense is just too unpredictable to comfortably side with. This seems like a good opportunity for Browning to prove himself worthy of the praise he’s been getting and push the Bengals closer to a playoff berth.

CBS Sports: Bengals (-3.5)

Jordan Dajani writes, “I like how the Bengals have been playing. Browning has the highest completion percentage in any player’s first three career starts in NFL history (79.3%), Cincinnati may have found a new weapon in Chase Brown and the defense has been impressive as well. I think Brian Flores may have a couple of surprises for Browning, but I want to ride with him as opposed to Mullens.”

Athlon: Cincinnati 23, Minnesota 18

The Bengals may be the favorites, but the team is 1-2 this year when given -170 odds or greater. They are under .500 when given odds this good. That does not bode well for them. Regardless, it seems no one is willing to ride with the veteran Mullens, and it is likely that Justin Jefferson’s questionable status may be a big reason why.

NFL Week 15 Vikings vs. Bengals odds, lines:
The Bengals are favorites to defeat the Vikings, according to the BetMGM NFL odds. Looking to wager? Check out the best mobile sports betting apps offering NFL betting promos in 2023.

Betting odds, as of Thursday afternoon:

Spread: Bengals (-3.5)
Moneyline: Bengals (-190); Vikings (+155)
Over/under: 39
How to watch Minnesota Vikings vs. Cincinnati Bengals:
When: Saturday, December 16, 2023
Where: Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio
Time: 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT
TV: NFL Network
Stream: NFL+, FuboTV
Stream the game:Catch the NFL’s Saturday action with Fubo

Fantasy News:
With Nick Mullens under center, the Minnesota Vikings will likely use a lot of screens, half-field reads, and swing passes. Who benefits most from those? The best wide receiver, the tight end, and the running back. That means there could be big receiving days in store for running back Ty Chandler, tight end TJ Hockenson, and either Justin Jefferson or Jordan Addison depending on whether or not Jefferson is healthy.

While avoiding any and all Vikings pass-catchers might be the consensus considering Mullens isn’t the greatest quarterback, Mullens has been able to quarterback for standout fantasy performances in the past. In 2018, as a member of the 49ers, he threw for 414 yards in a loss against Seattle. In that game, former second-round receiver Dante Pettis put up five receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for -2 yards. That’s a 29.7 point fantasy performance from a wideout most people consider a bust and Mullens has hopefully only improved and developed since then. He’s still only 28 years old after all. Imagine what he could do with the likes of Justin Jefferson.

On the Cincinnati side, the starts are obvious. You’re not benching Ja’Marr Chase or Joe Mixon. Mixon has actually been the No. 2 scoring halfback in fantasy over the last four weeks. The questions lie with quarterback Jake Browning and wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Bench Higgins. As great a player as he is, the Bengals offense doesn’t seem to be involving him as much with Browning under center. The short screens and swing passes are all going to Mixon, Chase, or even rookie running back Chase Brown. Higgins has been left on the sideline. While he is still good for a big play or two at some point during the game, his volume is not substantial enough to warrant starting him with confidence.

Bench Browning as well. As great as he has looked, the Minnesota Vikings defense has looked even better as of late. They are top-five in nearly every important category and opposing quarterbacks have not scored more than 20 fantasy points against them since Week 5. In fact, quarterbacks haven’t even scored 10 fantasy points in two straight games.

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