Minnesota Vikings (6-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-4)
Aaron Rodgers is normally deadly off a loss, going 14-9 ATS in that situation in his career, including 10-4 ATS since 2009, which excludes 2008, his first year as a starter. However, as favorites of a touchdown or more, he’s just 4-3 ATS in that situation in his career. Besides, I still think the Packers are an overrated bunch. They’re not the same team as they were last year. The best they can hope to be is a team like in 2010, when they got hot at the right time, but they’re not the dominant regular season team they were last year, which is kind of what this spread suggests.
The biggest reason why is injuries. Already missing stud middle linebacker Desmond Bishop and replacement DJ Smith for the season, the Packers have also put starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga and starting rush linebacker Nick Perry on injured reserve recently. Greg Jennings returns for this one, but in limited fashion and he won’t fix their biggest flaws, which are the defense, offensive line, and running game. Defensively, key players Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews have already been ruled out for this one.
In a way, this injury situation is worse than it was in 2010. In 2010, the sheer volume of injuries they had was ridiculous, but they were able to keep key players like Jennings, Matthews, and Woodson healthy all year. They never lost a player as talented and important as anyone in that trio. Matthews’ injury has been the key one since that’s the most recent one. Without him and Perry, they’re getting no pressure on the quarterback and that should continue this week. Those are their starting rush linebackers and their defensive line is once again getting minimal pressure on the quarterback. They rank 29th in the league in pass rush efficiency (sacks + .75(hits) + .75(hurries)/pass rush snaps) and that includes games that Matthews and Perry played.
They were able to rank 2nd in opponent’s scoring in 2010 despite injuries because Matthews, Woodson, and Bishop stayed healthy and because BJ Raji, Cullen Jenkins, Nick Collins, and Tramon Williams all played at a Pro-Bowl level. Jenkins left as a free agent and wasn’t really replaced. Collins had to retire because of injuries. Raji is having a 2nd straight down year. Only Williams is playing close to the level he was playing at in 2010. They’ve added a couple nice young players to the mix like Casey Hayward, but this is nowhere near the defense it was in 2010 so the situations aren’t comparable. They’re not as good as they were in 2010 and they’re certainly not as good as they were last year in the regular season.
Last year, they didn’t exactly play great defense either, but they were able to make up for it with a combination of an incredible turnover differential and one of the best offensive outputs of all time. After going +24 in turnovers last year and forcing 38 takeaways, this year they are just +5 with 16 takeaways through 11 games. Aaron Rodgers, maybe not so unsurprisingly, has been unable to match his record levels of production from a year ago, thanks to injuries on offense and no running game.
After scoring 35.0 points per game last year, they are at just 24.8 per game this year, thanks to injuries to receivers, most notably Jennings, as well as struggles on the ground and on the offensive line, which have only gotten worse with Bulaga out. That might still seem like a lot of points, and it is, 13th in the NFL, but compared to last year and with the team still having issues defensively, it’s enough to knock them out of the ranks as an elite team. They’re not bad at all. I just think they’re overrated.
The numbers back me up. This team is just 15th in net points per drive, though they are 6th in DVOA and weighted DVOA and none of those numbers take into account that their injury situation has gotten worse. Minnesota, meanwhile, is 19th in net points per drive, 17th in DVOA and 18th in weighted DVOA. Using net points per drive to compute real line, this line should be Green Bay -5.5, instead of -7.5, which is a huge deal because -6 and -7 are both key numbers. The fact that Green Bay is better in DVOA than net points per drive nullifies some of that because DVOA is net points per drive based, but takes into account other things like strength of schedule, but it doesn’t take into account current injury situations, so I think we’re still getting line value with the Vikings.
Minnesota is missing Percy Harvin for this one, but Christian Ponder did have a good game against Detroit without him, before face planting against Chicago. He’s an inconsistent rookie quarterback who was heavily reliant on Harvin before he got hurt, so that makes sense, but Green Bay’s pass defense is closer to Detroit’s than Chicago’s, so Ponder might be able to have a bounce back game. The Vikings are also in a good spot as road dogs off a road loss. Since 2008, teams are 83-47 ATS in that spot. Meanwhile, divisional favorites of a more than a touchdown are 2-8 ATS this season. It’s not a huge play on the Vikings, but they should be able to keep this one within a touchdown.
Public lean: Green Bay (50% range)
Sharps lean: MIN 15 GB 3
Final update: That’s a pretty strong sharps lean on Minnesota. This was one of the games I was torn on going to 3 units on. I think I’ll up it to 3.
Green Bay Packers 27 Minnesota Vikings 23
Pick against spread: Minnesota +7.5 (-110) 3 units