Minnesota Vikings (7-3) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
The Falcons started the season a surprising 5-0, but have since fallen back to earth, losing 4 of 5, putting them in a fight to even make the playoffs. Considering 3 of those 5 wins were by a touchdown or less and the best team they beat was probably the Giants (a 24-20 win), that’s not too much of a surprise, but the fact remains that they’ve lost to New Orleans, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and Indianapolis, all teams they were favored against. Their only win in their last 5 games was by 3 in Tennessee, when the Titans were playing without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Falcons are also missing talented running back Devonta Freeman in this one, which was caused the line to shift from 3 on the early line last week to 1 now. Even though about 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal or less, the line movement makes sense, given how important Freeman is to this offense. The Falcons rank 7th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Vikings rank 11th, but, again, the Falcons have had an incredibly easy schedule, with their toughest opponents being the likes of the Colts, Giants, Eagles, and Saints. They haven’t played a single team with a winning record. The Vikings are the best team they’ve faced thus far and they have to do so without a key player. Given that, the Vikings should win, but the 1 point we’re getting with them isn’t enough for me to have any confidence in them on the road.
Update: Harrison Smith is a surprise inactive for the Vikings, a big deal considering he’s one of the best safeties in the NFL. The spread has jumped to 2, which isn’t enough to compensate, so I’m switching sides on this one. Not that it matters because I wouldn’t touch either side without getting a field goal.
Atlanta Falcons 23 Minnesota Vikings 20
Pick against the spread: Atlanta -2