Minnesota Vikings (8-4) at Arizona Cardinals (10-2)
Aside from the opening game of the season, when the New England Patriots hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers, this is the first non-divisional Thursday Night game of the season. I was disappointed a couple years ago when they decided to do primarily divisional games on Thursday. Not only does the NFL lose quality of performance by having what would otherwise be a good divisional game on a short week, but, from a picking perspective, it can be very tough to predict who is going to cover a Thursday Night divisional game.
Ordinarily, the better team tends to cover on Thursday Night, as long as they are at home, because better teams that don’t have to travel are at a serious advantage on a short week, but not in a divisional game because the teams are so familiar with each other. Divisional home favorites on Thursday Night are 22-21 ATS since 2002, but non-divisional home favorites, like the Cardinals here, are 26-12 ATS, including 12-3 ATS as favorites of 7+.
The Cardinals are favored by 9 here. They were only favored by 6 a week ago on the early line and typically I like to fade that kind of significant week-to-week line movement because it tends to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but I don’t mind it here. The Cardinals are coming off of a resounding 27-3 victory in St. Louis, a game in which they won the first down battle 29 to 9, while the Vikings are coming off of a resounding 38-7 home loss to the Seattle Seahawks, a game in which they lost the first down battle 25-9.
The Vikings are also going to be without defensive tackle Linval Joseph for the 2nd straight week and are also missing safety Harrison Smith and outside linebacker Anthony Barr, three of their best players. The Cardinals, who have the fewest first downs allowed AND the most first downs gained in the NFL this season, rank 1st in rate of moving the chains by a wide margin, while the Vikings are down in 18th and are even less talented than that suggests because of those three key absences, so, while this line seems high, I don’t mind laying all these points. The Cardinals should be the right side.
Arizona Cardinals 27 Minnesota Vikings 13
Pick against the spread: Arizona-9