Minnesota Vikings (5-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-2)
The 5-0 Vikings are the NFL’s final remaining undefeated team. They’ve been impressive overall, but their offense actually has struggled to move the ball effectively for most of the season. On 310 offensive plays, they have just 87 first downs (fewest in the NFL) and 9 touchdowns (2nd fewest in the NFL), a 30.97% first down percentage, 31st in the NFL. As a result, they rank just 16th in first down percentage differential, despite an outstanding defense that allows the 4th lowest first down percentage.
They’re 5-0 largely because of a +11 turnover margin and a +4 return touchdown margin. That’s very impressive, but it’s also unsustainable. In fact, there’s almost no week-to-week correlation in turnover margins; teams that have strong turnover margins in one week are just as likely to have poor turnover margins the following week as any other team. If the Vikings are going to continue winning, they’re going to have to play better and won’t be able to rely on the turnover margin.
They have a tough test this week on the road in Philadelphia and have a good chance to lose their first game of the season. The Eagles were the best team in the league through the first 3 games of the season, defeating Cleveland, Chicago, and Pittsburgh all by double digits, the only team in the league to win each of their first 3 games by double digits. They’ve since lost 2 straight, but their loss in Detroit came by just one point and it’s very possible they got caught looking forward to this game in last week’s 7 point loss in Washington.
Overall on the season, they still rank 17th in first down percentage differential, just one spot behind the Vikings and they should be much more focused and this week. Last week’s loss in Washington moved this line from Philadelphia being favored by a point on the early line to Philadelphia now being 3 point home underdogs. About 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, so getting a full field goal is more than it seems. Considering I have these teams about even and the Eagles should probably be favored by a full field goal at home, getting the full field goal with them is a great value.
I love to fade significant week-to-week line movements whenever it makes sense and it makes sense here. Also, despite the line movement, the public is still all over Minnesota and I also love fading the public whenever it makes sense as the public always loses money in the long run. The only reason Philadelphia isn’t my pick of the week is they have another tough game on deck against the Cowboys, while the Vikings have a very easy game in Chicago, meaning they have no real upcoming potential distractions, while the Eagles do. Teams are 81-57 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 4+ and the Vikings are 5.5 point favorites in Chicago on the early line. I still like the Eagles a lot at a field goal though, as a field goal is a good amount of protection at home against a team with an underwhelming offense.
Philadelphia Eagles 17 Minnesota Vikings 16 Upset Pick +130
Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +3