Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)
Even when the Vikings were 5-0, I thought they were overrated and an average team at best. Their defense is obviously incredible, but their offense was about as ineffective as their defense was effective through the first 5 games of the season. It was just masked by a +11 turnover margin and a +4 return touchdown margin, two things that tend to be very tough to rely on. Sure enough, the Vikings have been +0 in turnover margin and -1 in return touchdown margin over the past 2 games and have lost their first two games of the season. Their loss in Philadelphia was understandable because the Eagles are a solid team, but last week’s 20-10 loss against a supposedly inferior Bears team was embarrassing for the Vikings.
Now they return home and are 6.5 point home favorites over the Detroit Lions. Despite the back-to-back losses, the odds makers are still overrating them. Their offense has fallen to dead last in the NFL in first down percentage and, as good as their defense is (4th), they still rank just 22nd in first down percentage differential on the season. That’s actually one spot behind the Lions, who rank 21st. The Vikings have had a tougher schedule than the Lions, but this line is way too high at 6.5.
The Lions also enter this game in a better injury situation than they’ve had in awhile. Both cornerback Darius Slay and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata are expected to return from 1-game and 2-game absences respectively on defense this week. Before Ngata went down, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah missed 3 games in a row with injury. Linebacker DeAndre Levy remains out with injury, but Slay, Ngata, and Ansah are 3 of the 4 best defensive players on an overall weak defense and they’re playing in the same game for the first time since week 2 this week.
That should help a defense that ranks 28th in first down percentage allowed. Offensively, they have Theo Reddick and Eric Ebron back healthy and those are two of their top pass catchers. Those are just added weapons for an offense that ranks 4th in first down percentage. The Vikings, meanwhile, remain without running back Adrian Peterson, starting tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith, and stud defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who are out indefinitely. They’ll be joined this week by starting middle linebacker Eric Kendricks and starting left guard Alex Boone.
The Lions are also in a great spot here in their 2nd of two road games. Teams are 133-102 ATS as road underdogs off a road loss since 2008, including 105-70 ATS when it’s their 2nd of 2 road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 226-241 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.85 points per game, as opposed to 323-453 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 3.03 points per game. The Vikings remain overrated, so I’ll bet against them once again.
Minnesota Vikings 20 Detroit Lions 17
Pick against the spread: Detroit +6.5