Minnesota Vikings (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (8-6)
The Vikings got blown out at home last week as 4.5 point home favorites, losing 34-6 to the Indianapolis Colts. It was a stunning result, but a major outlier for a Vikings team who previously hadn’t lost a game by more than 10 all season. The good news for them is teams tend to bounce back from losses like that, as teams are 95-54 ATS since 2002 off of an against the spread loss of 28 or more. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you think about it, as teams tend to be undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed off of a loss like that.
I can’t guarantee that the Vikings will be embarrassed or overlooked this week, off of that huge home loss, but they’re definitely undervalued with this line moving from 5 on the early line last week to 7 this week. That’s the same amount of points the Packers were favored by three weeks ago against the Texans and the Vikings are definitely a better team than the Texans. Since that mere 8-point victory over the Texans, the Packers have blown out the Seahawks and won in Chicago, but much of that is because of their +10 turnover margin over the past 2 weeks.
Turnover margins tend to be incredibly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis though. In fact, the Packers are just the 11th team since 1989 to have a turnover margin of +10 or better over a 2 weeks span. The previous 10 went 2-8 ATS the following week and had an average turnover margin of -0.3. The Packers probably would have still beaten the Seahawks even if they didn’t win the turnover margin by 6, but the Packers lost the first down battle 29-20 and the first down rate battle by 11.14% last week in Chicago and only won the game on a last second field goal because they won the turnover battle by 4. The Packers’ offense is playing well, but I’m concerned about their defense’s ability to get off the field if they can’t force a turnover.
The Packers are the better team, but the difference in first down rate differential between these two teams is less than a percent and a half, so we’re getting good line value with the Vikings as full touchdown underdogs in Green Bay, especially since there’s a chance safety Harrison Smith could return. It was originally reported that he’d miss the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury, but he returned to practice this week and is at least a gametime decision for this game. He’s arguably the best safety in the NFL and as important to Minnesota’s defense as Earl Thomas is to Seattle’s defense, so he’d be a welcome return. Even if he doesn’t play, I like Minnesota’s chances of covering here.
In addition to Minnesota getting blown out last week, another reason the Packers could overlook the Vikings a little bit this week is they have a tougher game on deck in Detroit, while the Vikings will host the Bears. Divisional home favorites are just 23-61 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road favorites. On top of that, favorites are 61-97 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites, which the Vikings almost definitely will be next week at home against the Bears. The Packers are only 1 point underdogs in Detroit on the early line, but the logic still makes sense. The Packers have a tough upcoming game that could be a distraction for them, while the Vikings don’t. This is my Pick of the Week.
Green Bay Packers 23 Minnesota Vikings 20
Pick against the spread: Minnesota +7
Confidence: Pick of the Week