Minnesota Vikings (0-3) at Houston Texans (0-3)
Both of these teams qualified for the post-season last year, but they’ve both gotten off to 0-3 starts that will make it tough for them to make it back to the post-season, even with an extra wild card spot being added. With both teams desperately wanting to avoid going 0-4, this will be essentially a must win game for both teams. A lot of attention has been given to the brutal start to their season that the Texans have had schedule wise, as they’ve faced the Ravens, Chiefs, and Steelers, but the Vikings’ schedule hasn’t been much easier, as they’ve faced the Packers, Colts, and Titans.
The Vikings have also outplayed the Texans. While the Texans have ranked 27th in first down rate differential at -4.45%, the Vikings have actually ranked 11th at +2.76%, with their struggles being primarily due to a -5 turnover margin that is the third worst in the NFL. Turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, so the Vikings won’t necessarily continue struggling with turnovers just because they have in the first three games and they’ve had some other fluky things go against them as well, including teams making 12 of 12 field goals against them and converting 4 for 4 on 4th down (as opposed to 0 for 2 for the Vikings).
Despite the Vikings’ early edge and the fact that the Texans won’t have a normal homefield advantage, the Texans are favored by 3.5 points at home. Given that about 1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer, this line is way too high. My calculated line is Houston -1, so Minnesota is worth a small bet this week. The two most likely outcomes of this game are either team winning by a field goal, two results that would both be covers for the Texans.
Houston Texans 24 Minnesota Vikings 23
Pick against the spread: Minnesota +3.5