Detroit Lions (3-4) at Minnesota Vikings (2-5)
This line was finally reposted at Minnesota -3.5, after confirmation that Lions quarterback Matt Stafford would be able to play despite being placed in the COVID contact tracing protocol earlier in the week. Earlier in the week I liked the Vikings at that number and I like them even more now that Stafford will be playing despite not practicing all week. The Lions are also now without starting safety Tracy Walker and starting left guard Joe Dahl due to injury and likely will be without top linebacker Jarrad Davis as well, in addition to top defensive end Trey Flowers and top wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who were ruled out earlier in the week.
The Vikings have just two wins, but they beat the Packers last week and, while that was in part due to the Packers looking ahead to a big rematch against the 49ers on a short week, the Vikings being competitive with high level teams is no fluke. They were a 4th down conversion away from beating the Seahawks and the Titans needed to go 6 for 6 on field goals, including 3 for 3 on 50+ yard field goals, to beat the Vikings by a single point. In total, the Vikings have allowed 19 of 19 field goals against, which is highly unlikely to continue going forward.
The Vikings could easily be 4-3 right now, despite a relatively tough schedule, and that doesn’t even take into account that the Vikings fared much better on a per play basis than the final score suggests in losses to the Falcons and to the Packers in their week 1 matchup, or that the Vikings were missing top offensive player Dalvin Cook in that Atlanta loss. In terms of first down rate differential, when adjusted for schedule, the Vikings rank 3rd in the NFL at +3.19%. While I don’t think they’re quite that good, I have them 14th in my roster rankings, and there’s definitely a strong case for them being significantly better than their record.
The Lions, meanwhile, are 3-4, but one of their win came in an improbable comeback against the Falcons, another came by 3 in Arizona in a game in which they won the turnover battle by 3, but lost the first down rate battle by 8.96%, and the third came against a banged up Jaguars team that is one of the worst in the league. Their four losses, meanwhile, have come by a combined 51 points, giving them a -29 point differential, 22nd in the NFL.
In schedule adjusted first down rate differential, they are even worse, ranking 30th at -4.12%, as they haven’t played that well against a relatively easy schedule, and that doesn’t even take into account all of the Lions’ absences or the disruptions to their week this week. The Vikings should be favored by at least a touchdown, so we’re getting great value with them at 3.5. There isn’t a great choice this week, but the Vikings are my Pick of the Week.
Minnesota Vikings 35 Detroit Lions 27
Pick against the spread: Minnesota -3.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week