Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings: 2020 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-7) at Minnesota Vikings (4-6)

The Vikings are just 4-6, but there is plenty of reason to believe they’ll be better going forward. Not only have they faced an above average schedule thus far, but a lot of the metrics they’ve struggled in are ones that are very unpredictable on a week-to-week basis, including a league worst 96.00% field goal percentage against, a net -21.2% 4th down conversion rate, and a -4 turnover margin, which is primarily due to their 31st ranked fumble recovery rate (37.50%) and Kirk Cousins’ interception rate (4.00%) being over double his interception rate in his previous 5 seasons (1.90%). 

It’s not hard to see how struggling in those aforementioned metrics has led to the Vikings losing otherwise winnable games, as they were a failed 4th down conversation away from clinching the game in Seattle and lost by 1 to the Titans in a game in which the Titans made 6 of 6 field goals, including a trio from 50+ yards and a 55-yard game winner. The Vikings could easily be 6-4 right now if they had held on to win those two games and that doesn’t even take into account that they won the first down rate battle in losses to the Packers, Falcons, and Cowboys. In terms of schedule adjusted first down rate differential, the Vikings rank 7th at +1.83%, which lines up with my roster rankings, in which they rank 11th. We’ve seen the Vikings go 3-1 since their 1-5 start, largely due to regression in those aforementioned metrics, and I would expect to see that continue going forward.

The Panthers are also better than their record though, ranking 18th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +0.24%, as they’ve faced a tough schedule and have only lost by more than one score twice, both against the Buccaneers, who rank #1 in schedule adjusted first down rate differential. My calculated line is Minnesota -4, so we’re not getting any real line value with the Vikings at -3.5. There also aren’t any relevant situational trends in this matchup, so which side I take for pick ‘em purposes is going to be solely dependent on the eventual status of some players who are questionable to suit up. 

For the Panthers, it’s starting left tackle Russell Okung and starting right guard John Miller, who could return from absences of 6 games and 2 games respectively to bolster this offensive line, while the Vikings have their top wide receiver Adam Thielen uncertain, after a week of inconclusive and conflicting COVID test results. I’m taking Minnesota for now, but I’ll almost definitely have an update before gametime. If Thielen can manage to get cleared and the Panthers don’t get their offensive linemen back, I’ll be more confident in Minnesota, but if the opposite of that happens, I’ll probably flip to Carolina.

Update: It’s all bad news on the injury report for the Vikings, with Thielen out and both Okung and Miller back for the Panthers, giving them a fully healthy offensive line for the first time in weeks. This line has shifted to Minnesota -3, which is right where I have this calculated, but I think I’m going to side with the Panthers slightly. A push is probably the most likely outcome.

Minnesota Vikings 30 Carolina Panthers 27

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3

Confidence: None

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