Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
The Vikings started just 1-5, but there were a lot of reasons to believe they’d be significantly better going forward, as they were struggling primarily due to metrics that are highly inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and they had faced a tough schedule. The Vikings have more or less been as I’ve expected since their tough start, winning four of the past five games to bring their record up to a respectable 5-6, but the metrics that showed the Vikings had a good chance for significant improvement going forward still show that.
The Vikings have a 89.66% field goal percentage against, a net -18.2% 4th down conversion rate, and a -6 turnover margin (4th worst in the NFL), which is primarily due to their league worst fumble recovery rate (33.33%) and Kirk Cousins’ interception rate (3.44%) being nearly double his interception rate in his previous 5 seasons (1.90%). They’ve also faced a tough schedule overall, even if it’s gotten easier in recent weeks, and, overall, they rank 8th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +2.15%. That lines up with my roster rankings, which also has them 8th.
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 7-4 against a tough schedule 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. They’re far better than their record suggests.
This line is high at 10, but I think it should be even higher, as the Jaguars are arguably the worst team in the league. Most expected them to be one of, if not the worst teams in the league coming into the season, due to the complete teardown of this roster over the past couple years since the AFC Championship. They threw some people off the scent by randomly winning their first game of the season against the Colts, but have proven to be as bad as expected, losing ten straight games by 10.5 points per game.
The Jaguars rank 31st in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at -4.90% and dead last in my roster rankings, as their already depleted roster is missing several key players, including quarterback Gardner Minshew, talented guard Andrew Norwell, top edge defender Josh Allen, and their top-3 cornerbacks CJ Henderson, Sidney Jones, and DJ Hayden. I have this line calculated at Minnesota -13, as they should win this game easily. This isn’t a great spot for the Vikings, as they have to go to Tampa Bay after this one and favorites of 10+ are 65-83 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs, but the Jaguars have another tough game on deck against the Titans and teams are 58-97 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 6 or more. Even at this big number, the Vikings are worth a bet.
Minnesota Vikings 33 Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Pick against the spread: Minnesota -10