Minnesota Vikings (2-3) at Carolina Panthers (3-2)
The Vikings are just 2-3, but their three losses have come by a combined 11 points, giving them a positive point differential of +4, despite the fact that the Vikings have faced one of the toughest schedules in the league, 2nd in terms of opponent’s DVOA. The Vikings have also missed some key players to injury that have since returned, with top linebacker Anthony Barr, starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw, and running back Dalvin Cook missing two games, four games, and four games respectively.
All three of those players will be in the lineup for this matchup with the Panthers, who, despite their 3-2 record, are significantly worse than every team the Vikings have faced except for the Lions. The Panthers got out to a 3-0 start, but they took advantage of facing the Jets and Texans, two of the worst teams in the league, who both kept the game relatively competitive, as well as the inconsistent Saints.
Since that 3-0 start, they have lost key players to injury like top cornerback Jaycee Horn, stud feature back Christian McCaffrey, and every down linebacker Shaq Thompson and, with the schedule getting tougher, they have lost to the Cowboys in a game that was not as close as the final score, with the Cowboys winning the first down rate battle and yards per play battle by 7.09% and -1.99, respectively, and then they lost at home to the Eagles, who are middling at best.
In their certain state, I have the Panthers 2.5 points below average, so we’re getting some line value with the Vikings as 2.5 point road favorites. My calculated line is Minnesota -3.5, which might not seem like much line value except for the fact that 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. In a game in which the Vikings basically just need to cover to win, they are worth a play as they are the noticeably better team and should be able to take care of business, even on the road.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Carolina Panthers 20
Pick against the spread: Minnesota -2.5