Green Bay Packers (8-2) at Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
The Packers are 8-2, a year after going 13-3, but they aren’t the same team as a year ago, primarily due to injuries. Already without left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the top players in the league at their respective positions, who have missed most or all of the season, the Packers are now without talented lead back Aaron Jones with a knee injury he suffered in last week’s game. Green Bay’s record is obviously impressive, but they rank just 10th in point differential at +36 and, even if you exclude their two losses, one a somewhat fluky week one game and the other a game in which they lost by one score to the Chiefs without Aaron Rodgers, they would still rank just 5th in point differential at 77, so they are definitely not dominating teams.
That is despite the fact that the Packers have the 4th best turnover margin in the league at +7, which is not a predictive stat that they can rely on going forward. More predictive stats like yards per play and first down rate show this Packers team isn’t as performing at the same level as a year ago, ranking 14th, 13th, and 30th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency. The Vikings are just 4-5, but they have been competitive in every single one of their games, losing at most by 7 points, just once by more than four points, and totalling a +10 point differential on the season.
I have not picked the Vikings lately because of all of their defensive absences, but, while they are still without stud edge defender Danielle Hunter, they will get stud safety Harrison Smith, top cornerback Patrick Peterson, and talented linebacker Anthony Barr all back from multi-game absences this week, which is a significant amount of talent that is being re-added to this lineup.
My calculated line has the Vikings as the slight favorite to win this game, favoring them by 1.5 points and that is not even taking into account that the Packers typically drop off more on the road than the average team, in large part due to Aaron Rodgers having a well above average 10-point quarterback rating drop off between home games and road games in his career.
Unfortunately, we are not getting much line value with the Vikings, who are underdogs of just 1 point. When this opened at 2.5, I was hoping we would get a full field goal at some point, but the line has moved the other direction, with sharp bettors recognizing that the Vikings are significantly healthier on defense than they have been in recent weeks. The money line is still worth a play, but there isn’t enough line value with the spread for that to be worth betting.
Update: This is a late bet, but Rashan Gary will be out for the Packers, despite practicing in limited fashion all week. He has been a big part of their defensive success without Za’Darius Smith, so having both him and Smith out will really limit this defense, in contrast to Minnesota being much healthier on defense. Despite that, this line has moved up to +1.5. I like both the spread and the money line in this game, as my calculated line has the Vikings favored by a field goal.
Minnesota Vikings 31 Green Bay Packers 27 Upset Pick +105
Pick against the spread: Minnesota +1.5