Minnesota Vikings (5-5) at San Francisco 49ers (5-5)
The 49ers are just 5-5, but they have a point differential that is better than their record at +24, despite dealing with a significant amount of injury absences, many of whom have since returned, and despite a -5 turnover margin, 5th worst in the NFL. Turnover margin is highly non-predictive on a week-to-week basis and the 49ers rank 7th, 6th, 7th, and 4th in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, when adjusted for schedule, which are based on more predictive metrics like first down rate and yards per play, showing them to statistically be one of the best and most well-balanced teams in the league, despite all of the players who missed time earlier this season.
The 49ers have covered by a wide margin in back-to-back games and have overall covered three of their last four games, but they still remain underrated, favored by just 3 points at home against the Vikings. Part of that may be the Vikings being overrated, as the general public sees they have been competitive in all their games and could easily have a few more wins if a few things went their way. They also remember them handing the Packers their second loss of the season with Aaron Rodgers last week.
That analysis leaves out a lot of things though. For one, the Vikings could also just as easily have a few more losses, as just one of their wins has come by more than one score. The Vikings also needed pick sixes in two of their losses to make those games closer than they otherwise would have been and, if not for those, they could easily have a couple multiscore losses. On top of that, their win over the Packers isn’t as impressive as it seems, as the Packers are an overrated team with a lot of injury issues, and the Vikings will be more short-handed than they were a week ago, particularly on the defensive line.
Already without interior defender Michael Pierce and edge defender Danielle Hunter for an extended period of time, the Vikings will add fellow interior defender Dalvin Tomlinson and fellow edge defender Everson Griffen to their list of absences this week, leaving them without their two best players at both positions, which is a big liability for a defense that already ranks just 24th in schedule adjusted efficiency. Their offense and special teams are better, but not good enough to make up for their issues on defense, with their offense ranking 15th in efficiency and their special teams ranking 13th. They should be underdogs of a lot more than three points in San Francisco against a still underrated 49ers team. My calculated line favors the 49ers by 8, so the 49ers are an obvious choice against the spread and my top pick this week.
San Francisco 49ers 31 Minnesota Vikings 23
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -3
Confidence: Pick of the Week