Minnesota Vikings (5-6) at Detroit Lions (0-10-1)
The Lions are famously winless, heading into week 13 at 0-10-1, but winless teams actually tend to be a good bet against the spread this late in the season, as they tend to be undervalued by oddsmakers and the public, they tend to get overlooked by their opponents, and they tend to bring their best effort every week, in desperate pursuit of their first win. In all, winless teams cover at a 63.0% rate in week 9 or later.
The Lions also aren’t getting blown out every week either. They have been outscored by an average of 10.5 points per game, which gives them a point differential of -115, which is actually ahead of a couple teams (Texans and Jets), but even that suggests they are getting blown out more often than they are, with just three of their eleven games resulting in losses by more than 10 points, including a game against the Packers in which they led at halftime in Green Bay.
The Vikings have not had any blowout losses, with their 8-point loss to the 49ers last week being their biggest margin of defeat of the season, but that seems to be a well known fact by the public, as many consider them a couple wins better than their record. However, that ignores that most of their wins have been close as well, including a few that could have gone the other way and just one win by multiple scores, relevant considering this is a 7.5-point line. Their point differential is +5 and their efficiency ratings don’t make them look any better, as they rank 14th, 30th, 5th, and 21st in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, suggesting this has been no better than an average team this season.
Making matters worse for the Vikings, they are dealing with some tough health situations that make them more of a below average team, at least slightly. Their defensive line figures to be healthier this week, with both starting interior defenders Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce likely to return from short-term absences, but they’re still without their two best edge defenders Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, while their secondary is likely to be without top cornerback Patrick Peterson and their linebacking corps is expected to be without top linebacker Eric Kendricks. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings will be without feature back Dalvin Cook and talented starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw, which are both big absences.
My calculated line has the Vikings as just 5-point favorites in Detroit, so we’re getting good line value with the Lions at +7.5. The Vikings are also in a bad spot, having to play again in four days against the Steelers, as favorites have covered at just a 41.2% rate all-time before a Thursday game. With another game around the corner, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Vikings overlook the winless Lions, which could lead to the Lions at least keeping it close, as they have many times this season, including a near win in Minnesota earlier this season, back when the Vikings were healthier. I like the Lions a lot at +7.5.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Detroit Lions 20
Pick against the spread: Detroit +7.5