Minnesota Vikings (2-1) vs. New Orleans Saints (1-2) in London
Typically, the rule of thumb in international games is to take the favorite, as the better team tends to be better equipped to deal with playing a game after an unusual week, going 26-14 ATS all-time. That should be especially true in this matchup between the Vikings and the Saints in London, where the Vikings are undervalued as favorites of only three points. The Vikings are off to a significantly better start than the Saints, going 2-1 with a +3 point differential against a tougher schedule than the Saints, who are 1-2 with a -17 point differential.
The Vikings’ defense and special teams have been mediocre, ranking 21st and 20th in efficiency respectively, even when adjusted for schedule, but the Vikings’ offense ranks 3rd in first down rate, which is the most predictive offensive stat, and, when adjusted for schedule, the Vikings lead the league in offensive efficiency, which is more predictive than defense and special teams. It’s only been three games, so that’s not to say the Vikings are the best offense in the league, and they have had an absence of big plays, with just one play over 40 yards all season, but big plays tend to be much less predictive than first downs and my roster rankings have the Vikings as a well above offense as well.
The Saints, meanwhile, could easily be 0-3 if not for a late comeback to win by one against the Falcons, with their two losses both coming by double digits to the Buccaneers and Panthers. They rank just 21st in overall schedule adjusted efficiency, while the Vikings rank 2nd on the strength of their offense, and are six points behind the Saints in my roster rankings as well. That’s in part because the Vikings are the healthier team, getting back Harrison Smith from a one-game absence and otherwise being in good shape, while the Saints are missing a pair of expected starting offensive lineman (Trevor Penning and Andrus Peat), starting quarterback Jameis Winston, top receiver Michael Thomas, and talented starting safety Marcus Maye. With the Vikings getting good value in a good spot, they are worth a bet this week, one I will increase if this line drops down to 2.5, where it is trending.
Minnesota Vikings 24 New Orleans Saints 17
Pick against the spread: Minnesota -3