Indianapolis Colts (4-8-1) at Minnesota Vikings (10-3)
The Vikings are 10-3 and the Colts are 4-8-1, so it might come as a surprise that the Vikings are just 4-point home favorites in this game, but it makes sense. As good as the Vikings’ record is, they have had to go a ridiculous 9-0 in one score games, which is not sustainable or predictive long-term, and actually have a losing record (1-3) in games decided by more than one-score, leading to them actually having a negative point differential at -1. They have also benefitted from a +6 turnover margin (4th in the NFL), which is not sustainable or predictive week-to-week, and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is more predictive than anything, the Vikings rank just 20th, about 1.5 points below average.
The Colts, on the other hand, have a -89 point differential that is 2nd worst in the NFL, but their biggest problem has been their league worst -14 turnover margin and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, they rank 23rd, about 3 points below average, not far behind the Vikings. The Colts were blown out by 35 in their last game, prior to last week’s bye, but the Colts lost the turnover margin by four in that game, making the final score worse than it would have been otherwise and teams tend to bounce back off of blowout defeats pretty well anyway, covering the spread at a 58.9% rate after losing by 35+ points, including a 61.5% cover rate after a bye week.
That may seem counterintuitive, but teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed after a big blowout loss like that and I think all three will be the case this week, especially with the Colts having an extra week to think about their blowout loss. Also counterintuitive is the fact that teams cover the spread at a 54.1% rate when facing a team with a turnover margin that is 15+ points better than there’s, but it makes sense when you consider that turnover margins don’t have nearly as much predictive value week-to-week as most people think.
The Colts have also had several key players miss significant time due to injury this season, most notably quarterback Matt Ryan (two games missed), top offensive lineman Braden Smith (one game missed), feature back Jonathan Taylor (three games missed), top edge defender Kwity Paye (five games missed), and top linebacker Shaq Leonard (ten games missed), and all of those players have since returned except Leonard, who has barely played this season, so the Colts are coming into this week about as healthy as they’ve been all season.
All of this being said, it’s hard to bet on the Colts this week with the line being where it is, only favoring the Vikings by four. A few years ago, I suspect this line would have been seven or higher and the Colts would have been a great bet at that number, but the oddsmakers have gotten significantly smarter in recent years, with the amount of wagers being placed increasing significantly due to legalization, and, as a result, we’re not getting any value with the Colts, even if the public is underrating them and overrating the Vikings. I am still going to take the Colts for pick ‘em purposes as a fade of the public, who is on the Vikings in a big way, setting the books up for a big payday if the Colts cover, but this line is too short to be confident in them.
Minnesota Vikings 23 Indianapolis Colts 20
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +4