Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (10-2) at Carolina Panthers (8-4)

One of my favorites things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movement, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. That’s definitely the case in this game, as this line has shifted from Carolina -2.5 last week on the early line to Minnesota -3 this week. The Vikings won in Atlanta last week, but Atlanta was missing their top cornerback Desmond Trufant and had another game in 4 days, so that win wasn’t a huge surprise.

The Panthers lost to an undermanned Saints team (Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, Terron Armstead) that also had another game in 4 days, but that game was closer than the final score, as the Panthers botched a punt in their own territory and then extended a New Orleans drive with a personal foul penalty 3 plays later. Had that not happened, the Panthers might have been able to kick a field goal early in the 4th quarter, rather than going for it on 4th and 6 down 14. The Saints only ended up winning the first down rate battle by +0.09%, despite the 10 point win.

The Panthers were also without center Ryan Kalil and tight end Greg Olsen last week, both of whom figure to be back this week. That should be a big boost to this offense. I still have this line at Carolina -1.5, so getting a full field goal with the Panthers at home is a great value. The Vikings are also in a tough spot in their 3rd straight road game. Teams are 77-95 ATS in that spot since 1989. I like the Panthers a lot this week. As long as you can get the full field goal, this is a high confidence pick. I also like the money line at +125.

Carolina Panthers 17 Minnesota Vikings 16 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3

Confidence: High

Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (7-4)

The Falcons have had an up and down season, but they have consistently ranked in the top-5 of my roster rankings all season. They are not as well coached as last season, when they were the best team in the NFC, but they still have essentially the same core as last season and they could be ready to go on a run. I bet on the Falcons as 9.5 point home favorites over the Buccaneers last week because I thought they were undervalued. Under ordinary circumstances, I’d consider betting on the Falcons as 3 point home favorites over the Vikings this week, as this line suggests these two teams are about even and I have the Falcons as about 1.5 points better.

These are not ordinary circumstances though, as the Falcons have to turn around and play another tough game against the division leading Saints in 4 days on Thursday Night Football. Favorites are 64-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to give your best effort when you have another game in 4 days. The Vikings have another tough game next week too, as they next head to Carolina to face the 8-3 Panthers, but that game is at least on normal rest. The Falcons are my pick for pick ‘em purposes, but this is a no confidence pick.

Atlanta Falcons 23 Minnesota Vikings 20

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -3

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (8-2) at Detroit Lions (6-4)

I did not have strong confidence in either side in the Rams/Vikings matchup last week, but I was hoping the Rams would win. The Vikings were 1.5 point underdogs in Detroit on the early line last week in this Thanksgiving matchup and I thought the line might move to 3 if the Vikings lost. I would have been very excited to bet the Vikings as 3 point underdogs, especially if the Vikings switched quarterbacks from Case Keenum to Teddy Bridgewater following a loss. The Lions have had a lot of trouble with top level teams in the past couple seasons and they’ve been a mediocre team in first down rate differential over those two seasons as well.

Instead, the Vikings beat the Rams 24-7 and this line subsequently moved to 3 in favor of the Vikings, so a completely different outcome than I was hoping for. That 4.5 point line movement seems like a major overreaction to the Vikings’ win last week. The Rams are a quality opponent, but were not as good as their 7-2 record suggested because they had faced such a weak schedule. That win also keeps Keenum as the Vikings’ quarterback for another week. Keenum is playing as well as he ever has, but Bridgewater was a legitimate franchise quarterback before going down and probably still gives them a better chance to win the Super Bowl. He’s the quarterback the Vikings should be starting in the postseason if they want to make a deep run and it’s in their best interest to get him get some starts in the regular season before then.

Given this line and that Keenum remains the starter for the Vikings, I actually like the Lions’ a decent amount this week. The Lions have had first down rate differentials of -1.90% and -2.49% over the past two seasons respectively and they are 1-4 this season against teams with winning records, after not beating a single playoff team all season in 2016. However, getting a field goal cushion with them is nice, given that about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. They also beat the Vikings earlier this year in Minnesota, in their 1 win over a team with a winning record. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win again, but the Lions are healthier now than they were then with talented left tackle Taylor Decker back from injury and I have this line calculated at even, so we are getting line value with the Lions here. The Vikings also haven’t had a ton of success against winning teams either, as last week was Keenum’s first victory over a likely playoff opponent and it came against a team that has also faced a weak schedule. This is a low confidence pick, but the money line makes some sense given that it’s at +130 and that this game is a toss up at best.

Detroit Lions 24 Minnesota Vikings 23 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Detroit +3

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (7-2) at Minnesota Vikings (7-2)

Case Keenum and Jared Goff were the two starting quarterbacks for the Rams last season, on a team that went 4-12. Now Keenum and Goff face off against each other as quarterbacks of 7-2 teams in the middle of a race for a first round bye in the NFC. The #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Goff lost all 7 of his starts for the Rams last season after taking over for the veteran Keenum mid-season, but he’s taken a huge step forward in his 2nd season in the league and he has a lot more talent around him on an overall much better coached team.

They’ve won with convincing margins of victory and rank 4th in first down rate differential. Their easy schedule has been a big part of their success though, as 5 of their 7 wins have come against the Cardinals, Colts, 49ers, Texans, and Giants. Beating the Cowboys and Jaguars is impressive, but the Cowboys were without top linebacker Sean Lee in that game and the Rams scored two special teams touchdowns against the Jaguars. In addition to that, they’ve also lost at home to the Seahawks and Redskins.

The Vikings are arguably the toughest team they’ve faced this season, surprisingly led by Case Keenum. When the veteran journeyman Keenum signed with the Vikings this off-season, he looked bound for a backup job at best. Sam Bradford was coming off of a solid, healthy season as the starting quarterback, while Teddy Bridgewater looked like he could be ready to return as a reserve at some point in the season. However, Bradford hasn’t played much since week 1 due to a knee injury and Keenum is playing so well in his absence that the Vikings are keeping Bridgewater on the bench even though he is now healthy enough to play. Like Goff, Keenum isn’t doing this by himself, as he has a strong supporting cast, but this is the best football he’s played in his career and it’s tough to bench him at this point.

That being said, in the long run benching Keenum is probably the best decision. This team has the supporting cast to compete for a Super Bowl if they have strong quarterback play in the post-season. Keenum is hot right now, but he’s probably not the quarterback who can take them where they want to be. Bridgewater is more of a question mark, but he has the upside to take this team on a run and they should try to get him back into the lineup as quickly as they can so he can have a few starts under his belt by the post-season.

If Bridgewater was starting this game, I’d pick the Vikings, but, with Keenum, I calculated this line exactly where it is, at -2.5, so we’re not getting any line value with Minnesota. Given that, I’m taking the Rams because, unlike the Vikings, they have a normal week of rest on deck. The Vikings, meanwhile, go to Detroit on a short week for a Thanksgiving game. Favorites are just 61-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to be focused for an inferior opponent with another game right around the corner. This is a no confidence pick, but the Rams are the choice for pick ‘em purposes.

Minnesota Vikings 17 Los Angeles Rams 16

Pick against the spread: LA Rams +2.5

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-2) at Washington Redskins (4-4)

The Redskins are a solid 4-4 and just beat the Seahawks in Seattle without 4 starting offensive linemen, but they still aren’t getting a ton of respect from the oddsmakers as they are 1.5 point home underdogs against the Vikings. The Redskins could get all 4 offensive linemen back this week, while right tackle Mike Remmers is out for the Vikings, so I have this line calculated at -1.5 in favor of the Redskins. Games decided by less than 3 points are rare so the line value we’re getting isn’t worth that much, but this line suggests the Vikings are 4.5 points better and that they would be about 7 or 7.5 point favorites if this game was in Minnesota. I like the Vikings, as they rank 10th in my roster rankings, but I think that’s a little off. The Redskins are only a low confidence pick, but the money line at +105 makes some sense for a small bet.

Washington Redskins 19 Minnesota Vikings 17 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Washington +1.5

Confidence: Low

Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (5-2) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-7) in London

At 0-7, the Browns are winless to start the season for the second straight year, after starting last season 0-14. However, they rank 22nd in first down rate differential at -1.65%, so they’ve actually done a pretty decent job of putting together drives compared to their opponents. The problem is they can’t finish those drives, thanks to a league worst -11 turnover margin. Typically, I like to bet on teams with bad turnover margins because turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, but the Browns’ quarterback situation is so bad that it’s hard to get excited about betting on them in any situation. On the season, they’ve thrown 17 interceptions (11 by DeShone Kizer, 5 by Kevin Hogan, and 1 by Cody Kessler), while no other team has thrown more than 10, and that is the single biggest factor in their turnover margin.

The Browns also enter this game banged up. They will be without defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Jason McCourty, arguably their two best defensive players this season, as well as left tackle Joe Thomas, their dominant left tackle who will miss the rest of the season after 10,363 consecutive snaps to begin his career. The Vikings are not a great team with Case Keenum under center, but they get Stefon Diggs back from a 2-game absence this week and I have these two teams about 10 points apart in my roster rankings given the injury situation of these two teams.

The Vikings are 9.5 point favorites in this neutral site game in London, so we aren’t really getting line value with them, but the better team does tend to cover in these neutral site games. Favorites are 19-9 ATS in neutral site games since 1989, including 11-1 ATS as favorites of 4 or more. It makes sense that the better team would be better prepared for playing in a weird neutral site overseas game like this. There isn’t enough line value for me to take the Vikings confidently, but they have a good chance to cover this spread.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Cleveland Browns 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -9.5

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (3-3) at Minnesota Vikings (4-2)

I wish I had locked the Vikings in at -3 last week on the early line. After the Ravens’ embarrassing home loss to the Bears last week (in which they failed to score on offensive touchdown), this line shifted from -3 to -5.5. That’s too many points to confidently lay with a team quarterbacked by Case Keenum, even against a Baltimore team that I’ve thought all season is overrated. I have this line right at -5.5, given that the Vikings will be without top wide receiver Stefon Diggs and that the Ravens will get defensive lineman Brandon Williams back from injury, so we’re not getting any line value either way.

The Vikings are in a tough spot with their London game on deck, as teams are understandably 14-24 ATS before going to London, but the Ravens have to face the Dolphins on a short week after this one, so it kind of evens out. On top of that, the Vikings are going to London to face the Browns, so it’s not like they have a tough upcoming game. Given that, I’m going to take the Vikings here, but this is a no confidence pick as we’ve lost all line value after Baltimore’s terrible performance last week.

Minnesota Vikings 19 Baltimore Ravens 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -5.5

Confidence: None