Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: 2019 Week 14 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (3-8-1) at Minnesota Vikings (8-4)

The Lions’ season has gone off the rails since losing quarterback Matt Stafford to an injury. They had a record of 3-4-1 when Stafford went down and have lost 4 straight without him to fall out of post-season contention entirely. The Lions ranked 15th in the NFL in first down rate through 8 games at 36.75%, but they have just a 32.59% first down rate in 4 games without Stafford, which is most equivalent to the 25th ranked Dolphins on the season. With a defense that ranks 28th in first down rate allowed on the season at 38.22%, the Lions don’t have much going for them on either side of the ball right now.

The Lions are on to their third quarterback of the season, undrafted rookie David Blough, with backup Jeff Driskel going on injured reserve, but that might not be a bad thing. Driskel was one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this season and it wouldn’t be hard for Blough to be a little bit of an upgrade. It’s tough to tell from his up and down debut if that’s the case, however, and he doesn’t have an overly talented roster around him, so it’s not an easy situation for the inexperienced rookie.

The Lions are big underdogs in Minnesota this week, with the Vikings favored by 13 points. That’s about right, as the Lions are one of the worst teams in the league and the Vikings rank 5th in first down rate differential at +4.77% and 9th in my roster rankings. We’re not getting enough line value to take the Vikings confidently, but they seem like the right side as long as left tackle Riley Reiff is able to get cleared from his concussion. If he can’t, I’ll probably switch this pick to Detroit. This is a no confidence pick either way.

Final Update: Reiff is playing, so the Vikings should be the right side.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Detroit Lions 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -13

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks: 2019 Week 13 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (8-3) at Seattle Seahawks (9-2)

Prior to last week’s bye week, the Vikings barely escaped as double digit home favorites over a Broncos team that was quarterbacked by third string Brandon Allen. That’s not as concerning as that sounds though. Not only were the Vikings missing key players like wide receiver Adam Thielen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, safety Anthony Harris, and right guard Josh Kline, but the Vikings actually won the first down rate battle in that game by 10.32%, winning the game despite losing the turnover battle and despite allowing 4 conversions on 4th down. The Vikings had one more combined touchdown and first down in that game, even though the Broncos were able to run 17 more snaps, so I’m not worried about the underwhelming final score in that game.

Now the Vikings are healthy coming out of their bye and that comes at a perfect time, as they have a matchup with the 9-2 Seahawks this week. The Seahawks have obviously played well this season, but it’s definitely worth noting how many of their wins have been close, as teams with more blowout victories tend to do better moving forward than teams with more close victories. Of the Seahawks nine victories, just one came by more than a touchdown. 

If not for missed makeable field goals by the Rams and 49ers, the Seahawks would be just 7-4 right now and in a battle to even make the post-season. They rank 9th in point differential at +29 and just 13th in first down rate differential at +1.19%. The Vikings are significantly better in both metrics at +84 and +5.08% respectively and, entering this game relatively healthy, they have a noticeable edge in my roster rankings as well. My calculated line for this game is even, so I like the Vikings getting a full field goal.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Seattle Seahawks 23 Upset Pick +140

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +3

Confidence: Medium

Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings: 2019 Week 11 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-6) at Minnesota Vikings (7-3)

The Vikings are in a great spot this week, favored by 10 points at home going into their bye week, as large favorites tend to take care of business at home before a week off. Since 2002, home favorites of 6+ are 49-17 ATS before a regular season bye. Unfortunately, the Vikings are going into their bye week pretty shorthanded, which could really hurt their chances of covering this big spread. Still without Pro-Bowl wide receiver Adam Theilen due to injury, the Vikings’ offense will also be without starting right guard Josh Kline this week, a blow to an already underwhelming offensive line. On defense, talented safety Anthony Harris will join key run stuffing defensive tackle Linval Joseph on the sidelines this week. Missing those four key players, we’re not getting any line value with the Vikings this week.

The Broncos are 3-6 and starting third string quarterback Brandon Allen, but they’re better than that suggests. Their offense has significant problems, with Allen under center, top offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James out indefinitely with injury, and top wide receiver Emmnauel Sanders traded to the 49ers, but their defense is legitimately one of the best in the NFL, ranking 3rd in first down rate allowed at 31.71%, only behind the Patriots and 49ers. They’ve allowed just 13 offensive touchdowns in 9 games, led by defensive minded head coach Vic Fangio. Their defense could easily keep this game competitive against a banged up Vikings team. We’re not getting enough line value with the Broncos to pick them against such a strong trend on the Vikings’ side (my calculated line is Minnesota -8.5), but this is a no confidence pick either way.

Minnesota Vikings 24 Denver Broncos 13

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -10

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys: 2019 Week 10 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-3) at Dallas Cowboys (5-3)

The Cowboys have a solid 5-3 record, but I think they’re even better than that suggests. While their 3 losses have come by a combined 14 points, their 5 wins have come by a combined 99 points, giving them a point differential of +85 that ranks 3rd in the NFL and they’ve done that despite minimal benefit from turnover margins (+1 on the season), which tend to be inconsistent week-to-week. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 3rd at 7.58% and they actually won the first down rate in two of their three losses and in seven of eight games overall. 

The 6-3 Vikings have played well this season and have faced a slightly tougher schedule than the Cowboys, but the Cowboys still have a significant edge in first down rate differential, with the Vikings coming into this game in 6th at +4.41%, and the Cowboys have an edge in my roster rankings as well, especially with the Vikings missing key defensive tackle Linval Joseph. I have this line calculated at Dallas -5, so we’re getting some line value here with Dallas only favored by a field goal at home.

There is also the matter of Kirk Cousins’ well documented issues in primetime games. Not only are his teams 6-13 straight up in night games, but they haven’t performed well against the spread either at 5-13-1 ATS, including 1-7-1 ATS on the road. The Vikings are more than just Kirk Cousins and have a strong roster around the quarterback, but in a tough matchup like this they will need Cousins to play well it’s entirely possible he just doesn’t play as well in later games. I wouldn’t go crazy with this bet because the Vikings are still a tough opponent, but the Cowboys should be able to win by a field goal or more at home.

Dallas Cowboys 26 Minnesota Vikings 20

Pick against the spread: Dallas -3

Confidence: Medium

Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs: 2019 Week 9 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (6-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (5-3)

Pat Mahomes has not officially been ruled out for the second straight week, as he works back from a dislocated kneecap, but he worked with the second team in practice all week and is not expected to start this game, with oddsmakers already putting up a line of Minnesota -4 before an official confirmation on Mahomes’ status. I’m hesitant to lock this game in before confirmation, but if Mahomes does not play and this line remains about the same, I expect to make a wager on the Vikings.

It’s not exactly a bold take to say that the Chiefs are significantly worse without Mahomes, but they’ve fallen from a 44.96% first down rate with Mahomes over the past 2 seasons to a 32.29% first down rate with backup Matt Moore, who has quarterbacked this offense to just 27 first downs and 4 offensive touchdowns on 96 snaps across 18 drives. The Chiefs’ defense has allowed a 41.09% first down rate since the start of last season, so they need Mahomes back in a hurry if they’re going to lock down a first round bye in the AFC. 

The Chiefs are getting healthier on defense with stud defensive tackle Chris Jones back from injury, but they’ve struggled even with him on the field over the past two seasons, so he won’t fix their defensive issues by himself. The Chiefs could also still be without defensive end Frank Clark and slot cornerback Kendall Fuller, a pair of above average starters, who are listed questionable for this game, and they have injury problems around the quarterback on offense as well. 

Left guard Andrew Wylie returns from a 3-game absence, but right guard Laurent Duvarney-Tardif will take his spot on the sideline and left tackle Eric Fisher will miss his 7th straight game. I have the Vikings, one of the top teams in the NFL, calculated as 8.5-point road favorites in this matchup, so I’d take the Vikings as 4-point favorites confidently if I knew Mahomes was guaranteed to be out. This is yet another game I’ll likely be updating tomorrow morning.

Sunday Update: Mahomes is officially out. The line has jumped to 5.5, but 5 is not a key number, so I still like the Vikings for a small bet as long as the line remains under 6. Clark and Fuller are also out for Kansas City.

Minnesota Vikings 27 Kansas City Chiefs 16

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -5.5

Confidence: Medium

Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings: 2019 Week 8 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (1-6) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

This line is pretty big at Minnesota -16, but it’s completely understandable, as this is a matchup between one of the best and one of the worst teams in the league. The Vikings rank 4th in first down rate differential at +6.23% and are the only team in the league in the top-10 in both first down rate and first down rate allowed. Meanwhile, the Redskins rank 30th at -7.51%, only ahead of the Jets, who have been without their quarterback for most of the season, and the Dolphins, who are arguably the worst team of all-time and have given the Redskins their only win. 

This matchup should be even more lopsided on a short week in Minnesota, as it’s very tough for an inferior team to go on the road on a short week and compete on the road against a non-divisional foe. Teams are just 16-36 ATS all-time as non-divisional road underdogs on Thursday Night Football, including 1-10 ATS as underdogs of 10+. I wouldn’t go crazy with this bet because we’re not really getting any line value with the Vikings, especially with Adam Thielen questionable, but I have no problem laying this many points in this situation, as history suggests this is very likely to be a blowout.

I am also locking in one game early before the line moves. I will have a full write-up this weekend.

LAC +4.5 @ CHI

Minnesota Vikings 31 Washington Redskins 10

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -16

Confidence: Medium

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions: 2019 Week 7 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (4-2) at Detroit Lions (2-2-1)

The Lions have arguably had the most exciting season of any team in the league. All 5 games they’ve played have been decided by 4 points or fewer and the game that was decided by 4 points was decided on a last second touchdown. If a few things had gone differently, they could be 5-0 right now, but they could also be 0-5, with both wins coming by exactly a field goal, including one game in which they had a -6.23% first down rate differential, but pulled ahead due to a kickoff return. Their loss in Green Bay last week was controversial because of some bad calls, but they could have still lost that game even without those calls, despite getting gifted a trio of turnovers. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis and they lost the first down rate battle convincingly (-9.33%). Their 2-2-1 record is fitting, as this more or less an average team. 

The Vikings, meanwhile, look to be emerging as a contender. Quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t having a bad year overall all things considered and if he’s the weak point of this team this team is in pretty good shape. Arguably the most well-rounded team in the league, the Vikings are the only team to rank in the top-10 in both first down rate and first down rate allowed. Overall, they rank 5th in first down rate differential +5.45% and are in 4th in my roster rankings, with no significant injuries to speak of. There are some question marks on their offensive line, but they get right guard Josh Kline back from injury this week and they held their own without him against a tough Philadelphia front last week. I have this line calculated at Minnesota -3, so while we’re not getting much line value with the Vikings at -2, they are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Minnesota Vikings 20 Detroit Lions 17

Pick against the spread: Minnesota -2

Confidence: Low