The Lions and Vikings will both be looking for their first win of the season on Sunday. Which of these NFC North teams offers the best value for our NFL picks?
Recently, Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Lions have not had the edge at the betting window in this series, and Detroit has loss some talent on Defense and Minnesota is theoretically improved since the days those numbers were made, so what’s the best NFL pick here or is this one of those to just stay away from and just watch? Let’s get dirty and find out.
Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings [Sunday 18:00] (FOX, Directv 710, NFL RedZone, 1 p.m. EDT/10 a.m. PDT): The Minnesota Vikings (7-9, 325 PF-343 PA in 2014) welcome the Detroit Lions (11-5, 321 PF-282 PA) to TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday for this Week 2 Home opener for the Vikings. This afternoon (Tuesday), oddsmakers have the Vikings as solid 3-point favorites everywhere with the Total in this game at 43 almost everywhere except the MGM Mirage here in las vegas which is posting a 43½. On the Moneyline, the favorite Vikings are priced at -155 with the visiting Lions at +135 the takeback (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) in this NFC North showdown.
The Minnesota Vikings' Team Total Points has been set at 23 (Ladbrokes) for this game with the Detroit Lions Team Total Points has been set at 20 (Ladbrokes). Of note: The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened the Vikings as 2½-point favorites in this game in their Advanced Line for this Week 2 (out Tuesdays or Wednesdays), so Monday’s night loss to the 49ers out West for the Vikings and Sunday’s loss to the Chargers out West both did little to sway perceptions of the oddsmakers.
In Week 1, the Detroit Lions blew a 21-3 lead in San Diego and ended up losing to the Chargers, 33-28, showing the loss of NT Ndamukong Suh (Free Agent, Dolphins) and DL Nick Fairley (Free Agent, Rams) may be a real thing after this team allowed just 282 Points last season and finally got to that point where great and dominating Defenses must be. So with that Defense losing those two massive bodies up front and in the middle, Detroit (66/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) going 11-5 overall and 5-1 here in the NFC North, some regression is obviously expected, but how much? This game will reveal much. As promising as Minnesota looked on paper and in the Preseason, the Purple People Eaters looked more like Lavender Flower Nibblers on Monday night against San Francisco, so (another) Detroit upset here in the town Prince built is entirely possible on Sunday (Detroit won here 17-3 in this game in Week 6 as 1-point Favorites).
Against San Diego, QB Matt Stafford (14-25-1 ATS on Road) and the Lions Offense was less than impressive with star WR Calvin Johnson (2 receptions, 39 yards), WR Golden Tate (4 receptions, 44 yards) and Rookie (Nebraska) RB Ameer Abdullah (7 rushes, 50 yards) all being subdued and theoretically not used enough.
Here against Minnesota, the Lions Defense and Head Coach Jim Caldwell (8-10 ATS) could really be up against it—especially after losing Suh and Fairley in the Offseason and allowing that Chargers 2nd Half comeback rally in Week 1. Toss in an extremely key injury to OLB DeAndre Levy (Hip, Questionable)—probably the best weakside OLB in the NFC—and this could be a completely different outing this year, especially with DT Caraun Reid (Ankle) and T LaAdrian Waddle (Knee) both also listed as Questionable, LB Kyle Van Noy out indefinitely and three others Lions—including two CBs (Alex Carter, Chris Owens)—on the Injured-Reserve List. Still, this Defense is better than it used to be.
The Minnesota Vikings (1-5 vs. NFC North in 2014) were one of the darlings of the Preseason, for fans and writers and pundits and NFL bettors alike, but in Monday night’s ugly and boring loss at San Francisco, the Vikings revealed a couple of key things which may dismay their fans and those who have backed Over bets for Minnesota in the Team Regular Season Win Total markets: QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Adrian Peterson may both be names more than anything right now.
Granted, the 49ers are an underrated group with a feisty Defense and the game was in Santa Clara and all that and the Niners do dominate on MNF. But to score just 3 points? After all that Preseason chirping by all of us? Mercy. The bottom line is that Minnesota did not look good at all and any notion of backing this team in this particular game flew out the window late Monday night. Pffhhhh. And Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer (10-7 ATS) and Minnesota (66/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) was brutally honest about his team and his second-year QB’s performance, and even though he said he doesn’t think Bridgewater has another stinker in him, that’s exactly what HC’s are supposed to say (in public, to the media).
The mere fact that Zimmer admitted his team wasn’t ready for prime time speaks volumes and anyone thinking this team is a legitimate threat in the NFC (Vikings 33/1 to win NFC, PaddyPower) or even in the NFC North (Vikings +650, Paddy Power) is thinking differently today. And should. After playing so well in the Preseason and feeling so good, it’s time to start over again for Minnesota. Humility has a certain bitter taste.
Series Numbers, Recent Relevant Trends and Game Expectations
Both these NFC North teams enter this game with the same (highest) NFL odds to win Super Bowl 50 of 66/1 at various places Offshore and in Europe, the byproduct of disappointing West Coast Week 1 games by both Detroit and Minnesota. And the way the Lions and Vikings looked, it’s safe to say that 100/1 are more realistic odds for one of these two to bring home the Vince Lombardi Trophy home to the Midwest come February.
Problems they both have, as Yoda would say. And this meeting is a very tough handicap, specifically because of the situation—both need a Win to avoid that ugly 0-2 start—and because of the closeness in Rosters and talent although the Lions definitely get the nod at QB (Stafford) and at WR (Johnson, Tate). But with Stafford so weak ATS on the Road (14-25-1 ATS, 35.9%) and this the hopefully new-look Vikings Home opener, these two realities sort of wash each other out. Trend-wise in this series, the Vikings are 6-2 ATS the L8 overall vs. Detroit and Minnesota is 4-1 the L5 here at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, even after both SU Losses to the Lions last season.
With the scores of last season’s two meetings so low (Lions 17-3, Lions 16-14), both teams’ Offenses sputtering in Week 1 and the game meaning so much to both, siding with the Under (43½, MGM Mirage) is the most logical pick here and getting a good number early in the week before everyone pounds it down is advised.
This game is from the home of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers College Football team, TCF Bank Field in Minneapolis—where the forecast on Sunday afternoon from The Weather Channel calls for a high of 73° with Mostly Sunny conditions, 59% Humidity, Winds SSW at 10 mph and absolutely 0% chance of any Purple Rain—will be a chess match type affair, with TDs probably few and far between and attempted FGs likely the popular scoring choice. Look for Minnesota to try to get RB Peterson going after an invisible outing in the Bay Area while Detroit and Stafford will look to throw the ball to WRs Johnson and Tate a little more. With either team capable of winning here, despite the fairly strong Trend edges to the host Vikings, backing the Under is the preferred play.
Predicted Final Score: Minnesota Vikings 19 Detroit Lions 16
NFL Pick: Under 43.5 (MGM Mirage)