The Minnesota Vikings will be coming into this Monday Night Football Week 1 NFL tilt off the strength of a 4-win Preseason here while the San Francisco 49ers will seemingly be starting from scratch.
San Francisco has a new, one-year-old stadium, a new Head Coach and scads of new players on the Roster. With the line moving 6-points Minnesota’s way since the Week 1 Point Spreads were released in late April, is there any value left to be had taking a shot on the visitors here now that they are 2½-point favorites? Let’s examine and come up with an NFL pick.
Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers [Tuesday 03:20] (ESPN, Directv 206, 10:20 p.m. EDT/7:20 p.m. PDT): The Minnesota Vikings (7-9, 325 PF-343 PA) will be in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to face the host San Francisco 49ers (8-8, 306 PF-340 PA) in the second game of the Monday Football Night doubleheader and last game on NFL Kickoff Weekend and Week 1 betting board. Presently (Wednesday morning), the Vikings are 2½-point favorites here in Las Vegas (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and Offshore. When this game was released in late April, the SuperBook opened the 49ers as 3½-point favorites so not only has the favorite flipped in this game, but the 6 points of movement (so far) is the biggest movement in either sides or Totals. The Total in this game now ranges from 41 to 41½ while on the Money Line, favorite Minnesota is now priced at -134 with San Francisco at +121 on the takeback (Pinnacle). The Minnesota Vikings Team Total has been set at 22 (-110 Over and Under, Ladbrokes) for this game while the San Francisco 49ers Team Total is at 19½ (Ladbrokes).
The Minnesota Vikings (4-1 Preseason, 105 PF-69 PA) and Head Coach Mike Zimmer (10-61 ATS) were one of a handful of teams which actually looked pretty good and organized in the Preseason and that was without RB Adrian Peterson who was (wisely?) being preserved for the Regular Season when the games matter and a season-ending injury at least sort of seems justified. Peterson only played in one game year last season after being suspended after being indicted on child abuse charges. So now Minnesota has a RB it can hopefully count on to churn out 1,000+ yards (Peterson), a young QB to lead the franchise into the future (second-year man Teddy Bridgewater) and WR (Free Agent-signee Mike Wallace, Dolphins) who can rack up some big yardage numbers. The Vikings (50/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) have been very good to their backers at the betting window, going 3-1 ATS in the Preseason (75%), 10-6 ATS last season (62.5%) and 9-7 ATS in 2013 (56.3%).
One big key for the Vikings will be to improve on Defense (-1.1 MoV in 2014) and that will mean trying to improve on their 18th-ranked +1 Turnover Differential (30 Takeaways + 19 Giveaways=) and the first three players drafted by Minnesota back in April were all defenders (CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State; ILB Eric Kendricks, UCLA; Danielle Hunter, LSU). And with three gunslinging QBs (Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, Jay Cutler) in their own division (NFC North), this means improving the Pass rush and getting a decent group of DBs assembled to deal with the footballs coming their way in the air. Many are high on Minnesota because of the Preseason record and the return of AP, but this is one of the 10 youngest teams in the NFL and unless Minnesota makes the Playoffs—which may mean getting their via Wild Card berth—it will have to improve a great deal defensively.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers (2-2, 59 PF-60 PA, 2-0 Home in Preseason) have been sort of accidentally thrust into immediate Rebuild Mode after Head Coach Jim Harbaugh left at the end of last season and then numerous San Francisco players either retired or left via Free Agency. Futures Book markets saw 49ers (80/1 to Super Bowl, William Hill) numbers all drop mightily and now it’s up to QB Colin Kaepernick and new Head Coach, former Defensive Line Coach and once Head Coach of the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe, Jim Tomsula to lead this franchise into the Future.
Kaepernick’s main weapons now, after RB Frank Gore (Colts) and WR Michael Crabtree (Raiders) left via Free Agency, are RBs Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush, WRs Anquan Boldin and Free Agent-signee Torrey Smith and TE Vernon Davis, so this team could really use another quality RB as well as a TE for the Future. On the Defensive side of the ball, San Francisco has been excellent over the last several years, allowing an average of 16, 19, 17 and 21 ppg over the L4 seasons and LBs NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith and the Niners will really have to clamp down defensively to help give the Offense some time to re-emerge as a threat. This team is sort of riding the back of mercurial and unconventional QB Kaepernick and to make any vast improvements long-term and become a Playoff threat again, San Francisco will have to find a more stable QB with more conservative traits. So, some conservatism needed in liberal San Francisco? Perish the thought.
Series Numbers, Recent Relevant Trends and Game Expectations
We tabbed this game earlier this Summer when Minnesota were 3½-point Underdogs on the NFL odds board so offering them up as a potential betting pick when the Point Spread is now Vikings -2½ is a much harder thing as the 6-point swing is massive, although they should be able to find a way to win this game by at least a FG on the backs of the Roster, Peterson’s return and the confidence gained in the Preseason. Trend-wise the 49ers are 6-2 ATS L8 against the Vikings here at Home and the last time these two teams met was in 2012 when Minnesota won and covered as 6½-point favorites in Minneapolis while the last time these two teams played in San Francisco, the Purple People Eaters thrashed San Francisco, 27-7 as 8-point underdogs in 2007.
Here, expect the Home site and late starting time to be an advantage for the Niners who will be comfortable with the PDT Time Zone with their Body Clocks while Midwest boys Minnesota will have the game starting at 9:20 p.m. in their Body Clocks (CDT), meaning Vikings players will be playing football near Midnight in the 4th Quarter in their Body Clocks. But outside of the site, expect the big story in the game to be the return of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (Regular Season Rushing Yards Leader, 5/1 5Dimes), and should he churn off 100+ yards and score a couple TDs, the mainstream media will go nuts. Outside of Aaron Rodgers, Peterson is probably the most important player for a team in the NFC North and after all he has been through, the training and the resting in the Preseason, expect him to come out running “mad” and to set the tone in this game in the First Half. This may be close, but Minnesota should find a way to get the butter and the Over (Low: 41, Pinnacle) may be worth consideration also here.
Predicted Final Score: Vikings 27 49ers 20
NFL Pick: Vikings -2.5 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)