Falcons -3 Over a Depleted Vikings' Team for NFL Picks

Jason Lake

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 3:32 PM GMT

The torch has been passed. Teddy Bridgewater will be under center for the Minnesota Vikings when they host the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4. Do the Vikings have any NFL betting value with their new starting QB?

Jason’s record after Week 2: 4-7 ATS, 1-2-1 Totals

Profit: minus-8.8 units

It was inevitable that Teddy Bridgewater would take over for Matt Cassel as the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback. But this isn’t the way it was supposed to go down. Cassel suffered several broken bones in his left foot during last week’s game against the New Orleans Saints; Bridgewater made his NFL debut early in the second quarter, and it’ll be Bridgewater at the helm this Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, FOX) when the Vikings host the Atlanta Falcons.

Unsurprisingly, this is being described as a major upgrade for the Vikings offense. But the NFL lines for Week 4 have Atlanta laying three points, and according to our early consensus reports, the Falcons have the support of 70 percent of bettors. Should we be early investors in the Teddy Bridgewater Era, or is it the Falcons who deserve the nod with our NFL picks?

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You Can Run, but You Cannot Hide
First, we have to recognize what we’re leaving behind. Cassel (80.1 career passer rating) did a credible job leading the Vikings to a 5-4 SU and 6-3 ATS record in his nine starts last year, and he kept the good times rolling in Minnesota’s 34-6 season-opening victory over the St. Louis Rams (–3 at home). Then the Adrian Peterson thing happened. Deprived of his team’s best player, Cassel melted down against the New England Patriots (–3.5 away) and threw four picks in a 30-7 loss. Sure, blame the quarterback.

At least Bridgewater supplies his own running game. He scrambled for 27 yards on six carries last week against the New Orleans Saints, but unfortunately for the Vikings, that was almost half of the 59 rushing yards they finished the day with. Through the air, Bridgewater completed just 12 of his 20 passes for 150 yards, and while he went pick-free, his drives ended in a pair of field goals as New Orleans (–10 at home) won 20-9.

 

The Switch
Maybe the Vikings offense will look better after a week of practice with Bridgewater taking all the first-unit snaps. But what is this team without Adrian Peterson? As much as we talk about how replaceable running backs are, there’s a considerable drop-off in talent between Peterson (5.0 yards per carry lifetime) and Matt Asiata (3.5 yards per carry). This is the 2012 league MVP we’re talking about here.

It gets worse: Starting RG Brandon Fusco had to leave the Saints game with an injured shoulder. He’s one of the best run-blockers in the NFL, and his replacement, Vlad Ducasse, put up little resistance against the Saints defense. Fusco’s status for Week 4 is uncertain at press time. On top of that, TE Kyle Rudolph was taken out of the game with a sports hernia and will miss about six weeks of action. Looks like Bridgewater will have to catch his own passes and supply his own run blocking against Atlanta.

Oh, did we mention the Falcons scored eight touchdowns last week? They annihilated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 56-14; it was 56-0 after three quarters, but instead of going after the NFL record of 73-0 (set by the Chicago Bears in the 1940 NFL Championship Game), the Falcons sent out their second-string offense for mop-up duty. We’re not expecting Atlanta to put up the same kind of numbers against Minnesota’s quality defense. But with all the chaos surrounding the Vikings offense, we wouldn’t touch that team with a 10-foot bankroll.

 

The Five Stars

Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: ATL

Defense/Special Teams: MIN

Coaching: ATL

Market Bias: MIN

Betting Line Value: ATL

Verdict: 1-star pick on ATL

Free NFL Pick: Put 1.4 units on the Falcons –3 (+104) at Pinnacle