NFL Picks: Fade Vikings vs. Cardinals' Elite Defense Thursday Night

Jason Lake

Monday, December 7, 2015 6:47 PM GMT

Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 6:47 PM GMT

The Arizona Cardinals have won six straight games. The Minnesota Vikings have dropped two of three. No wonder Minnesota's a big road dog on the Week 14 NFL odds board.

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NFL Pick: Cardinals -7 
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Jason's 2015 record as of Dec. 7: 46-44-2 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 25-31 Total
So the Arizona Cardinals still have some betting power left in them. We thought this year's most popular NFL pick would be rolling in chalk last week when they visited the St. Louis Rams. Instead, it was the Rams getting most of the late action, driving the spread from +7 (-140) when we made our picks to +3.5 at the close. And the Cardinals made it academic by rolling the Rams 27-3.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings are having trouble dealing with some of the NFL's better teams. After beating the NFL odds in eight of their first nine games, thanks in part to an incredibly soft schedule, the Vikings have lost two of their last three, getting thumped at home by the Green Bay Packers (+1) in Week 11 and the Seattle Seahawks (–2.5) this past Sunday. Minnesota is a 7.5-point road dog versus Arizona on this week's very special episode of Thursday Night Football (8:25 p.m. ET, NFLN).

Cardinal Numbers
We're still trying to process that Cardinals-Rams game here at the home office. The archived consensus reports show 64 percent of bettors were on Arizona, but 74 percent of the action was on St. Louis, with an average bet size of $512 to just $101 for the Cards. There was a time when we'd simply point at those numbers and say the sharps were obviously on St. Louis – which most were – but the more “dead money” there is in the marketplace, the harder it is to say these things with much certitude. Besides, Arizona's place atop the public money charts is based on money, not on the number of bettors involved.

Speaking of money, our first expanded consensus figures are available for Thursday's contest, and it's the Cardinals getting most of the early action – over two-thirds of it, coming from just under 52 percent of the betting population. This is in very early trading, so Arizona looks like the sharp pick this week, but beware the lure of small sample sizes. And polling in general.
 

Detachable Johnsons
Perhaps we were too quick to write off the Cards after they lost their top two running backs. David Johnson stepped right in against the Rams and carried the ball 22 times for 99 yards, while Kerwynn Williams backed him up with 59 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Life continues apace. Running backs are more replaceable than the market may believe; in this case, Arizona was able to replace two (Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington) at once at not miss a beat.

As for the Vikings, they're all run (No. 4 overall in rushing efficiency at Football Outsiders) and no cattle (No. 25 in passing efficiency). Arizona has an elite defense, even better than Seattle's thus far, and we saw what the Seahawks did to Adrian Peterson last week: 18 yards on eight carries. We'll take the Cards for TNF, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

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