Two excellent defenses match up in this clash between NFC playoff hopefuls the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams. Our NFL handicapper analyzes the matchup and gives his early lean ATS.
The 4-3 St. Louis Rams and surprising 5-2 Minnesota Vikings meet in Week 9, with the winner of this game holding sole possession of the second wild card spot in the NFC and a head-to-head tie breaker. The Vikings look to extend their perfect 3-0 record at home this year and their fourth game in a row. The Rams are looking to win their third game in a row, and to improve on their poor 1-2 road record.
The opening NFL odds in this game have the home team Vikings favored at 2.5 points at multiple books, with the O/U total set at 39.5 to 40, also at multiple books for each lean.
All of the recent discussion regarding the St. Louis Rams these days is surrounding the excellent play of rookie running back, Todd Gurley. Definitely proving himself worthy of the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Gurley has rushed for over 125 yards in each of the first four games that he has started. This includes games against a team with some decent rushing defense in Arizona, but also includes games against the Browns, Packers, and 49ers – all in the bottom 10 in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. The Vikings rushing defense is in the middle of the pack, but their overall yards allowed is sixth in the league because of their excellent passing defense.
Minnesota has been winning on the back of their own Hall of Fame running back, Adrian Peterson, and in spite of second year quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. That is, except for games played against the Detroit Lions. In the two game the Vikings have played against the Lions this year, Bridgewater’s QBR has averaged over 119. He hasn’t thrown any interceptions in those games and is carrying a completion percentage of 71.4% and 77.8%, respectively.
That all changes in the other five games that Bridgewater has played this year, where he is carrying an average QBR of 71.98. These games of course include the two losses for the Vikings this year against San Francisco and Denver. In those games, Bridgewater has a 3/5 TD/INT ratio – it is hard to see how the Vikings have won any of those games with that statistic.
The answer is the Vikings defense, which is second in the league in 17.4 points allowed per game. Their defense at home is even better, and in anticipation of Todd Gurley extending his streak of 125 yard games, one must consider that the Vikings have only given up 61.7 YPG rushing at home this year.
Minnesota has been a terrible matchup against St. Louis in recent years, with the Vikings winning both of the last two matchups by a considerable margin in 2012 and 2014. These games were both with questionable quarterbacks on both teams, does Austin Davis ring a bell? Still, the recent form favors the Vikings in this series and the scheme of each team favors the Vikings as well.
At the end of the day, it may be the injuries that the Rams are dealing with on defense that give the Vikings the edge in this matchup. Both Rams defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn have failed to practice thus far this week, and are likely to be out or at least not 100% this week. A young QB like Bridgewater has shown what he can do to teams without good outside pressure in the Detroit Lions. This game is going to be close, but defensively skewed, which should favor the home team. For that reason, I’m liking the hook and taking the Vikings -2.5 at 5Dimes as one of my Week 9 NFL Picks.
NFL Pick: Minnesota Vikings -2.5 (-115) at 5Dimes