Does anyone want to put the San Francisco 49ers in their Week 1 NFL picks? The Minnesota Vikings are bringing all the bettors to the yard for Monday night's matchup.
It's time to start fading the San Francisco 49ers. Is there any other way to respond to what has happened to this organization over the past year? They've gone from Super Bowl contenders to a potential 6-10 team, and they've done it in the kind of fashion usually reserved for super-villains and Roman emperors. Things will very likely go poorly for the Niners this year; the only real question, for our purposes, is whether the betting market is on the ball.
Word has apparently gotten 'round. The Minnesota Vikings are pulling in an amazing amount of action for Monday night's season opener (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) against San Francisco. Since our opening odds report, the average bet size on Minnesota has dipped somewhat, from $935 to $907 according to our expanded consensus report. That's still over 10 times what people are betting on the Niners ($89). Incredible.
At this point, we can't say for sure whether the larger public will be prone to betting on San Fran later this weekend, or whether recreational bettors will be drawn more to the Vikings and the return of former league MVP Adrian Peterson. But with so much early money and so many big bets coming in on Minnesota, it'll take quite a lot to steer us away from adding the Vikes to our Week 1 NFL picks.
So let's start poking holes in this ship. The Vikings have some issues on the offensive line; RT Phil Loadholt (Achilles) is out for the season, and it looks like center John Sullivan (back spasms) might not be able to play Monday, either. Minnesota's blocking will be further compromised if FB Zach Line (knee) doesn't suit up; TE Rhett Ellison might have to be repurposed to fill that position against San Francisco. None of this is good news for Peterson, who has had some lofty expectations put on his shoulder pads.
And these are just the injured guys. Matt Kalil is starting at left tackle this Monday, and while Kalil made it to the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012, he's gotten progressively worse from there, with two bum knees and an NFL-worst 12 sacks allowed last year. The Vikings ranked No. 27 overall in pass protection last year, according to the advanced stats at Football Outsiders. It's difficult to see them improving this season.
At just about every other spot on the field, though, Minnesota looks like a better team than the one who went 5-5 SU and 8-2 ATS to close out the 2014 campaign. We're going to jump on those NFL odds right now while the Vikings are still laying 2.5 points, just in case they keep adding chalk and hit the magic number three before we get our ticket stamped. If they end up laying an egg Monday night, we'll adjust.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Vikings –2.5 (–109) at 5Dimes