Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1, 0-5-1 away)
The Minnesota Vikings take a winless road record to the home of the Super Bowl champions, desperate to stop the bleed on their travels. They are coming off a narrow win over the Chicago Bears, a 23-20 slugfest that was decided by a field goal courtesy of Blair Walsh’s golden foot, marking their second straight positive-ish result in as many weeks following a tie with Green Bay.
Although the Chicago Bears are enjoying their fair share of struggles, Minnesota’s win was no less exciting – or impressive even – as they stormed back in the fourth quarter to draw level on 20 points and send the game into overtime before Blair kicked for 34 yards to lift the Vikings to victory.
Matt Cassel, in for an injured Christian Ponder, threw for 243 yards with one touchdown and just one interception. But the real story was Adrian Peterson, who proved to be the X-factor many NFL betting enthusiasts hoped he’d be. Peterson deposited a career fifth 200-yard game – not to mention surpassing 10,000 yards in just 101 career NFL games. But he went without a touchdown, his second in the last three games without a TD. Just to nitpick.
The Vikings, who are simply playing for pride down the stretch, are faced with the prospect of trying to beat the Ravens in their stomping ground, which is a feat priced at +240 NFL odds (or therein) across sportsbooks, just when the Ravens finally hit some form of consistency at home and revived their post-season playoffs. Could there be a tougher prospect than that?
Baltimore Ravens (6-6, 5-1 home)
The Baltimore Ravens’ hopes to defend their Super Bowl title is living on a prayer with a 6-6 record, but a 5-1 overall home record which includes a 3-0 run of form in their last three domestics has divinely kept hope alive. Certainly, the road form that has let them down badly can’t be trusted to lift them into the postseason.
So in many ways, this is a must win game for Joe Flacco and Co. and at a fancied -300 NFL odds at Bet365 to win straight up, it would seem they have the game cornered. But can they take such a vote of confidence for granted? More to the point: can sports bettors? Keep in mind that the NFL spread odds are listed at seven points, with -7.0 (+100) to Ravens and +7.0 (-120) to Vikings.
Let’s face it the Ravens are a far cry from the team that won it all at curtain call last season. What’s more, they’ve played with the unabashed panache of a slug, suffering close defeats in tough games (against both better and weaker opponents on paper) for too many weeks to bother even rehashing them all. Suffice it to say that just as they show a sliver of getting better, they regress frustratingly. The 23-20 overtime defeat to the Chicago Bears in week 11 is case-and-point – incidentally, the same Bears the hapless Vikings just beat. Granted it was a road defeat and well as already mentioned they are atrocious on the road.
NFL Betting Verdict: If Ravens are to deliver on their playoff aspirations, they can’t possibly afford to miss an opportunity such as the one they are faced with at the weekend, a date with a Vikings side that while emboldened by recent wins is obviously ripe for the taking with a poor record on the season. So common reason dictates the Ravens are a home banker and therefore the smart NFL pick to win straight up. Where the value truly lies is on the spread that is set rather high, at seven-points, which might be just too high for the Ravens, who have been winning games by the skin of their teeth, to cover. In fact, it would seem the bookies are favouring the Vikings to do just that – a rather curious market stance, mind. Is it a trap?
NFL Picks: Ravens to win straight up; Vikings to cover