The early action was on the Minnesota Vikings in their Sunday matinee against the Miami Dolphins. The mid-week action has been on Minnesota, too. Should we put the Vikings in our Week 16 NFL picks?
Jason’s record after Week 15: 36-50-1 ATS, 18-26-1 Totals
Earlier this week, the sharps were pounding most of the big favorites on the Week 16 NFL Odds board. But not the Miami Dolphins. Miami opened as a 7-point home chalk (–105) against the Minnesota Vikings, and the early consensus was about 55 percent on Minnesota’s side. Then it was 60 percent, and all the way up to 64 percent as we go to press.
Sadly for those of us who want to join in, the Vikings have been bet down to +6.5 under all that pressure. And we’re not convinced the betting public is going to come in and overbet the favorites too heavily, either. But the Vikings might not need that valuable half-point to cash us in Sunday afternoon (1:00 p.m.. ET, FOX). In fact, if you’re feeling frisky, taking Minnesota at +240 on the moneyline (down from +270 at the open) might be the way to go.
At this time last year, the Dolphins franchise was pretty much a joke. We’re not entirely convinced that their troubles are over with Dennis Hickey replacing Jeff Ireland as general manager – Miami’s issues extend much higher up the food chain. But it’s a good start. Now the Dolphins (7-7 SU and ATS) have at least a shot at and AFC Wild Card, albeit a small one.
Too bad the Dolphins have to play in the AFC East. They’ve had the No. 2-ranked strength of schedule up to this point, which might be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. According to the advanced statheads at Football Outsiders, Miami has played well enough this year to earn 8.3 Estimated Wins. Keep the Fish in mind when you’re making your 2015 NFL picks for regular season win totals.
This year, on the other hand, is pretty much done. Miami is 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four games, and the lone win was a 16-13 nailbiter over the lousy New York Jets (+6.5 at home). Head coach Joe Philbin is rumored to be on his way out, and lame ducks don’t make for good leaders. Miami’s formerly stout defense has also fallen to No. 10 (No. 6 pass, No. 20 rush) on the efficiency charts after a litany of injuries.
The Vikings (6-8 SU, 9-5 ATS) don’t have a hope in heck of making the playoffs, and the Adrian Peterson Fiasco doesn’t make their front office look very good, either. But things are picking up on the field. QB Teddy Bridgewater (82.7 passer rating, 4.9 yards per carry) has played some very good football lately, developing a chemistry with fellow rookie WR Charles Johnson (26 catches, two TDs). They’ve helped the Vikings beat the NFL odds in four straight games and seven of their last eight.
Minnesota fans have to be pleased with how well the running game has fared in Peterson’s absence. Matt Asiata (3.3 yards per carry, seven TDs) hasn’t always put up a lot of yards, but he’s only fumbled the ball once this year, and he’s also caught the ball 39 times in the flat. The Vikings have the league’s fourth-best rushing attack in terms of efficiency despite checking in at No. 15 in raw yardage (111.7 per game).
Asiata has been upgraded to probable for Sunday’s game after he was limited in practice earlier this week with a foot injury. If for any reason he can’t go, Ben Tate (3.1 yards per carry) is looking for some touches after coming over from the Cleveland Browns in November. It’s a good situation for the Vikings offense on what should be a beautiful day in Miami.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Vikings +6.5 at BookMaker