Offense will be in the spotlight on Monday Night Football – but not in the game between the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers, according to the NFL odds.
Jason's 2015 record as of Sept. 12: 1-0 ATS; 1-0 Total
We've got a very interesting Monday Night Football doubleheader on our plate. The first game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons features the highest total, as high as 56 points at press time, on the Week 1 NFL odds board. The nightcap (10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), in stark contrast, points to one of the lowest-scoring games of the opening week. The Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers are looking at a total of 41.5 points, up slightly from 41 at the open.
This wouldn't normally raise any eyebrows. The Niners were known for their defense under Jim Harbaugh, and the Vikings have been known for their running game, with or without Adrian Peterson. The two teams drove the UNDER to a combined 21-11 record last year. But now when we look at San Francisco and Minnesota, what do we see?
We don't see Harbaugh, that's for sure. And we don't see many of the players who made his defense click: linebackers Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Dan Skuta and (when available) Aldon Smith are all gone, as are defensive backs Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox, and DE Justin Smith. Current head coach Jim Tomsula has some new guys at his disposal, but free-agent DT Darnell Dockett didn't even make it out of training camp, and RC Shareece Wright is listed third on the depth chart behind Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser.
Tomsula's offense doesn't look all that hot, either. But it was already a problem for Harbaugh last year, finishing No. 21 on the efficiency charts at Football Outsiders. The losses on this side of the field – including RB Frank Gore, WR Tim Crabtree and OG Mike Iupati – are notable, but not nearly as damaging. And as poorly as Colin Kaepernick played last year, he was still better than replacement-level according to DYAR (+91 passing, +88 rushing).
Last year's Vikings experienced some growing pains under rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, and Peterson was suspended for the entire season. However, Bridgewater improved as the season wore on, Peterson is back and rested for 2015, and they'll be joined by WR Mike Wallace. This trio will have every chance to success this year under respected offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner.
Minnesota's defense looks better this year, too, and we can't overlook the issues PK Blair Walsh had during the preseason, making just five of his 11 field-goal attempts. However, with a somewhat low total of 41 points and a Niners defense in disarray, we're still inclined to recommend a small bet on the OVER with your NFL picks for this game. That was the consensus choice of 90 percent of early bettors, and at press time, there are a handful of sportsbooks offering a 41-point total. That just happens to be one of the “magic” numbers when it comes to the over/under. Do you believe in magic?
NFL Pick: Take OVER 41 at Pinnacle