Minnesota Vikings (+3, O/U 47.5) at Atlanta Falcons, courtesy of Bodog.
Atlanta Falcons: 7-4 SU (5-6 ATS); 3rd in NFC South
Minnesota Vikings: 9-2 SU (8-3 ATS); 1st in NFC North
For once, the Vikings appear to be lucky with injuries, with the shortest list of injuries in the NFL.
DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), out; RB Dalvin Cook (knee), out; QB Sam Bradford (knee), questionable; OT Mike Remmers (back), questionable.
WR Devin Fuller (knee), out; DT Jack Crawford (biceps), out; LB Duke Riley (knee), out; CB Desmond Trufant (concussion), questionable; DE Courtney Upshaw (ankle), questionable; FS Ricardo Allen (concussion), questionable; OLB Vic Beasley (hamstring), probable; CB Brian Poole (back), probable;
Nov 29, 2015 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta): Minnesota 20, Atlanta 10
Sep 28, 2014 (TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis): Minnesota 41, Atlanta 28
Nov 27, 2011 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta): Atlanta 24, Minnesota 14
Significant Betting Trends
Minnesota is 5-0 ATS in its last five games
Minnesota has hit the over in four of its last five games
The total has gone under in five of Minnesota’s last seven road games
Don’t look now, but Minnesota is one of the very best teams in the NFL. In terms of weighted DVOA, which puts a premium on more recent performances, Minnesota is the fifth-best team overall, with the fourth-best offense and the sixth-best defense, all at the hands of a quarterback long considered perfect for a backup role and little else. Case Keenum’s transition from “serviceable stopgap” to 250 yards per game and just five picks has helped the Vikings reach 9-2 and 1st in the NFC North. This could be down to Minnesota’s receivers (specifically Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs), who have done Keenum a lot of favors, but whatever the reason, the Vikings have been excellent passing the ball in 2017. They’re third in pass offense DVOA, replacement level (if not worse) in rushing offense DVOA, and looking nothing like what Minnesota wanted to build when they drafted Dalvin Cook. Though it may be by accident, they are somehow much better.
For its part, Atlanta has been bad against the pass (floating somewhere just below replacement level) and terrible against the run, with the worst weighted run defense DVOA in the NFL. And those dreadful numbers are inflated by a 27-7 rout over the hapless Cowboys, who were without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith and were lucky to get those seven points. A flaw common to analytical systems like DVOA is an inability to understand the individual contributions of a given player, and whatever you think about Zeke, “insignificant” isn’t an accurate description of the running back. This seems like a bizarre thing to say, even now, but Case Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings could tear this defense apart.
Things look better for the Falcons on offense, where they’re currently sixth in weighted offensive DVOA. That indicates something of a slide, however, as they’re second overall in stats that don’t favor recent games. Atlanta’s balanced on offense, with similar numbers in pass and rush efficiency, and (perhaps unfortunately) so is Minnesota. For Atlanta to win, they’ll have to summon some of their magic on offense and put up some big plays. It’s difficult, particularly for bettors, to let go of the possibility that Julio Jones will put up 253 yards and two TD’s in a 2016-esque romp, but (last week notwithstanding) that seems to become less and less likely every Sunday. The more likely scenario is something akin to Atlanta’s other ten games, where Jones topped 100 yards just twice and scored only one touchdown.
A win for the Falcons would be their biggest achievement of the season. Looking at their previous wins, only the Seattle Seahawks come near the Vikings in total efficiency. A win would also be a huge boon for Atlanta’s playoff hopes. Currently 7-4, they own the final Wild Card spot, but they only sit ahead of Seattle (also 7-4) based on a head-to-head tiebreaker, so there’s little room for error. In the NFC South race, the Falcons sit a game back of the Saints and Panthers (both 8-3).
It’s not hard to imagine things going wrong for Minnesota. Case Keenum, under pressure from a now-healthy Teddy Bridgewater, could falter a bit, or the zipless ducks he throws outside could finally start getting picked off. Safeties, who have started to prey on Keenum’s less-than-ideal eyeball discipline, could start really taking advantage. If that happens however, the Vikings could always swap in Teddy Bridgewater, and then the Falcons will have a whole other problem to deal with.
You have to think some of this line is influenced by Atlanta’s brand name, having been an (almost) unstoppable force all the way to the Super Bowl last year, but with the results we’ve seen this season, it would be easy to understand the Vikings as a small favorite here. There’s almost no aspect of the game in which the Vikings don’t have an efficiency advantage, and taking the points for them, even on the road, seems prudent.
My pick: Vikings (+3) and UNDER (47.5)