The Spread and Total
Minnesota Vikings (-3, O/U 41) at Carolina Panthers, courtesy of Bovada.
The Vikings opened as narrow underdogs but are now road favorites in Carolina.
Minnesota Vikings: 10-2 SU (9-3 ATS), 1st NFC North
Carolina Panthers: 8-4 SU (7-4-1 ATS), 2nd NFC South
Sharrif Floyd (knee), out; Bishop Sankey (knee), out; Dalvin Cook (knee), out; Sam Bradford (knee), questionable; Mike Remmers (back) questionable
Charles Johnson (knee), out; Corn Elder (knee), out; Daeshon Hall (knee), out; Curtis Samuel (ankle), out; Jared Norris (calf), out; John Theus (illness), out; Fozzy Whittaker (ankle), uncertain; Daryl Worley (pectorals), questionable; Kurt Coleman (knee), questionable; Ryan Kalil (neck), questionable; Julius Peppers (shoulder), probable; Greg Olsen (foot), probable
Sep 25, 2016 (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte): Minnesota 22, Carolina 10
Nov 30, 2014 (US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis): Minnesota 31, Carolina 13
Oct 13, 2013 (US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis): Carolina 35, Minnesota 10
Significant ATS Trends
Both teams are consistently beating the spread in their last five games. The Vikings have been severely underrated ATS, going 5-0 SU and ATS and still opening as the underdog. Carolina is 4-1 SU and ATS in its last five games.
Both teams are scoring more points than bettors anticipate, with Minnesota hitting the OVER in four of its last six games and Carolina going OVER in seven of its last ten.
Minnesota is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against Carolina, although that history stretches back way too far to be useful. More importantly, they are 5-0 in their last five road games.
At 10-2, the Vikings are almost certainly a playoff team, and can clinch the NFC North with a win (or tie) this week. The Panthers (8-4) are still very much in the running for the NFC South crown, sitting one game back of the Saints, and if the playoffs started today, they would get in as the second Wild Card. But Atlanta (7-5) is hot on their heels, and Green Bay (6-6) remains alive and is due to get Aaron Rodgers back next week. In sum, Carolina has to keep winning to consolidate its status as a playoff team.
The Vikings are, as the records and spread indicate, the better football team. They’re ranked 7th in weighted DVOA, which includes efficiency on a per-play basis and weights more recent games more heavily, while Carolina is a distant 10th.
Carolina’s offense is bringing it down, currently ranked 19th and well below league average. With Greg Olsen injured, they’ve relied on Devin Funchess and rookie Christian McCaffrey, a good combination, but one that isn’t quite ready to set the world on fire. The passing game needs Olsen underneath and up the seam, and it needs some kind of threat over the top. But even that might not be enough against Minnesota. Xavier Rhodes is proving to be one of the most effective corners in the league, and with limited threats, he’ll be able to pair up with Funchess all afternoon, an uneven matchup if ever there was saw one.
What’s the winning scenario for Carolina? Some offensive production will be required, and that starts with protecting Cam Newton from Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter, and getting some yards through the air. No team has provided a workable blueprint for beating Minnesota on the ground, so a healthy Greg Olsen and productive Christian McCaffrey are necessities here. Cam Newton will have to continue his recent form, making disciplined, smart passes, as he likely won’t be able to get a lot on the ground.
The over/under is an interesting pick here, because while Minnesota and Carolina are both hitting the over with consistency recently, the real struggle in this game will be between Minnesota’s offense and Carolina’s defense. Carolina still boasts the seventh-most efficient defense in the league, just ahead of Minnesota in eighth, but can they contain the RUTHLESS EFFICIENCY of Case Keenum and Adam Thielen? It’s just a weird, counter intuitive thing to think about, and that’s what’s driving people towards the under. Comparatively, 41 is a pretty low total, right down there with the offensively hapless games (Chicago vs Cincinatti) and the defensively supercharged (Jacksonville vs Seattle). This game is neither; Minnesota has a good offense and a good defense, and Carolina is still holding onto a good D while volatile on offense.
It’s hard to pick Carolina here. Even if Olsen is back and healthy enough to put in a good effort, this will still be a hard game for Carolina to win. The boring, safe thing to do is accept that (for some reason) the betting public and sportsbooks are still giving Minnesota minimal spreads and lay the three points.
Pick: Minnesota (-3) and OVER (41)