Detroit at Minnesota
Time: NOON CT
Spread: MIN -5
Odds c/o Bovada
The Minnesota Vikings fell 20-30 to the New Orleans Saints last week but at 4-3-1 it still sits in a tie for first place in the NFC North. The Vikings will host the Detroit Lions as 5-point favorites this week in a showdown at Noon (CT) on FOX. The over/under is set at 48.5 points according to NFL oddsmakers at Bovada.
Minnesota ranks No. 6 in the league in passing yardage at 298.6 yards per game. Its rush attack, however, is barely worth noting. The Vikings rush for just 87.1 yards per game, ranking No. 29. Overall, it produces a run-of-the-mill No. 14 ranked offense that generates 24.6 points per game. The defense is similar to it, in the sense it allows 24.4 which gives the Vikings a differential of just +0.2. It should count itself fortunate to have a winning record, albeit it would be .500 if not for the 29-29 tie to Green Bay in Week 2.
Kirk Cousins has done a stellar job at quarterback with his 70.7 percent completion ratio and his 16 TD passes (with just four interceptions). If one were to nit-pick with Cousins, it would be this: He manages just 7.4 yards per attempt and has been sacked 23 (!) times for a total loss of 132 yards. Those are two major black marks on an otherwise successful season for the veteran. Cousins’ top target has been the unheralded Adam Thielen. A long shot to make the NFL, he has been everything a No. 1 receiver should be in an offense. Thielen has caught 74 of 96 targeted passes for a team-best 925 yards. He also leads Minnesota with six receiving TDs. Stefon Diggs is far behind him as the No. 2 receiver with 587 yards and four touchdowns.
The backfield is much less sparkling. Latavious Murray is the No. 1 back with 386 yards and 4.7 yards-per-carry, but Dalvin Cook has struggled badly, and Cousins is not much of a threat himself either. The team averages 4.0 yards-per-carry, but its No. 2 and No. 3 options (Cousins being No. 3) average just 2.7 and 3.1 yards-per-carry, respectively. Minnesota has also scored just five rushing TDs, while it has managed 16 via the pass. The team is one dimensional and it is average at best defensively, but that still might be enough to take the division crown if footballs continue to bounce its way. With a slim margin of victory on average, this team will need top-notch execution to make sure it is on the right end of close games.
The Detroit Lions are 3-4 and are just one game back from Chicago despite actually sitting in the cellar of the NFC North. A win over Minnesota (who is tied with Chicago) would propel Detroit from last place to second place in a single week. The Lions lost last week 14-28 to Seattle, but it had won two straight prior to that. Nothing really stands out about this team as a definitive strength. Ostensibly, Matt Stafford is that strength, but Detroit ranks just No. 14 in pass offense at 263.7 per game, and its rush attack is middle of the pack, too, at No. 16 in the NFL. Overall, the offense is average at best, totaling 24.4 points per game, which is not quite enough considering Detroit’s defense surrenders 26.6 per game and ranks in the bottom quarter of all teams at No. 26.
Stafford has thrown for 1,912 yards but he averages just 7.6 yards per completion. He has thrown 14 TDs with six interceptions and been sacked 13 times for a total loss of 80 yards. It is hard to knock down a passer rating of 98.5, but something about it feels misleading, like fool’s gold even. Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay have combined for nearly 1,000 yards between them and each has three TD receptions. Marvin Jones Jr. has five TD receptions. That trio of receivers has managed 20 first downs or more apiece.
And yet, Detroit still fails to produce a great offense. Part of that is due to having just one solid running back (Kerryon Johnson), but Detroit really has the talent to be a much better team on paper, which kind of puts the onus on the coaching. While LeGarrette Blount leaves plenty to be desired as a No. 2 backfield option, there is enough talent on this team to produce a top-10 offense, and Detroit trails that benchmark definitively.