Minnesota Vikings (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS)
NFL Week 12
Date/Time: Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016 at 12:30PM EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIN +3/DET -3
Over/Under Total: 43
The Minnesota Vikings face divisional rivals the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Minnesota hasnít been a Thanksgiving Day participant since 2000, with Detroit an annual presence on Bird Day. Both teams are coming off the short week with wins and a 6-4 record. They are tied atop of the NFC North with this game putting the winner alone in first. On Sunday, Detroit overcame a late deficit to win their fifth of six games with a 26-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Minnesota finally got back on the winning track on Sunday, parlaying big plays on defense and special teams to get by the Cardinals at home, 30-24. Who comes out ahead on Thanksgiving?
As NFC North rivals, Minnesota and Detroit met not long ago on November 6 with a 22-16 overtime game won by the visiting Lions. It ended with some drama. Minnesota got into the end zone to take the lead with less than 30 seconds left. But a key throw and pass-interference call later, Detroit was able to set up for a 58-yarder, which Matt Prater nailed to go to overtime. Matthew Stafford would then hit Golden Tate for the winning touchdown in the extra period. Some key Vikingsí mistakes and penalties were instrumental in allowing Detroit to win that game.
Detroit has been up-and-down all season. They opened with a big road win at Indy, before going into the tank with three losses in a row. But five wins in a row have them tied for first in their division and things are looking up. But after last seasonís tale of two different seasons, combined with the streakiness of 2016, itís pretty hard to feel too good about casting predictions with this bunch. Time and again, their form can switch on a dime, whether for better or worse.
Interestingly, in all of the Lionsí five wins in this latest 6-game stretch, they trailed in the 4th quarter. They did so again on Sunday against the Jaguars in what was a struggle. They trailed 19-16 in the fourth quarter, before ten straight points carried them to the win. Matthew Stafford might not be the gunslinger of previous years, but heís been more efficient, with his stats suggesting more of what they call a game-manager now. He has 18 TD throws with only 5 picks. At his disposal are receivers Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and emerging tight end Eric Ebron. Theo Reddick is useful in the pass and on the ground, though Detroitís run-game is nearly non-existent. Anquan Boldin has five touchdowns. Through the air, they offer a pretty diverse attack.
Key to the Detroit success over the past handful of games has been the play of their defense. It didnít look pretty to open the season and injuries threatened to send them even more sideways. But in their last four games, they have not allowed more than 20 points. They are making plays, as they did with two picks and big plays that kept the dangerous Jacksonville offense in check. Bortles never really got off. And as has been customary with Detroit in recent weeks, they were big late, overcoming yet another 4th-quarter deficit. We can talk about rankings until weíre blue in the face, but what you really want is a defense that plays accordingly when the situation is at its most critical and weíre seeing that with Detroit this season.
Talk about a team needing a winóthe Vikings were finally able to halt the downward spiral on Sunday with the victory over Arizona. After winning and covering the spread each of the first five weeks, they went on a 4-game slide where they didnít win or cover. They had a very tenuous recipe for success and all it took was a little dip on both sides of the ball for the train to derail. Still, theyíre tied for first place and after a win, maybe they can get back on the right track for the last six games of the season.
The offensive output for Minnesota remains a problem and Sunday did little to cure that. The Vikings, however, saw another spike in their special teams and defensive playmaking abilityósomething that had been missing in their 4-game fall from grace. On Sunday, a big 100-yard interception return by Xavier Rhodes for a touchdown was a big key, as was the 104-yard kickoff return for a TD by Cordarrelle Patterson. Rhodes, whose miscues were key in the loss to Detroit a few weeks ago, was huge on Sunday with the pick-six and another interception.
Sam Bradford is doing about as well as can be expected, but the lack of firepower on this side of the ball is a big cause for concern for the Vikings. Without Adrian Peterson, the run-game is really in shambles, despite the earnest efforts of Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. On Sunday, Adam Thielen caught a TD and he has become a useful weapon. Patterson chipped in with some production, though Minnesotaís inability to let him shine on offense is generally upsetting. Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs are good weapons, but their production is sometimes not there. Itís just hard to make it work when no longer having a go-to weapon without AP. Even with him, their offense was a thin group. Without him, itís a lot of role guys with no real star among the bunch. And having a ramshackle line isnít helping much either.
The Minnesota defense hasnít really fallen off that badly, despite the 4-game slide. They maybe were a tad more-exploitable over the past month, but not by much, considering how little support they were getting from the other side of the ball. We saw some good things on Sunday. In addition to the two picks by Rhodes, we saw guys getting after it. Danielle Hunter had a pair of sacks and S Harrison Smith was making plays all over the place. They had Carson Palmer flummoxed and kept a powerful receiver crew in check for the most part.
This is a tough spot with each team being hit with the short week. Detroit was coming off a bye and is at home, and is accustomed to the Thanksgiving game, suggesting that they could potentially have more life in their legs. But to underestimate Minnesotaís grit now could be a mistake. Their first meeting was a game where there was little to separate the two teams. And thatís when the Vikings were really laboring and in the midst of their swoon. I see the Vikings covering the spread this week in a close game.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Minnesota Vikings plus 3 points.
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