Minnesota Vikings (7-7 SU, 8-6 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (8-6 SU, 7-6-1 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Saturday, December 24 at 1PM EST
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MINN +6.5/GB -6.5
Over/Under Total: 43
The NFL has the most meaningful regular season in all of professional sports and that regular season is about to wind down with plenty of high-stakes matchups on tap. The Minnesota Vikings make their yearly trip to Lambeau to face the Packers this weekend with both teams fighting for their playoff lives. Green Bay enters the week in the much better position of earning a playoff berth simply by winning the final two where Minnesota needs the wins and some help. A loss might officially end the season for each team so the stakes are high on both sides. The Vikings have won the last two in this series, including a Week 2 matchup earlier this season but the Packers were winners in six of the previous eight. This is one of the best modern day rivalries, making a nice Christmas present for NFL fans.
There is no surprise with the betting line as the online sportsbooks like Green Bay as 6.5 point favorites. Minnesota is 2-5 against the spread in the last seven played at Lambeau and just 1-4 ATS in their last five on the road overall but the underdog is riding a 4-0 ATS win streak in this series. The under has also hit in the last four between these two teams. The Sagarin computers like Green Bay more as a five point favorite and the offense-defense method predicts much of the same with a 23-18 GB win so the online betting sites are giving the Packers credit beyond what the metrics say.
Injuries have plagued both teams seemingly all season and while they both have gotten a bit healthier overall, there are some important players on the report. The biggest name on the list is Aaron Rodgers who is dealing with a strained calf. He played the entire Chicago game in very frigid temps so there isnít any concern that he will miss this game but his mobility is limited and there were few extended plays in that 30-27 win against the Bears. T.J. Lang and JC Tretter are also banged up so the Green Bay offensive line may be a little shorthanded. That O-Line has improved to be the top-rated pass protecting line in the league and played a large role in the Packers turn around. It will not be good for the Pack if both miss or are significantly limited. Linebackers Nick Perry and Jayrone Elliott are also question marks for Saturday. Perry leads the team with eight sacks and Elliott has been an important depth player when Clay Matthews has missed time. Minnesota is hoping to get back WR Adam Thielen who is probable with a neck injury. He is second on the team in receiving yards and provides the offense with a possession receiver to move the chains. The O-Line has been decimated throughout the year and it might get worse with G Brandon Fusco currently in the leagueís concussion protocol. CB Trae Waynes may also be out with a concussion.
It is hard to imagine a team more down that Minnesota at this point. The 5-0 start seems like years ago instead of weeks and the wheels really came off during last weekís 34-6 loss to Indianapolis. Two point losses to Dallas and at Detroit arenít something to be embarrassed about but a very flat effort last week with a lot on the line was certainly the low spot of their current 2-7 skid. The biggest sin for the Vikes has been the inability to run the ball and they enter the week dead last at just 70 yards per game. The injuries to the run blockers have been too much to overcome with no Viking running back able to be better than 3.3 yards per carry on the season. Adrian Peterson did return last week but did so in a limited role and was basically shut down after the game got out of control. He should see more work Saturday against the Packers run defense that currently ranks 10th but has been exposed a bit after a tremendous start.
Green Bay is riding high after winning their fourth straight in a close one against Chicago. Ty Montgomery broke out with his best game as a running back and Christine Michael snapped off a 40-yard touchdown so maybe the Packer running game is trending back to a team strength instead of a liability. Montgomery is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and will go to work against a Vikings run defense that is allowing 4.2 yards per carry and over 100 rush yards per game. Minnesota is 3rd against the pass so getting a ground game going would serve Green Bay well just so they donít have to expose Rodgers more than necessary. The Vikings limit the opposing QB to less than an 80 QB rating on average and will provide a much tougher test for the Green Bay passing game than most of the opponents faced during the win streak.
Sam Bradford was never likely to return the value of the first round pick he was traded for but he has played well overall. He enters the week with a 97.0 QB rating on 72% completions with a 14-to-4 TD/INT ratio but he hasnít been able to make the big time plays without the support of a running game. Minnesotaís offense has become very dink-and-dunk dependent and the total output winds up at 18.9 points per game, good for 25th in the league. They are second to last in total yards and havenít been able to get Stefon Diggs loose since the early part of the season. Kyle Rudolph is second on the teams in receptions, leads Minnesota with six receiving touchdowns and is in line for a good afternoon as Green Bay struggles to cover the middle of the field. The Vikings will need something off-script to pull an upset Iím afraid but there is a chance of that given the return game talents of Cordarrelle Patterson.
I donít see many scenarios that have Minnesota going into Lambeau and coming out with a win. The Vikings havenít had the dominant defensive performances they did in the first month and probably wonít be able to shut down Rodgers while he is playing at this level. The Packers are far from a perfect team but they have flipped the switch to become a team that you should probably just bet on while they are hot. The Packers defensive lapse in the second half of the Bears game doesnít bother me because the Vikings do not have the big targets at wide receiver that Chicago used to hurt Green Bay. There will be enough run production by the Pack to stay on track and win the time of possession as they usually do. Minnesota wonít win the turnover game without some fluke occasion so there really isnít a stance to take on them being within a touchdown given the current state of things. The public loves Green Bay as always with almost 80% of the square money on the Pack right now. Normally, that is a reason to look the other way but the sharps have come in at 50/50 as of mid-week so this one is a pickíem with the points at worst. Green Bay grinds out a 26-16 win and keeps their division hopes alive.
Evergreenís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Green Bay
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