Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Cincinnati Bengals (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (10-2 SU,
7-4-1 ATS), Week 14 NFL, 1:00 p.m. EST, Sunday, December 13, 2009, Hubert H.
Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn., TV: CBS

by Badger of

Point Spread: Bengals +6.5/Vikings -6.5
Over/Under: 43

Two playoff bound teams looking to improve their chances at getting a first-round bye will lock horns Sunday in the Metrodome when the
Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre play host to the Cincinnati Bengals and Carson Palmer.

At 9-3 and virtually a lock to win the AFC North, the Bengals will contend with San Diego down the stretch for the AFCs No. 2 seed in the playoffs (they play the Chargers head-to-head next week).

After playing down to their competition the past three weeks,
including a barely-get-me-by effort in a 23-13 win over the Lions
last week, Cincinnati will need to flip the switch and go back to the
playoff-caliber football they were playing in early November if they
want the homefield advantage in January.

The 10-2 Vikings are currently sitting in the No. 2 spot in the NFC,
and barring an unlikely late-season collapse by them or the New
Orleans Saints, thats likely where theyll finish as well. Minnesota
will be coming off of its worst game of the season though, mind you
only their second loss overall, but easily one of their worst in a
while. When Adrian Peterson is held to 19 yards on 13 carries, and
Favre is pressured into two interceptions like the Vikings were last
Sunday night in Arizona, it is bad.

But everyone fully expects the Vikings to rebound in a big way this
week, including the oddsmakers in Las Vegas, who opened the game on
Sunday with Minnesota as 6.5-point favorites. The early money has
come in on the Vikings so far and has moved the line up to Minnesota
minus the full touchdown (7-points) at a few offshore sportsbooks.

Early money at the window has caused the over/under total to have
some early-week line movement as well, starting out at 44.5 at a few
sportsbooks before it has dropped down to its current number of 43 at
a majority of the books on the Web and in Las Vegas.

The Vikings offense is expected to rebound at home in the Metrodome
Sunday, where they are a perfect 6-0 this season (3-2-1 ATS). When
you consider how bad they played last Sunday its hard not to imagine
them playing any worse.

Whether or not they improve and revert back to one of the NFLs top offenses (5th 383.8 ypg) will depend a lot on the health of the
offensive line. The entire unit got pushed around pretty good last
week by the Cardinals, and guard Anthony Herrera and both tackles
Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt are listed as questionable with
various injuries, so they might need all week to get ready.

Theyll also be playing against the Bengals top-ranked scoring
defense, leading the league allowing just 15.6 points per game, so it
may not be as easy as everyone thinks.

Cincinnatis defense is by far the most improved unit in the league,
and theyre doing it the way everyone in the league tries to do it
by stopping the run first. The Bengals are 2nd in rush defense,
allowing 81.8 yards per game, which has helped to propel them up the
charts to the leagues 4th-ranked unit in overall defense (293.2 ypg).

Aside from the Bengals near 180-degree turn around on defense, the
other surprise improvement this season has been the running game on
offense with former reject Cedric Benson.

Benson, who will likely top the 1,000-yard mark in Sundays game, is
running like the top draft pick he was expected to be this season,
helping the Bengals become the leagues 6th-ranked rushing team at
133.9 yards per game. Two weeks ago it wasnt Benson, but newly
acquired backup Larry Johnson, that ran for 100 yards in the Browns
game, so its a total team effort and not just reliant upon Benson
each week.

Its taken the pressure off of Palmer to be the sole focus of the
offense and the result is the former USC star is having a down year
statistically (2,547 yds., 19 TD), but who cares because the Bengals
are one fluke tipped pass away from being 10-2 (Denver game).

It should be interesting to watch to see how well Benson does against
the Williams Wall in Minnesota this week, as Pat and Kevin Williams
continue to anchor the Vikings stiff run defense (3rd 84.2 ypg).
The Vikings also lost middle linebacker E.J. Henderson for the season
to a broken leg last week, so his loss and his rookie replacements
(Jasper Brinkley) performance will be something else to keep an eye
on during the game.

Recent history between these two teams has been limited.

They last met in 2005 in what turned into a 37-8 Bengals victory at
home in Cincinnati. They also played in 1998 (a 24-3 Vikings win in
the Metrodome), but all told these two have only played six times in
the last two decades with the series sitting at a 3-3 split both SU
and ATS.

There are a few strong betting trends that point toward a bet on the

The under is 10-1 in Cincinnatis last 10 games in December. The
under is also 4-1 in their last five games as a road dog and 4-1 in
their last five games overall. The under is 4-0 in Minnesotas last
four games overall, as well as 4-0 when the Vikings are a favorite
and 4-1-1 in their last five December games.

Badgers Pick: I might be in the minority, but I think the Bengals
run defense is strong enough to hold Peterson down again this week.
Cincy may not win the game, but their good enough to keep it close on
the road. Find a sportsbook thats giving a full touchdown and take
Cincinnati plus 7-points.