Minnesota Vikings vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Minnesota Vikings (11-2 SU, 8-4-1 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (5-8 SU,
6-7 ATS), NFL Week 15, 8:20 p.m. EST, Sunday Night Football, December 20, 2009, Bank of America
Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., TV: NBC

by Badger of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Vikings -9/Panthers +9
Over/Under: 43

The Minnesota Vikings have already clinched an NFC playoff birth in
quarterback Brett Favres second stint out of retirement, so now
theyll go for another NFC North Division crown when the travel to
Charlotte to play the reeling Carolina Panthers in Bank of America
Stadium on NBCs Sunday Night Football.

With one more win, or a Green Bay loss, the Vikings will lock up a
second consecutive NFC North title and the No. 2 seed in the NFC
playoffs. Minnesota got some of the mojo back they lost in the
Arizona game two weeks ago by beating one if the AFCs best teams
last Sunday, the Cincinnati Bengals, 30-10.

Meanwhile, the Panthers season keeps fading into oblivion. They
played a strong game against the New England Patriots last Sunday
only to fade at the tape and lose, 20-10, adding one more frustrating
game to the list of what has become one giant frustrating season for

The Panthers will obviously be looking to play the role of the
spoiler this week, but theyll have to do it without starting
quarterback Jake Delhomme again as hes listed as doubtful on the
injury report. This means that Matt Moore will get his third start
this week against the Vikings and Favre, the quarterback who has
started more consecutive games than any other player in the league.

Oddsmakers originally opened the game with Minnesota as full-
touchdown 7-point favorites on the road this week, but then news of
Delhommes broken finger not being healed enough for him to play this
week broke in the media, and the point spread shot up two whole
points to Vikings minus -9 at most sportsbooks. Theres even an
offshore sportsbook listing the Vikings as double-digit 10-point
favorites (5Dimes.com), so most of the early money is on the Vikings
so far.

The over/under total opened at 42 and has seen a little line movement
during the week. Most books have moved it up the hook to 42.5, and a
few have gone as far to move it up to 43.

Even though most of the pregame focus might be on the quarterbacks,
both old and new, this game is going to really going to be all about
the running game on offense.

After getting bottled up by Arizona two weeks ago, Vikings stud Adrian Peterson got back on track last week (97 yds., 2 TD) against a Bengals defense that came into the game in the top-five against the
run. When A.P. is getting yards and drawing defenders into the box,
Favre and the Vikings go deep on play-action and the result is the
Vikings are the leagues top scoring unit at 29.9 points per game.

The Panthers also rely heavily on the run, which makes the play
calling in last weeks loss to New England even more suspect. With a
quarterback making just his second NFL start, against Tom Brady and
the Pats, and the Panthers only ran the ball with DeAngelo Williams
and Jonathan Stewart 20 times and let Moore take 30 pass attempts.

The Panthers will need to get back to their season average (149.4 ypg
4th) if they hope to keep the Vikings strong pass rush away from
Moore. But with a raw quarterback and virtually no passing game to
speak of (28th 169.6 ypg), against the Williams Wall known as the
Vikings run defense no less, the Panthers will have a hard time
accomplishing that task.

Plus, the Panthers lost right tackle Jeff Otah to a season-ending knee injury last week, so now theyll be missing both of their
bookend tackles since Jordan Gross is already on the I-R.

The Vikings beat the Panthers at home last year in week four, 20-10,
when the Vikings rallied for 10 points in the second half behind
quarterback Gus Frerotte. It was the Vikings second win in a row over
the Panthers (other one was 16-13 OT win in 2006), their second cover
versus the number (series is 4-4 ATS though), and it also gave them a
5-3 SU all-time record versus Carolina.

Ironically, in the eight games these two teams have played on the
field only one of them was played in Charlotte in Bank of America
Stadium. In 2005 the Cats beat the Vikings, 38-13, and covered as 7-
point favorites.

Other betting trends to note: the Vikings are 5-2 ATS in their last
seven road games, while the Panthers are 2-5 ATS in their last seven
at home; the under is 7-2-1 in the Vikings last 10 games as a road
favorite, while its also 4-0 in the Panthers last four overall and
4-1 in the last nine home games.

Badgers Pick: I have a really hard time betting on double-digit chalks (9-points is close enough), but I really dont see how the Panthers will be able to keep this one close. Instead Im taking the
under, because Carolina may not score at all and the Vikings will
call the dogs off early, especially if Green Bay has already lost and
the Vikings would have already clinched everything. Take the under of