Minnesota Vikings (6-7 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (9-4 SU, 7-6 ATS)
NFL Football Week 15
Date and Time: December 14 4:25pm ET
Where: Ford Field
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MINN +7.5/DET -7.5
Over/Under Total: 41.5
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The end of the NFL schedule features some of the best games of the year. Sometimes both teams are fighting for a playoff spot but many times one division foe is looking to play spoiler to the other. That is the type of match we have Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings head to Detroit to take on the Lions. The Vikings are a young 6-7 team that has fought through a lot of injury and legal issue losses but a talented group of youngsters is emerging. The Lions have eyes on winning the division and would certainly like to win their final home contest of the year, especially while division leader Green Bay is on the road against a tough opponent. Detroit finishes with the Packers in Lambeau but they need to stay within one game if they want that finale to be for the division crown.
The online betting sites had a little trouble coming to a real consensus on this game but Detroit has settled in a 7.5 point favorite after the early betting. Minnesota is 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against NFC opponents and has 11 ATS win in the last 19 games between these teams. The underdog is 5-1-1 ATS in the last seven for the series. The over/under is set at 41.5 for the game and these teams have a combined 9 overs against 17 unders this season.
After several weeks of struggling on offense, the Vikings have managed to get some things going of late, scoring 30+ points in each of the last two weeks, picking up pretty easy wins in both. Teddy Bridgewater is still raw but is improving and his passer rating is up to a respectable 82.4 with 10 touchdowns. He isnt the running threat that Russell Wilson is but he does extend plays with his feet and is starting to hurt teams when they let him break contain. The Lions are 2nd in yards allowed and give up 17.2 points per game so Teddy has his work cut out for him. The running game, led by the plodding Matt Asiata, could struggle to help Bridgewater as they face the best run defense in the league, allowing just 62 yards per game. None of that is good news for the Viking offense and it will take a next-level effort for them to move the ball consistently and score this week.
Minnesota was not able to move the ball or score during the Week 6 contest against Detroit and fell 17-3 at home. Bridgewater was picked off three times in that game, throwing for just 188 yards and the Vikings didnt get on the board until a late 4th quarter field goal. Minnesota played good defense in that contest but Calvin Johnson was sidelined for the game and Detroit really didnt have the need to push the pace.
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Detroit is looking for its 7th home win of the season and are as healthy as they have been all year on offense. Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson have their legs back under them and their playmaking ability has helped open up Joique Bell to have his best stretch of the season, scoring in two straight games. The run game really helps take the pressure off of Matthew Stafford and Minnesota is just 23rd in run defense so look for another run-heavy approach this week. We know what kind of playmaker Megatron is but Golden Tate has stepped up to notch a career best season in catches and yards and gives defenses another target to cover rather than doubling up Calvin all the time. Bush, Bell and Theo Riddick are likely the best pass catching backfield in the NFL and Stafford uses them all when they are mismatched against linebackers. The Vikings are 6th against the pass and have recorded an impressive 48 sacks, led by Everson Griffens 12, so look for the Lions to get the ball out of Staffords hands early in order to limit the turnover potential.
For me, the betting of this game hinges on how many points the Vikings can score. If they can only manage 6-10 points, I think the Lions are the clear play but a 20-point effort for the Vikes swings my money in their favor, especially with the hook. Detroit is so stingy against the run and so good at limiting points that Im scared Minnesota is in for a long day. Jerick McKinnon is out for the season, leaving Asiata and Ben Tate to carry the mail. Neither of those backs have the top-end speed to bust this defense and that puts an awful lot of pressure on Bridgewaters shoulders. If the Lions dont give up many short fields, it will be a lot of heavy lifting for Minnesota. Greg Jennings and Charles Johnson arent enough to push the suspect secondary of Detroit and Cordarrelle Patterson has proven too inconsistent to think he will step up in a meaningful way.
Detroit is motivated and has the right recipe to win this and cover. I think they run against a middle-of-the-road front seven and hit Megatron or Tate off play-action to set up scores. Even if Reggie Bush isnt 100% yet, he poses coverage issues and Minnesota is a team defense, not a play-making bunch. There are too many boxes checked off for Detroit to think that Minnesota is going to have a good day come Sunday. The Vikes are plucky but ultimately fall and fail to cover. Detroit 23 Minnesota 13
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: DETROIT