Minnesota Vikings(6-6SU,7-5ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars(2-10 SU, 5-7ATS)
NFL Football Week14
Date/Time:Sunday, December 11 at 1pm ET
Point Spread: Minn -3.5/JAX +3.5
Over/Under Total: 39
No matter where your team sits record-wise, everyone wants to finish strong this time of year. Minnesota heads to Jacksonville this weekend for a contest that will play a big role in whether the Vikings will be home for the playoffs or safely in the postseason draw. The Jags are winding up another disappointing season but the motivation has stayed high for the players that are trying to keep their jobs. The weather will be much nicer in Jacksonville than in Minneapolis but the Jaguars will be looking to put the Minnesota playoff push on ice.
Despite a recent losing streak, Minnesota is getting the love from the online betting sites as the 3.5 point favorite. While Jacksonville has managed just two wins to this point, they have found their way to five wins against the spread so this one is no slam dunk although that appears to be the popular opinion with 80% of the public money bet on the Vikings to cover. The Sagarin Computers have Minnesota ranked 11th and Jacksonville 29th but it should be noted that the Jags have gone against much better competition. Their schedule has ranked as the 7th hardest through 13 weeks while Minnesotas 6-6 record has come against the 20th ranked schedule. The Sagarin offense-defense method is predicting a 20-15 win for the Vikings.
It is hard to know what to make of Minnesota at this point. The major injuries during the early part of the season didnt slow them on their way to a 5-0 start but the Vikes are just 1-6 since the bye week including three losses in the division. A 30-24 win against Arizona is the only W since that fast start and Minnesota finds itself tied with Green Bay at two games behind NFC North leading Detroit. They are probably thinking that they need to win out to make the postseason and they could start that winning trend against the struggling Jags. The Vikings defense remains the star of the show. That unit enters the week ranked 3rd in total yards allowed and 4th in points, giving up just 17.4 per game.
Jacksonville is a team likely heading for a variety of changes this offseason. Everyone had high expectations for this team but none of them ever materialized and there isnt much left to do past playing out the string. There have been some positives even in the losses as the Jags have only really been blown out once. A 38-14 loss to San Diego was an unsightly blemish but losses by seven or less to Buffalo, Detroit and Kansas City suggest a competitive team that simply doesnt know how to win yet. Minnesota represents another good team that Jacksonville stands a chance to stay close to but the appearance is that this will be another close loss. There was a lot of attention paid to the defense in the off-season and there have been some positive results on that side of the ball. The Jaguars defense has allowed the 4th fewest total yards thus far and the 2nd fewest passing yards but they do give up quite a bit on the ground and allow 26.1 points per game, good for just 26th in the league. Those stats are an improvement over 2015 but not enough to lead to consistent winning as the Jags offense and specifically Blake Bortles has regressed.
The top-end production has been absent for Bortles and he has thrown nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns with a 20-to-15 ratio thus far. He is completing just 58% of his passes overall and that has not been a good combination paired with the Jags 22nd ranked run offense. Neither T.J. Yeldon or Chris Ivory has been able to crack four yards per carry and Ivory may miss the game with a bad hamstring. The trio of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas looks formidable on paper but none of the three have been able to find a rhythm with Bortles. Hurns and Thomas are also battling hamstring injuries which is not good news as the Jags go against the 4th ranked passing defense. Look for Xavier Rhodes to shadow Allen Robinson which will be a tough matchup for A-Rob to win with Rhodes already grabbing four interceptions.
Minnesota is not without its share of offensive issues. The Vikings enter the week ranked dead last in rush yards at 72 per game and the offensive line is really the culprit there. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon are both dual threat backs but neither is over 3.3 yards per carry and that lack of production has put a lot of pressure on a pedestrian passing offense. Sam Bradford has done a good job of game management with a 71% completion rate and just three interceptions but the big plays have been missing and the Vikes wind up 26th in scoring at 19.4 points per game. Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph are better receivers than most casual fans realize but the low-risk passing approach has all three averaging less than 12.6 yards per catch. The big plays seem to be baked into gadget plays and kick returns with Cordarrelle Patterson providing some flash but the meat and potatoes offense needs improvement if Minnesota is going to win in these last few weeks.
I have a feeling that this is going to be a much closer game than most people are predicting. Jacksonville is no push-over on defense and Minnesota does not appear to be able to land the big blows that other teams have used to dispatch the Jags. Neither team should be planning to run much come Sunday so this one really falls in the hands of the quarterbacks. Bradford has the edge in terms of ball security but the Vikings are not built to score fast and will have to grind it out on the road, something that they havent done well over the past month and a half. If Bortles can keep the turnover count at minus-one or better, then Jacksonville has a reasonable chance to cover the spread or even pull the outright upset. Check to make sure the Jags havent lost all their playmakers to injury but if most are present, I am taking the Jags and the points. It wont be pretty for either team and that is plenty reason enough to take the home dog. Minnesota will win but 23-20 or 17-14 is more likely than anything else and that pays the Jaguars side of things.
EvergreensPick to Cover the Point Spread: Jacksonville
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