Minnesota Vikings (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date and Time: Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, 1:00 pm EST
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Mo.
TV: FOX, DirecTV : 707
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Minn. +4/Stl. -4
Over/Under Total: 44
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Two teams that looked to be heading in opposite directions just a few short weeks ago will meet for their 2014 National Football League opener Sunday, when the Minnesota Vikings travel to the Edward Jones Dome to play the St. Louis Rams in an early game on Fox.
The Rams were expected to build off a solid 7-9 season in 2013 and make a legit push for playoff contention in the tough NFC West, but all those expectations came crashing down in week three of the preseason when quarterback Sam Bradford tore up his knee again. Now the Rams suddenly find themselves looking for a QB (veteran journeyman Shaun Hill will get the first chance) and trying to salvage a season that hasnt even played its first game yet.
Meanwhile, not much was expected in Minnesota this preseason with a new coaching staff and virtually the same roster that went 5-10 a season ago, but the Vikings performed new offensive coordinator Norv Turners scheme very well in the preseason (went 4-0, 23 ppg including two 30-point games) and suddenly people are thinking that Turners offense with a veteran QB in Matt Cassel might not be as bad as everyone originally thought. If Minnesota can get any better results out of what was the leagues worst defense last season, the offense with Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson will cause their fair share of defensive headaches.
The point spread for the week one contest also reflects the changing nature of these two teams fortunes (or misfortunes). What was at the high point a 6-point spread in favor of St. Louis has dropped two full points to Rams minus -4 points at most sportsbooks, and even down as low as -3.5 at a few books on the Web. The over/under total opened at 44 and has hung right there despite the Bradford injury, although you may find a few 43.5s if you look around.
One thing the Rams will still have plenty of is defense, with Chris Long and Robert Quinn off the edge rushing the passer on the carpet in the Jones Dome giving Turner and the Vikings o-line something to scheme for on Sunday. Of course, the Rams will have to account for A.P. all day in the running game, which means corners Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins will have to win the one-on-one battles against the Vikings Patterson and Greg Jennings on the outside.
The biggest question in this game is how well a questionable Rams offense to begin with will be able to play against a team that, as mentioned, boasted the leagues worst defense. Oh yeah with a backup QB too. WR Kenny Britt and Travon Austin are skilled, but not too overly frightening, and RB Zac Stacy is a nice piece but not a game-breaker. Of course, if the Vikings defense doesnt get better with a defensive head coach (Mike Zimmer) and a new scheme (new DC is also veteran coach George Edwards) they may all be looking for new jobs next year too.
Historically these two have played pretty even on the field, with Minnesota holding a slight 6-4 SU edge since 1991, while the Rams hold an 6-4 ATS edge at the window. However, in recent years (2012, 2009) the Vikings not only went into the Dome in St. Louis and won with big offense (won 36-22 in 12; 38-10 in 02), but also covered the number in the process (3-1 ATS in L4 head-to-head).
The over is probably the strongest betting trend play for Sunday, as it is a perfect 5-0 in the last five meetings inside in St. Louis (6-1 in L7 overall). The over is also 9-4 in the last 13 Ram home games, and the over is 4-0 in the Vikings last four road games in September.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Similar to a few other games on the board on Sunday, most of the value of playing on the underdog Vikings is long gone by now. I know I just mentioned how the over is a solid trend play, but in this particular game with a backup QB running the Rams offense and a Rams defense thats still one of the up-n-coming units Im thinking more along the lines of a 21-20 game or maybe even a 20-17 game. Either way, if I play anything on this game Im playing the under of 44.