New Orleans Saints (10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (2-11 SU, 5-6-2 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Week 15 NFL, Sunday, December 18, 2011, Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn., TV: FOX
by Badger, Pro Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NO -7/Min +7
Bet the Saints/Vikes game at an online sportsbook that WILL accept your Visa card for deposits: BetOnline.
With an NFC wild card spot already in hand the New Orleans Saints will try and wrap up the NFC South title and earn a home game in the playoffs when they travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field on Sunday.
The Saints clinched a birth into the NFC playoffs with a hard-fought, 22-17, victory over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville last weekend. Two touchdown throws from Drew Brees to Marques Colston gave the Saints a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but rookie quarterback Jake Locker rallied the Titans in the final minutes and actually had a chance at the victory on the final play of the game before taking a sack on the Saints goal line.
Even though it wasnt pretty, the Saints earned a wild card spot and took one step closer to the NFC South title with the narrow win. With home games remaining against division rivals Atlanta and Carolina in the final two weeks, the Saints look like a solid bet to win the NFC South, but make no mistake that the Saints would like to wrap up the division this weekend in Minnesota and keep pace with the San Francisco 49ers in the race for homefield advantage during the NFC playoffs.
Minnesota actually played a strong game in their, 34-28, loss at Detroit last weekend. With Adrian Peterson still standing on the sideline in street clothes and starting quarterback Christian Ponder forgetting which team to throw the ball too, the short-handed Vikings nearly pulled off the comeback with backup QB Joe Webb under center. But in the end the Vikings six turnovers crushed any hopes for a comeback against a Detroit team vying for an NFC playoff spot.
Reduced to the role of spoiler in a miserable 2-11 season, now the Vikings will try and save some face and their pride by pulling off the upset against the Saints at home in the Metrodome.
The oddsmakers in Las Vegas must think that the Vikings home cooking is going to help them this week, since they set the opening point spread for Sunday with the Saints as just 7-point favorites on the road. With a large majority of sportsbooks still waiting for the Vikings injury report to come out before listing a number for this game, the Saints are still sitting as touchdown favorites with little to no movement in the line yet.
HEY! QUIT PISSING AWAY YOUR LOOT! STOP BETTING
GAMES AT -110 AND START LAYING ONLY -105 ODDS AT 5DIMES!
The over/under total opened at 50 and has moved up the hook to 50.5 at the few sportsbooks that have released a number, taking the push out of play.
New Orleans probably should have scored more points in last weeks game offensively, considering they tallied 437 total yards and held a 15-minute advantage in time of possession over the Titans. But 10 penalties and an 0-for-3 mark in the red zone turned what could have been an easy win into a nail-biter at the finish.
On a positive note though, Colston had his third 100-yard game of the season and finally found the end zone after being held without a touchdown catch since week seven against Indy. Brees was solid too (36-for-47, 337 yards, 2 TD), throwing the ball to 10 different receivers in the win.
The Saints will face a Vikings defense that actually played a great game against the Lions. Two of the Lions four touchdowns were scored by the defense off of Ponder turnovers, and as a whole they held the Lions to 280 yards of total offense and had five sacks in the loss. Minnesota will have to find a way to keep the pressure on Brees, especially since the Vikings secondary has had issues all season stopping teams in the passing game (allow 249 ypg 26th).
Minnesotas offense was lost last week with Ponder calling the shots, as the rookie was late on throws and reads all game long before giving way to Webb in the third quarter. With Webb the Vikings offense started to click, but it was more due to Webbs ability to scramble (109 yards rushing, TD) that the offenses ability to generate successful plays.
With Ponder and Peterson listed as questionable, there is a chance that both could be back for the Saints game on Sunday. But even if they do play Sunday, Id still expect Webb and running back Toby Gerhart (19 rushes, 90 yards) to see plenty of action when their nagging injuries flare up again.
The Saints defense should be able to contain the Vikings run game, since they held Titans surging running back Chris Johnson to 23 yards last week and have been solid versus the run all season long (110 ypg 15th). But with a pass defense that gives up 268 yards a game (30th), including 314 to a pass-challenged Titans team last week with a rookie QB, the Saints will need to tighten things up in the secondary in the final weeks of the season.
Historically these two teams have played tight games in the past, including a 14-9 Saints win last September in the Superdome. The Saints also won an overtime game, 31-28, to knock Brett Favre and the Vikings out of the 2009 playoffs.
The Vikings have enjoyed an advantage over the Saints over the years, going 7-3 SU against them in the last 10 games going back to the 1995 season, including a perfect 4-0 SU mark at home in the Metrodome. They also enjoy an advantage at the betting window too, going 7-3 ATS over the same span (3-1 ATS at home).
New Orleans just doesnt play as well on the road (2-6 ATS as road favorite), and their 3-11 ATS record against losing teams makes them a dangerous bet even though they still have plenty to play for this season.
A side wager on the Vikings isnt a safe bet either, not just because their offense is in shambles but because they are 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games as a home underdog and 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight home games overall.
The over is 5-1 in the last six head-to-head games between these two, and the over is 3-0-1 in the four meetings in Minneapolis. The over is also 6-1 in the Vikings last seven home games, and 6-1 in the last seven games the Saints have played against teams with losing records.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Saints should have lost last week, but because they survived I think theyll come out with more focus this week with a division title and home field to play for on Sunday. Plus, the Saints are built for the turf indoors, so I expect them to score a bunch on Sunday. I like the Saints at minus -7, but Im not sure I like them if the number climbs much higher before kickoff. Im taking the Saints minus -7 in a game I think goes over the total too.
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