Tennessee Titans (1-3 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS)
NFL Week 5
Date/Time: Sunday, October 7th, 2012/4:25 p.m. EST
Where: Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minn.
TV: CBS/DirecTV 712
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Ten. +5.5/MIN -5.5
Over/Under Total: 44
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Two teams that appear to be heading in opposite directions will meet on Sunday for an AFC-NFC duel in the dome, when the Tennessee Titans put their season on the line on the road in the Metrodome against the surprising Minnesota Vikings in a late afternoon game on CBS.
To say the Titans have been a disappointment this season would be an understatement, and last week’s, 38-14, loss to Houston typifies what their season has been like thus far. For the second week in four weeks starting QB Jake Locker took a hit and left the game with a sore non-throwing shoulder, the defense gave up a big early lead and put the Titans in catch-up mode again, and backup QB Matt Hasselbeck tossed four touchdown passes, but unfortunately two of them were to Houston and the end result was another embarrassing effort from the Titans.
Minnesota on the other hand has been a pleasant surprise, sitting tied atop the NFC North standings at 3-1 thanks to another solid victory on the road in Detroit last weekend, 20-13. The Vikings script has been the same each week play stiff defense, manage the clock with the running game , be safe in play-action and play with the lead and it’s the Vikings consistency in executing that has them optimistically thinking playoffs this season after beginning the year as an afterthought.
Even with the questionable status of the Titans Locker at QB, the Vikings still opened as 6-point favorites at home Sunday. The early money hasn’t been large, but its been enough to make most sportsbooks drop the line by the hook to Minnesota minus -5.5.
The over/under total opened at 45 and has seen a decent amount of line movement, dropping all the way down to 43.5 at a few sportsbooks before rebounding a little back to 44 at most books and properties out in Las Vegas.
Offensively these two teams are polar opposites, but they are that way because of the gap between their defenses.
Minnesota has enjoyed watching their second-year QB Christian Ponder mature and his improvement is noticeable both in the stats (68.3 %, 824 yards, 4 TD) and in the win column. The Vikings have had the luxury of being patient on offense, grinding it out with Adrian Peterson (still getting 4.2 ypc) and the running game while Ponder picks his spots in play action, and the pace has helped Ponder eliminate mistakes (zero picks so far).
But the Vikings offense has benefited from a stellar defense that is currently 7th in scoring defense (18 ppg), 7th against the run and one of the top sacking defenses (12) in the NFL led by Jared Allen.
Tennessee finally found a glimpse of the running game of old last week when Chris Johnson broke loose for 141 yards, but most of those carries came with the game slipping out of reach. Johnson did have 25 carries though, about the same amount of carries he had total prior to last week, so maybe the Titans will finally say the hell with it and let CJ2K carry the load.
The Titans might need Johnson to run 40 times with Hasselbeck likely to fill in for Locker. Hasselbeck isn’t a far drop off behind Locker, and a full week of preparation will help fix mistakes, but he’s a backup this year for a reason.
The Titans QB problems won’t matter a lick if they don’t fix their defense, one that is dead last in yards (422 ypg) and has put the offense behind by multiple scores in every game this season except for the lone game they won. A lack of turnovers (only five) and a lack of a pass rush (6 sacks) isn’t helping much either.
These two last played in 2008, a 30-17 win for the Titans at home in Nashville, but that’s about the only highlight for Tennessee in the Titans-Vikings series. Minnesota is 5-3 SU going back to 1986, including a 4-1 SU mark in the Metrodome. At the window the series is tied 4-4 ATS, but the Vikings are 3-2 ATS at home in the head-to-head.
Neither team has covered well of late, with Tennessee going 0-3-1 ATS in their last four road games and Minnesota only 1-5 ATS in their last five home games.
The over may turn into a solid betting trend play, since it’s 8-3 in the Vikings last 11 home games and also 4-1-1 in the Titans last six games overall.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I believe that the Titans are a different team when run/managed by Hasselbeck. I don’t think they win the game, but I do forecast them to stay within the spread, likely losing by 3 or 4 points. I’m betting on the Titans!
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