WildCard Picks: Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints
Minnesota Vikings (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS) vs. New Orleans Saints (13-3 SU, 11-5 ATS)
NFL Wildcard Weekend
Date and Time:Sunday, January 5 at 1:05pm ET
Point Spread:MINN +8/NO -8 (5Dimes - Stop wasting money! Dump your -110 sportsbook and start betting on games at -105! It’ll save you TONS OF $$$$)
The cream has risen to the top through 17 NFL weeks, and now we get a sprint to the finish with the very best teams in the league. Baltimore appears to be the class of the AFC, but the NFC draw feels a bit more wide open with at least four teams having the look of a conference champ at times this season. Minnesota will head to New Orleans as an eight-point underdog this Sunday, but the Vikings are arguably one of the better 6-seeds in recent memory as they had an excellent chance to finish 12-4 prior to dropping their last two regular-season games. The Saints have marched through the back-half of their schedule, winning six-of-seven while averaging 36.2 points per game over that span, and their loss came to the #1 seed San Francisco 49ers. New Orleans beat Minnesota during the regular season to exact a bit of revenge from the “Minneapolis Miracle” the year prior but handing the Vikings a playoff loss this weekend would be even better.
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How Healthy is Cook?
Minnesota expects to have the services of Dalvin Cook (shoulder), but their do-it-all back will be less than 100%, and his production could be a big key come Sunday. Cook powers the 6th best rushing offense in the league with 1,135 yards and 13 scores on the ground while adding 519 receiving yards. He is the second-leading receiver on the team, and his snap-count is an even bigger deal considering back-up Alexander Mattison is questionable with an ankle injury. New Orleans is 4th against the run, so Cook is facing a tough matchup, but Minnesota is desperate to keep the pressure off of Kirk Cousins. Winning the big one has not been Cousins’ strong suit but pulling an upset this Sunday would forgive a lot of past wrongs in his career. Cousins posted a strong 107 rating this season with 26 touchdowns against six interceptions, most often finding Stefon Diggs, who led the team with 63 catches and 1,130 yards. Adam Thielen missed time in the regular season but did tie for the team-high with six touchdowns with TE Kyle Rudolph. Irv Smith worked well alongside Rudolph, and the TE-duo accounted for 76 catches and 680 yards to give Cousins plenty of options in the passing game. New Orleans has some injury issues in the secondary as safeties Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams are listed as questionable as is CB Eli Apple. If Cook and the running game can soften up the Saints, Cousins could go to work against the 20th-ranked New Orleans pass defense.
The New Orleans offense has plenty of solid stats, but the most impressive could be the league-leading eight giveaways during the regular season. The Saints simply do not give the opposition the momentum or even short fields. Drew Brees missed some time with a thumb injury but has been tremendous since coming back and has thrown for 15 touchdowns with no interceptions in December. The offensive line has kept Brees upright, allowing just five sacks over the last seven games. Alvin Kamara hasn’t been as dominant as some projected but he still sits north of 1,300 scrimmage yards and is second on the team with 81 receptions. He trails only Michael Thomas, who put up a monstrous 149-1725-9 line, and TE Jared Cook also hit the nine touchdown mark to tie for the team lead. Taysom Hill has continued to expand his role on offense, and he enters the week with six total touchdowns on just 46 total touches. New Orleans is third in the NFL with over 32 minutes in time-of-possession and also finished third in scoring at 28.6 points per game.
Minnesota is 2-5 against the spread in their last seven road playoff games and 2-6 ATS in their last eight games as an underdog. Minnesota is just 4-14 ATS in the last 18 against an opponent with a winning record. New Orleans is 3-8 against the spread in the last eleven as a home favorite and 0-4 ATS in their last four playoff games when favored. The Over is 6-2 in the last eight Minnesota games, including a 5-0 mark on the road. The Over is 5-2 in the last seven New Orleans games overall. The favorite has a 5-1 ATS mark in the last six between these teams, and the Over is 8-3 in the last eleven in this series. The line opened with the Saints as 7-point favorites, but that line quickly jumped to -8, and 65% of the public money is coming on New Orleans at that number. The over/under total started at 46.5 but quickly jumped to 48.5, and nearly 80% of the action is coming in on the Over.
You can forgive Minnesota for giving one away last week to Chicago with nothing to play for, but the Vikings had everything to play for the week prior against Green Bay and were handled rather easily. Minnesota finished 28th in time of possession and has really made the most of getting the 3rd-most takeaways on defense, including 18 interceptions. New Orleans won’t likely be generous in that department and they should be able to move the ball against a Vikings defense that has been decidedly average when not getting the big plays. Cook not being 100% spells trouble for Minnesota, and it gives New Orleans the edge in playmakers. These teams are trending in opposite directions, and I think the trend continues Sunday with New Orleans picking up a 31-20 win.
Ted’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread:New Orleans
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