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Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings Vegas Odds and Pick

Detroit Lions(2-1) @ Minnesota Vikings(2-1)

  • Where: U.S. Bank Stadium. Minneapolis, MN
  • When: October 1, 2017 1:00 pm EST
  • Spread: Detroit (+2) at Minnesota (-2)
  • Moneyline: Detroit (+100) at Minnesota (-120)
  • Over / Under: Over 43 (-110) vs Under 43 (-110)

We have discussed in previous predictions how slick-passing offenses tend to have a natural advantage early in the NFL season. Timing is perfect. Injuries haven’t piled up. Blocking isn’t worn down.

There’s no better case-study than the 2017 Minnesota Vikings. This is a team with a coach, Mike Zimmer, who likes to throw-away late-season games by letting the team’s pass-run ratio get out of control. In 2016, the Vikings led the Lions in the 4th quarter before QB Sam Bradford was asked to throw 4 passes for every team rushing attempt on the final drives, getting red-dogged by a fierce rush and losing the contest for the Norsemen.

But this is Week 4, and that ol’ West Coast offense is humming right along in the Twin Cities. Vegas bookies thought there was no way Tampa could lose on anything more than a fluke against the Vikes in Week 3 if Sam Bradford wasn’t the guy taking snaps. Backup QB Case Keenum flung that theory aside while flinging 369 yards-worth of complete passes in a 34-17 rout of the Buccaneers, who were also passed the marmalade.

The same bookies could be badly under-valuing the Detroit Lions, however. At 2-1, their only loss has been to a surging Atlanta franchise…and that game was a close one. Yet the Lions are two-point underdogs on Sunday.

Missing the point on Detroit

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How we view the Lions’ current power-rating is related to how the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants are evaluated, since those are the scalps Detroit has claimed.

Sometimes, odds-makers fall prey to news narratives. Yes, compared to past triumphs involving superstars like Eli Manning and Larry Fitzgerald, both aforementioned clubs could be seen as struggling right now. Neither the Cards nor the Big Blue have a real shot to win the Super Bowl in February. But football isn’t about “Super Bowl or Bust.” There are tiers, battles and statements made on the lower rungs as well.

The Cardinals are still a tough out, with spectacular talent always-lurking at the DB position. And there’s a reason “never count out Eli” is such a cliche in the New York media. Detroit may have beaten two “sub-par” squads in the eyes of so-called experts, but the fact that neither win was an easy route only underscores the Lions’ case.

Winning the games you’re supposed to win is one of the toughest hurdles a marginal team can overcome. Sunday’s “underdog” won a pair of difficult games, then took Atlanta to the brink in Week 3. Matthew Stafford used to look like a 14-year old kid on the field, now he’s a veteran gunslinger who literally came within inches (with help of Golden Tate) of whipping the defending NFC Champs.

Whatever rises must fall

Can a Minnesota team with its backup QB withstand that kind of firepower? Not if Detroit coaches have used the week to examine Keenum’s game and weaknesses. The 29 year-old backup’s career stats show a propensity for Red Zone struggles, interceptions and turnovers (20 interceptions and 13 fumbles as a career part-timer). He is going to come back to Earth, and it could begin as early as this week.

The only way for the Vikings to win comfortably is to run the football. Dalvin Cook has provided an excellent spark in the running game, and the ROTY candidate should at least hope to get plenty of carries Sunday.

With the pass-happy Vikings, however, that is far from certain. In Week 2 against Pittsburgh, Minnesota scored nine points and the offensive backfield combined for 91 yards.

A winning bet to take pride in

There is a 50% chance the Lions will win the game out-right, and a 10% chance the Vikings will lose it themselves with poor game-management. This is the week when Zimmer needs to instruct offensive coaches to knuckle down, run the ball on 1st down more often, and protect Keenum and his limited skill-set. Instead, if Minny opens up in the 2nd and 3rd quarter, look for the visitors to snag a couple of turnovers and take the momentum.

The over is a valid play as this could be a surprise shoot-out. But stick with Detroit on the money line to upset the Minnesota Vikings on their home turf.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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