Not surprised that the Minnesota Vikings are looking like a playoff team, but I gave them about a nil chance of winning the NFC North Division as long as Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was healthy. Yet here we are in Week 11 and the Vikings (7-2), winners of five straight, have a one-game lead over the Packers (6-3), who have shockingly lost three in a row. It's their first three-game skid with a healthy Rodgers since 2008.
Because this is the last time the Vikings and Packers play in the regular season, Minnesota could be in total control of the division with a victory. The first tiebreaker to crown a division champion is head-to-head, and that would be even with a Vikings win here. The second is record inside the division. Minnesota is currently 3-0 and Green Bay 1-1.
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At Bovada , the Packers remain -125 North favorites with the Vikings at +110.
Packers at Vikings Betting Story Lines
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy handed off play-calling duties before this season to offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and now Packers fans are screaming for McCarthy to take it back. He says he will not. One notable issue right now is that Clements is relying too much on the pass -- even having the NFL's best quarterback. In the three-game skid, the Packers have run three times as many pass plays as running plays. So defenses can go all in with their pass rush because they don't have to worry about a surprise draw play or the sort. For the season, the Packers are averaging 25.1 rushing attempts a game, which would be the second-lowest average in McCarthy's tenure.
In last Sunday's stunning 18-16 loss to the Lions, their first win in Wisconsin since 1991, the Packers called 68 pass plays (including penalties, sacks and scrambles) and just 16 run plays. It took Rodgers 61 attempts to get 333 yards and two scores. He was sacked three times and hit plenty more. Meanwhile, the Pack had all of 47 yards rushing. You still have to have some balance to keep things honest. McCarthy says that James Starks remains his No. 1 back even though Starks had only 42 yards on 15 carries vs. the Lions. Eddie Lacy missed that with a groin injury but is expected back Sunday. As you will see below, he killed the Vikings last year.
I also believe that Jordy Nelson's season-ending injury is finally catching up to the Packers. Defenses can now key on Randall Cobb. He has just one 100-yard game all season and has topped 55 yards once since the start of October.
Minnesota is winning with its running game (ranked first in NFL behind league-leader Adrian Peterson) and a great defense. The Vikes are on their first five-game winning streak in six years. Five of the Vikings' victories overall have come with Teddy Bridgewater passing for less than 200 yards. He hasn't topped 190 yards in any of the past three games. In the last six games, rookie receiver Stefon Diggs has more receiving yards (507) than the combined total (480) of the team's other receivers. Peterson, meanwhile, has three straight 100-yard games. And the Vikings haven't allowed more than 20 points in a game during the winning streak. That unit ranks No. 2 in the NFL in allowing 17.1 ppg. One key player on that unit, rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks, is expected to return after missing the past two games with a rib injury.
Last season, Green Bay crushed the visiting Vikings 42-10 in Week 5 on a Thursday, but then again the Packers crushed nearly everyone at Lambeau in 2014. Rodgers was 12-for-17 for 156 yards with three touchdowns. Lacy rushed 13 times for 105 yards and two scores. It was 28-0 at the half and over. Bridgewater was out with a sprained left ankle, so the Vikes had to start the forgettable Christian Ponder, and he was about as bad as you'd expect. In Week 12 in Minneapolis, the Packers won 24-21. A key 4-yard run by Lacy on third-and-2 late in the game helped the Pack run out the clock. Rodgers was 19-for-29 for 209 and two scores, while Lacy rushed 25 times for 125 yards and a TD. Bridgewater was back and finished 21-for-37 for 210 yards, two scores and a TD. Of course, no Peterson in either 2014 game.
Packers at Vikings Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , the game is a pick'em (Vikings -120) and thus no moneyline. The total is 44.5. On the alternate lines, the Vikings are -1 (-110) and -1.5 (-105). Green Bay is 5-4 against the spread this season (2-2 on road) and 3-6 "over/under" (2-2 on road). Minnesota is 8-1 ATS (4-0 at home) and 1-7-1 O/U (0-4 at home).
The Packers are 5-2 ATS in their past seven vs. the NFC. They are 2-5 ATS in their past seven road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The Vikings are 8-0 ATS in their past eight after a win. They are 5-1 ATS in their past six vs. the NFC North. The over is 5-2 in the Packers' past seven after a loss. The under is 5-0 in Minnesota's past five against teams with a winning record. The home team is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings.
NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Packers at Vikings Betting Predictions
Since 2006, the Packers are 14-4-1 against the Vikings and 6-3 in Minneapolis. In those 19 games, the Packers have scored at least 21 points all but once. They have scored 30-plus points in six of their last nine regular-season games against Minnesota, averaging 33.6 points per game over that span. In 15 games against the Vikings (including playoffs), Rodgers is completing 71.1 percent of his passes for 3,764 yards, 32 touchdowns and four interceptions with a passer rating of 117.9.
I love pick'ems because they are so rare in the NFL. Maybe I trust Green Bay too much, similar to Seattle, but I can't see a Rodgers-led team dropping four in a row. Take the Packers and the under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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