NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
It's arguably the greatest day of the year on Thursday because we Americans get to stuff our faces full of turkey and all the fixins while watching three NFL games in between naps. There's no question that this Thanksgiving the best game if the first one as Minnesota visits Detroit. The middle matchup between the Chargers and Cowboys would be interesting if Ezekiel Elliott was active, but Dallas looks lost without the suspended 2016 rushing king. In 2006, the NFL added a night game to the holiday to pimp the NFL Network as it used to be showed only on that channel. This year's Giants-Redskins matchup is a bore and on NBC.
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If you ever get a chance to see a Lions home game on Turkey Day, I recommend you take it. A different experience for sure; I've been to one. Owners of the other 30 NFL teams aren't happy that Detroit and Dallas get to host every year because it's such good national attention for those teams. I wouldn't say it has helped the Lions much over the years, but I believe one of the reasons the Cowboys are America's Team is their annual place on Thanksgiving.
Then-GM Tex Schramm started that tradition for the Cowboys in 1966 simply to get more national appeal. The Lions debuted on Thanksgiving in 1935 as the team back then was in the shadow of the very successful Detroit Tigers in the Motor City sports scene. It worked as the game vs. Chicago was a sellout and the Lions have played almost every Thanksgiving since (no games during WWII). Detroit is 37-38-2 all-time on the holiday and has won the past four.
In 2016, Detroit beat Minnesota, 16-13, on Turkey Day. Sam Bradford, now out for the season for Minnesota, threw a horrible late interception that set up Matt Prater's winning 40-yard field goal as time expired. It was somewhat shocking to see the Vikings not play conservative and for overtime. At the time, Detroit was in control of the NFC North Division, which it hasn't won since way back in 1993. That's the longest division drought in the NFC. Currently, Minnesota is in charge of the North and a win Thursday pretty much ends that race, in my opinion. It's the first time since 1979-80 that Detroit has hosted the same foe in back-to-back Thanksgiving games (Chicago then). It's Minnesota's first time playing on the holiday in consecutive years since 1987-88.
Vikings at Lions Betting Story Lines
Minnesota (8-2) has a two-game lead over Detroit (6-4) in the North, and you can forget about Green Bay (5-5) making any noise with Brett Hundley under center. The Lions, however, can win the tiebreaker with a victory Thursday because they handed the Vikings their last loss, 14-7 at U.S. Bank Stadium, home of Super Bowl LII, in Week 4. Detroit held the Vikings to 15 first downs and 284 yards and turned three turnovers into 11 points. The Lions had only 251 yards themselves despite holding the ball for 36:27. Ameer Abdullah had his best game of the season with 20 carries for 94 yards and a TD - the Lions' drought (62 games) of having a 100-yard rusher continues, though, and Abdullah hasn't come close to those 94 yards since.
The Vikings won their sixth straight game Sunday in very impressive fashion, 24-7 over a Rams team that was leading the NFL in scoring. That spectacular Minnesota defense held Jared Goff & Co. to 254 yards. Minnesota didn't allow a run of longer than 10 yards for the fourth time this season and ranks second to Philadelphia in rushing defense.The Vikings held the ball for 37:22 and had 451 yards. There was talk that Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer might start a finally healthy Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday, but Case Keenum was effective again (vs. his former team) in completing 27 of 38 for 280 yards and a score. The line is protecting him well as Keenum has now had six games in which he has not been sacked. There's no way Zimmer can pull him right now for Bridgewater, and the coach has admitted as much. Latavius Murray added 15 carries for 95 yards and a score against L.A.
This game starts a tough three-game trip for the Vikings with visits to Atlanta and Carolina after. Should Minnesota get through this at 2-1, I think it gets a Top 2 seed in the NFC because the final three games are all easy (Bengals, at Packers assuming Rodgers still out, and vs. Bears).
Detroit has scored at least 27 points in each of a three-game winning streak and it escaped 27-24 in Chicago on Sunday. Prater kicked a 52-yard field goal with 1:35 remaining, and the Lions watched Bears kicker Connor Barth miss a 46-yarder in the final seconds. Matthew Stafford hasn't had a rating lower than 120.2 in the three-game run and threw for 299 with two scores and no picks against a solid Chicago defense. Stafford moved into 36 th place on the all-time list in passing yards, passing his boyhood idol Troy Aikman (Stafford grew up in Dallas and remains friends with a high school classmate by the name of Clayton Kershaw).
The Lions went unbeaten on the road this season in their division for the first time in the Super Bowl era. They are also 3-1 in games down double digits in the first quarter, which is a dangerous trend (Chicago was up 10-0).
Vikings at Lions Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Minnesota is a 2.5-point favorite (-130) with a total of 44.5. On the moneyline, the Vikings are -155 and Lions +135. On the alternate lines, the Vikes are -2 (-135) and -3 (-105). Minnesota is 7-3 against the spread (2-2 on road) and 5-5 "over/under" (2-2 on road). Detroit is 5-4-1 ATS (2-3 at home) and 7-3 O/U (4-1 at home).
The Vikings are 2-6 ATS in their past eight vs. the NFC North. The Lions are 9-1-1 ATS in their past 11 in November. They are 5-1 ATS in their past six on Thursday. The under is 18-5 in Minnesota's past 23 vs. the NFC North. It is 7-1 in the past eight meetings.
Vikings at Lions Betting Prediction
Obviously a crazy-short turnaround considering this game kicks off eight hours earlier than a typical Thursday night game. That can only help the home team, in my opinion. Keenum has been a nice story, but Stafford is significantly better and playing at perhaps the highest level of his career right now. Recent history says this will be low-scoring, so I love the under, but take the Lions at +3 to win outright and make the North race very interesting.
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