NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
I can promise you that every member of the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers were rooting for the Atlanta Falcons to be upset in Tampa on Monday night. Alas, the Falcons escaped with 24-21 victory.
What does that have to do with my preview of Saturday night's Vikings-Packers matchup at Lambeau Field? Everything. Green Bay was eliminated from the wild-card chase with Atlanta's win - which was sealed when the Bucs missed a 54-yard field goal with no time remaining. That victory could have wide-ranging NFC wild-card ramifications. The loser of Sunday's Seahawks-Cowboys game in Dallas, which I also previewed here at Doc's , is out. The winner won't make it, either, unless the Falcons lose their final two. The Lions also lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with Atlanta. Detroit will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss at the Bengals on Sunday.
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So now that the Packers (7-7) have no motivation, Aaron Rodgers will not play the rest of the way. That fact could have playoff implications as well because it could help Minnesota clinch a first-round bye this week. Theoretically, it also benefits the Lions as they host Green Bay in Week 17 - if Detroit is still alive then.
Minnesota (11-3) is the NFC North champion for the second time in three years and currently is the NFC's No. 2 seed. The only way the Vikings catch Philadelphia is if the Eagles lose twice and Minnesota wins twice. If that did happen, it would give the Vikings rare home-field advantage throughout the Super Bowl as that game is held at U.S. Bank Stadium. No team has played in a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The Vikes will clinch a first-round bye in Week 16 with a victory combined with a Panthers loss/tie vs. Tampa Bay (not happening), or a tie combined with a Panthers loss, Saints loss/tie to Atlanta and a Rams loss/tie in Tennessee. Got all that? A Vikings defeat Saturday opens up the possibility of them being caught for the No. 2 seed by whichever team takes the NFC South title or the likely NFC West champion Rams. Minnesota wins head-to-head tiebreakers with New Orleans, the LA Rams and Atlanta but loses one to Carolina.
Vikings at Packers Betting Story Lines
There were several reasons why Rodgers had no right playing - too bad for those Packers fans holding tickets to the home finale. Wouldn't you prefer your franchise player avoid a devastating injury? The Packers made it official by putting him on injured reserve Tuesday.
Rodgers returned from his broken right collarbone last week even though said injury was only about 80 percent healed and still had like 13 screws and two plates in it. Rodgers did have three TD passes in the 31-24 loss but his first three-interception games in years. I watched that in entirety, and he was hit hard several times behind a leaky offensive line. You simply can't risk your 34-year-old superstar really messing up that collarbone in a meaningless game(s). You don't think Vikings defenders would be targeting that? They are division rivals!
There's the weather factor on Saturday night. As you would imagine around Christmas time, the tundra will be frozen at Lambeau. The forecast on Saturday night calls for lows of minus-4! No way you put Rodgers out there. Hard turf > bad shoulder. Then there's simply wanting to lose the final two games to slightly improve draft positions. And it can't hurt to get backup Brett Hundley as much time as possible. He started to look better and maybe would draw some trade interest. I truly see no downside from sitting Rodgers.
Minnesota has lost just once in its past nine, by a same 31-24 score in Carolina two Sundays ago as Green Bay just lost by. The Vikings were the beneficiaries of facing the fully surrendered Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15, and it was a 34-7 blowout. Case Keenum was solid again with 236 yards and two scores, while Jerick McKinnon became the first Vikings running back in 13 years with a 100-yard receiving game. Minnesota even got QB Teddy Bridgewater on the field in mop-up action. It was his first NFL game action since the wild-card loss to Seattle following the 2015 season. Ideally, Minnesota is locked into its No. 2 seed for Week 17 and perhaps starts Bridgewater - better to get him as ready as possible in case (pun intended) Keenum gets hurt in the playoffs.
Vikings at Packers Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Minnesota is a 10-point favorite (+105) with a total of 40.5. On the alternate line, the Vikings are -9 (-110). Minnesota is 10-4 against the spread (4-3 on road) and 7-7 "over/under" (4-3 on road). Green Bay is 7-7 ATS (3-4 at home) and 10-4 O/U (4-3 at home).
The Vikings are 5-1 ATS in their past six vs. the NFC. They are 5-2 ATS in their previous seven following a win of at least 14 points. The Packers are 5-1 ATS in their past six on Saturday. They are 1-5 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 16-5 in Minnesota's previous 21 vs. the NFC North. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings. The Vikings are 2-6 ATS in their past eight in Lambeau.
Vikings at Packers Betting Prediction
In retrospect, Green Bay's season did end in Week 6 at U.S. Bank Stadium in a 23-10 loss to the Vikings when Anthony Barr drove Rodgers shoulder-first into the turf on the Packers' second drive. Hundley was picked off three times in relief, and Green Bay managed just 227 yards. McKinnon rushed for a score and caught a TD pass for Minnesota.
If you had told me before the season that I'd be backing Case Keenum in Green Bay in Week 16, I would have given you a breathalyzer test. But things change. I absolutely love the under in that freezing weather, but go Vikings on the side at -9.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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