Vikings at Lions Picks and Week 1 NFL Odds
by Alan Matthews - 7/14/2013
I expect to learn a lot from the Week 1 matchup at Ford Field between the NFC North rival Vikings and Lions on Sunday, Sept. 8. First: Will Adrian Peterson become the first running back in history to repeat as NFL MVP? (Only Jim Brown has won multiple MVPs as a running back). I highly doubt that, but I will want to see if Peterson has to carry the team on his back again or if Christian Ponder finally is going to show signs of being a good NFL quarterback (no). I happen to think the Vikings overachieved a year ago, so a bad showing here will confirm my suspicions.
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The Lions, meanwhile, are always a riot to watch. Matthew Stafford slings the ball all over the field. Last year, Stafford had a whopping 727 pass attempts, shattering the NFL record of 691 set by the Patriots' Drew Bledsoe in 1994. Most of the time Stafford goes to Calvin Johnson. Megatron set the NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards, just coming short of the first to hit 2,000. Yet, oddly, he had just five touchdown catches among his 122 catches (also No. 1 in NFL). The Lions will score, no doubt. But will they stop anyone? That's usually the problem. The Lions allowed 27.3 points per game in 2012. I happen to think the Lions underachieved a year ago, so a good showing here will confirm my suspicions that they are way better than they showed. If they don't get back to the postseason this year, Coach Jim Schwartz is a goner.
Vikings at Lions Betting Story Lines
Minnesota's biggest offseason move wasn't an addition but two subtractions: the team's top receiver, Percy Harvin, and top cornerback, Antoine Winfield. But the Vikings also had a great draft with three first-round picks. They got a potential long-term replacement for Harvin in Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and ditto for Winfield in Florida State's Xavier Rhodes. The Vikes also added Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings to immediately replace Harvin and former Chiefs starting QB Matt Cassel to backup/push Ponder.
But who is kidding who? The Vikes will go as far as Peterson will take them. He had one of the five best seasons by a running back in NFL history last year despite the fact he wasn't a sure thing coming off a torn ACL to even start Day 1. After a solid-but-not-spectacular start, Peterson rushed for at least 108 yards in nine of the final 10 regular-season games. He carried a season-high 34 times for 199 yards and a score in a must-win Week 17 upset to get the Vikes into the playoffs, which would become a rematch loss to Green Bay. Why teams don't put nine in the box against Minnesota is beyond me.
The Detroit offense should only be better with the addition of free-agent running back Reggie Bush. He showed in Miami he could be a full-time back, having more than 950 rushing yards and more than 30 receptions in each of his past two seasons. The last Lions player to accomplish that was Hall of Famer Barry Sanders in 1997-98. The Lions looked scary good early in 2011 when they had a similar scary backfield threat in Jahvid Best, before his career was ruined by concussions. Mikel Leshoure will be a between-the-tackles and goal-line threat to complement Bush.
On defense, first-round pick Ziggy Ansah should start at right end. That line lost pass-rush stud Cliff Avril but still has two potential superstar tackles in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The latter really showed signs of breaking out last year -- if only Fairley can stay healthy. The Lions also need top safety Louis Delmas to stay healthy. He has missed 13 games the past two seasons. The secondary remains a concern. Detroit allowed 26 touchdowns and 3,569 yards through the air a year ago.
Vikings at Lions NFL Week 1 Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, the Lions are three-point favorites with a total of 47. Minnesota was 8-7-1 ATS last season (3-5 on road) and 7-9 “over/under” (3-5 on road). Detroit was 6-10 ATS (3-5 at home) and 10-5-1 O/U (5-3 at home). The Vikings covered (and won) their final two road games last year. Minnesota was 2-0 ATS as a three-point dog in 2012. Detroit failed to cover three of its final four home games last year. As a three-point favorite or less, the Lions were 1-1 ATS.
Vikings at Lions Picks and Week 1 NFL Betting Predictions
Minnesota swept the Lions a year ago. In Week 4 at Detroit, the Vikings won 20-13 as 3.5-point dogs with a total of 48. Both Minnesota touchdowns were on kick returns. Peterson had 102 yards on 21 carries, but Ponder threw for just 111 yards. Stafford threw 51 times for 309 yards but no scores. The Vikes did a nice job on Megatron, holding him to 54 yards on five catches.
In Week 10 at the Metrodome, the Vikings won 34-24 as a three-point dog with a total of 46. Peterson had 171 yards on 27 carries and all but sealed the game with a 61-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter. Ponder had one of his best games, going 24-of-32 for 221 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. Stafford threw for 329 and three scores. Johnson was a beast with 12 catches for 207 yards and a TD but did have a costly fumble.
I believe the Lions are good for at least 24 points against that Minnesota defense, while I can't say I'm overly confident that Minnesota can for sure put up at least 21. So take Detroit and the under.
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