NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Thanks to a boneheaded decision late in overtime by Colts coach Frank Reich, we split last Sunday's pick between the Texans and Colts as we recommended slight underdog Houston on the moneyline and the "under". It finished 37-34 Texans in OT. Still have yet to go 0-2 on a pick this NFL season, which means I just jinxed myself.
This week, the marquee NFC matchup is clearly Vikings at Eagles in a rematch of last season's NFC title game. I take little from that 38-7 Philadelphia win because the Eagles' quarterback was Nick Foles and the Vikings' was Case Keenum. We won't see Foles take the field again this year for Philly barring a Carson Wentz injury, gimmick play or a meaningless late-season Eagles game. Keenum, meanwhile, is not unexpectedly struggling in Denver and has failed to throw a TD pass in three straight games.
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There has been just one immediate rematch in Super Bowl history: the Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills easily in both SB XXVII and XXVIII. What are the chances of an NFC title game rematch between these two? Not good at all. First off, the loser here already will be at three defeats - which will match the total both teams finished the 2017 regular season.
The Vikings could really be in trouble at 1-3-1 because the Bears all of a sudden are a major force in the NFC North and the Packers are the Packers as long as Aaron Rodgers is upright. The Eagles might be able to still win the NFC East even falling to 2-3 here because it's such a mediocre division and Wentz is so clearly the best quarterback in it. There may not be a team with a winning record in the East after Washington visits New Orleans on Monday night.
Vikings at Eagles Betting Story Lines
I don't like to get too statistical in these previews, but if it's possible to simplify why both Minnesota and Philadelphia are struggling - other than the injuries that hit every team - it would be poor offensive line play. The Vikings are really banged up on the O-Line and absolutely can't run the ball because of that and with top running back Dalvin Cook clearly nowhere near 100 percent. Cook was limited to 20 yards on 10 carries Thursday night in Week 4 in the loss at the Rams and did not even touch the ball in the second half. Maybe a few extra days off will help him here.
Let's focus on pass protection, though. Kirk Cousins is putting up monster numbers with 1,387 yards, 10 touchdowns and a 103.6 rating. He has topped 400 yards twice already. However, he's being pressured more than ever in his career - on 42.2 percent of his dropbacks. Two weeks ago, Buffalo's Jerry Hughes was in his face all day, and then the Rams' Aaron Donald was last Thursday. I won't pretend to understand Pro Football Focus' QB grade, but Cousins' drops from 92.3 (out of 100) to 56.6 when pressured. Minnesota is on pace to lose 312 yards to sacks.
On the surface, the Eagles had a good offensive game last week in a last-second overtime loss in Tennessee as Wentz threw for 348 yards and two scores and the team finished with 432 yards. Philly is supposed to have one of the NFL's top offensive lines, but Wentz was sacked four times and hit 11 more by the Titans -- who blitzed on 34 percent of his dropbacks. Clearly, Wentz's mobility isn't 100 percent back from his torn ACL, so he can expect blitzes until it is. He was 4-for-14 vs. Tennessee while under pressure. The Eagles' offensive line has allowed four sacks in back-to-back games for the first time in eight years.
There are no new major injuries to report on either side, although it's still not clear if excellent Philly third-down back Darren Sproles will play. He hasn't since the opener due to a hamstring injury. Guy is 35 so doesn't exactly heal fast. Philly could make one major move on defense and that involves cornerback Jalen Mills, who is being picked on by opposing QBs. Mills grades as one of the five-worst cornerbacks in the NFL this year by PFF and has been credited in allowing 276 yards passing.
Vikings at Eagles Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Philadelphia is a 3-point favorite (-120) with a total of 44.5. On the moneyline, the Eagles are -165 and Vikings +145. On the alternate lines, Philly is -3.5 (+105) and -2.5 (-145). Minnesota is 2-2 against the spread (1-1 on road) and 2-2 "over/under" (2-0 on road). Philadelphia is 1-3 ATS (1-1 at home) and 2-2 O/U (0-2 at home).
The Vikings are 24-9 ATS in their past 33 after a loss. They are 10-4 ATS in their past 14 October games. The Eagles have covered five straight in October. They are 5-2 ATS in past seven following a loss. The over is 4-1 in Minnesota's past five vs. the NFC. It's 23-9 in the Eagles' past 32 after a loss. The Vikings are 1-5 ATS in their past six in Philadelphia.
Vikings at Eagles Betting Prediction
Frankly, I probably wouldn't have touched this game if it wasn't an NFC title rematch because I'm not completely sold on my recommendation. Cousins and his receiving duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been great. But the Eagles can play nickel all night knowing the Vikings can't run. I worry about the Philly offensive line, but Pro Bowl Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen remains out with his mental issues.
So, simple solution: take the home team giving less than a field goal. Minnesota has won just once in its past nine visits to Philadelphia so go Eagles on the 2.5-point alternate line and over the total.
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