Minnesota Vikings -2.5 at Carolina Panthers
Follow the road. The Vikings are still top five in the NFL when it comes to total offense and total defense. Quarterback Case Keenum has seen his popularity go from “he should be benched when Teddy Bridgewater is healthy” to “MVP candidate.” Although the last claim may be a reach, the first one is definitely just words put together to make an incoherent sentence at this point. Keenum is completing passes at a rate of 67.5% – his 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions show a competency at the quarterback position but don’t tell the whole story about just how affected he’s been under center. The running backs Murray and McKinnon aren’t making defensive linemen lose sleep but they do help to maintain a balance to this offense which has helped the likes of Adam Thielen who has over 1000 receiving yards this season. The Vikings defense is one of two who has not let opponents gain 1000 yards on the ground against them yet this season. The Carolina Panthers though, are fifth in the NFL with 1533 yards aren’t going shy away from their offensive philosophy though. Although running back Jonathan Stewart leads the Panthers with 531 rushing yards, it’s quarterback Cam Newton’s 515 yards at a clip of 5.8 yards a carry that is the real threat in the backfield. Cam Newton lost his favorite target, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo via trade, but it seems that move has pushed the talents of Devin Funchess forward, which is what the Panthers franchise has been waiting for. The Vikings though are second in the NFL in touchdowns allowed by receivers with 12 and although this Vikings team hasn’t faced a quarterback like Cam Newton -who brings the package of “unpredictability” to the table – in the last three weeks they took care of Jared Goff and Matt Ryan pretty easily.
The Pick: Vikings -2.5
New Orleans Saints -1.5 at Atlanta Falcons
Keeping it in the NFC South, this Thursday night is a good one between the Falcons and the Saints. The Falcons are 7-5 and in the next four weeks, they must play the Saints, the Bucs, the Saints again and then the Panthers. Getting back into the playoff picture won’t be an easy task for the reigning NFC Champs. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian seemed to finally have things on a roll for a few weeks but then hit a roadblock against Minnesota last week. This week they play against a Saints defense that isn’t as good as the Vikings but is miles ahead of what they were last year. The Saints are holding quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 61% which isn’t too bad, but Atlanta has been humming away at a 66% completion rate and has finally found ways to get the ball to stud wideout Julio Jones. The story in this game will be about one thing: which running back duo will outperform the other. it is the Saints’ rookie Alvin Kamara (over 600 rushing yards and over 600 receiving yards) and Mark Ingram (over 900 rushing yards) versus the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman 589 rushing yards and Tevin Coleman with 561 rushing yards. Now, by just looking at the numbers you can tell which tandem has caused more panic to defenses throughout the league but the Saints rush defense is allowing five yards a carry while the Falcons are allowing 4.4 yards a carry. Watch the line on this game as it gets closer to game time if the Falcons are getting three points before kickoff, take Matty Ice and the boys, but until then. . .
The Pick: Saints -1.5
Seattle Seahawks +2.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars
Both of these teams have very one-dimensional offenses; the Jaguars try to do any and everything in their power so that quarterback Blake Bortles won’t have to throw the ball, while the Seahawks offense is – Russell Wilson. That’s not being cute either. They struggle to run, have no real threat in the receiving game (calm down Doug Baldwin groupies. . .) and it seems that the majority of their big plays are never scripted – they are just Wilson creating while on the run. The Jaguars will just run the ball, and run the ball and run the ball. . . rookie running back Leonard Fournette has carried the ball more than 200 times and is averaging 4 yards a carry. This is a testament to his ability and the offensive line because defenses are stacking the box against Bortles every single week. Last week the stout offensive attack of the Eagles was able to take advantage of the banged-up Seahawks secondary but could not get anything done on the ground. That doesn’t bode well for the Jaguars. The Jaguars defensively though, are one of the best units in the league and that is much due to pass defense that is as stingy as they come. Nobody will get much done in this game. Expect a score of 20-13.
The Pick: Under 40
Good Luck and Wager Wisely!