Week 10 showcases a rematch of NFC North divisional rivals as the Detroit Lions travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Minnesota came out on top when the two met in Week 4, but don't expect a repeat performance of that when they square off this Sunday. Let's take a closer look to see why I like the Lions as one of the better bets of the week.
In Week 4 the Lions closed as -3.5 point favorites when they hosted the Vikings. This was when Minnesota were playing much better ball than the Lions. Fast forward to Week 9 and we had the Vikings as -2.5 point favorites in the look-ahead line.
That was clearly a bad line and it was immediately pounced on when it re-opened this past Sunday. The game was taken off the board on Monday, but it re-opened with the Lions hovering around the -1 to -2.5 range, depending on where you shop (odds from SBRforum). I don't think this is enough of an adjustment as I have the Lions favored by -3.5 based on my numbers. That is significant since we have value crossing through the key number of 3.
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Over the last month, the Vikings have given up an average of 165.8 yards rushing per game. Overall they still have a decent run defense ranking, but this team is clearly headed in the wrong direction. After a very efficient start to the year, Christian Ponder has fallen back to earth as well. In reality, he's been nothing short of atrocious.
One could make the case that it's not all Ponder's fault since his O-line ranks near the bottom in pass protection and outside of Percy Harvin, he doesn't have any reliable pass-catching weapons. Having said that, he doesn't pass the eye-ball test right now. He's been so bad that Leslie Frazier had to come out and give him a public vote of confidence after their loss in Seattle.
Now he has to bounce back likely without the service of Harvin, who has been their undisputed MVP this year. Adrian Peterson has been much better than expected, but he isn't keeping opposing coordinators up late at night the same way Harvin is. This is a huge loss for an offense that can't afford to be without him. Even if he is in the lineup, he won't command the same kind of attention as he normally would.
X's and O's: Advantage Lions
If you read my write-up last week for the Lions vs Jaguars game you'll know that I quietly raved about the Lions efficiency on defense this season. They do give up big chunks of yards in the passing game, but that shouldn't be a huge concern given how bad Minnesota is.
Instead they'll load up the box and game-plan for Peterson. This worked quite well in Week 4 and I see no reason why it won't work again. Sure the Lions lost that game, but the Vikings had two return touchdowns on special teams. This is still an area of weakness for Detroit, but it's safe to say that won't be happening agian.
The big advantage Detroit should have here is with their passing game. I'm not going to declare that Stafford is "back" just yet, but he's definitely improved over recent weeks. The Vikings pass defense has slipped back to their 2011 level and they aren't very good at slowing drives down either.
The Vikings are only average rushing the passer and in their red zone, but the Lions rank in the top third of the league in pass protection and near the top in red zone offense.
Both defenses rank around the middle of the pack, but they are trending in different directions. The same could be said for their offenses. This is why the Lions are surging as they've covered the spread in three straight weeks (even though one was an undeserved back-door cover).
Both Harvin and Megatron are banged up, but the former is unlikely to play. CJ on the other hand is still healthy enough to keep secondaries honest.
And if this game is close, there's no question which quarterback is better in the clutch.
NFL Pick: DET -1.