Vikings-Rams Betting Preview & Pick: Will Minnesota Rebound?
Man, that was a sweat Monday night.
Up 30-10 at halftime, like anyone who picked the Steelers, I thought my pick was safe. Alas, Pittsburgh nearly blew that 20-point lead in the second half, hanging on by a thread in a 30-27 victory over Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs.
Nevertheless, the Steelers did hang on, which allowed me to finish Week 3 with a 4–1 record. On the season, my NFL picks for 4for4.com are now 12–3. It’s been an unbelievable start and as I tweeted last Sunday, anyone wanting to fade me, I certainly understand. Nobody can maintain an 80 percent record against the spread and there will certainly be bad weeks at some point. For now, let’s see how long we can ride this streak.
Tonight, the Vikings visit the Rams in L.A. for Thursday Night Football. Minnesota is coming off the biggest upset loss since 1995, falling to the Buffalo Bills as 16.5-point home favorites last Sunday. Meanwhile, the Rams continue to roll. Now Super Bowl favorites, Sean McVay’s squad has cruised to a 3-0 record to start the season and find themselves favored again tonight. Considering what happened in that Buffalo-Minnesota game, I see a ton of value in Thursday night’s point spread.
101 Minnesota Vikings at 102 Los Angeles Rams
- Point Spread: Rams -7
- O/U: 49.5
- Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
The Rams opened as 6.5-point home favorites, but the spread was bet up to 7 at most online and Vegas sports books. With the juice on the Rams now up to -115, there’s a chance that the line could get to 7.5, although oddsmakers will be reluctant to move off the key number of 7. As for the total, it opened at 47.5 but was bet up to 49.5.
As of Thursday morning, 52 percent of the betting tickets wagered at online sportsbooks are on the Rams to cover the spread. That said, 58 percent of the money wagered is on the Vikings, indicating that at least some sharp action is in play on Minnesota. There’s also a split on the total, as 60 percent of the betting tickets are on the over but 54 percent of the money wagered is on the under.
We know that Everson Griffen (personal) is officially ruled out for tonight, but that center Pat Elflein will start after missing the first two weeks of the season. What we don’t know is the status of running back Dalvin Cook. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday morning that the Vikings are optimistic that Cook (hamstring) will play versus the Rams. Still, he’s questionable as of this writing.
The Rams also have injury concerns. Marcus Peters (calf, questionable) is unlikely to play according to Schefter, and Aqib Talib (ankle) was placed on injured reserve. That means the Rams will use some combination of Sam Shields, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill and Dominique Hatfield against Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell and tight end Kyle Rudolph.
The Vikings are 5–0 against the spread in their last five games against the Rams, which includes a victory and a cover last year against Los Angeles in Minnesota. The favorite, however, is 8–2 against the number in their last 10 meetings while the over cashed in six of the last seven games between these two teams when the Rams were the host.
While the Vikings were being beaten like a drum by the Bills last Sunday, I looked ahead to who their opponent was in Week 4. When I saw Minnesota would be playing the red-hot Rams on Thursday night, I assumed there would be a great “buy back” opportunity on the Vikings. I figured the line would be around Rams -4 and I’d grab the points with the underdog. Never did I think L.A. would open as 6.5-point favorites and for the line to climb to the key number of 7.
I know the Vikings lost to the Bills last week but let’s not go overboard digging their grave. This is still one of the most talented rosters in the NFL and while the Rams are currently Super Bowl favorites, the gap between these two NFC contenders isn’t that wide.
One of the reasons Buffalo was able to pull off the upset in Minnesota is because Jerry Hughes and the rest of the Bills’ edge rushers were all over Kirk Cousins. With no time to throw, Cousins couldn’t take advantage of a banged-up Bills secondary.
Tonight, the Vikings will face Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Not good, but at least a lot of that pressure will come from the interior, where the Vikings will be stronger with the return of Elflein (who came off the bench last week but who has yet to start a game this season). I’m certainly not suggesting that Donald and Suh won’t be an issue, because that’s the best defensive tackle combination in the league. But the pressure will be different tonight than it was a week ago and perhaps this time around, Cousins will be able to take advantage of an injury-riddled defensive backfield (not having Peters and Talib will be problematic for the Rams).
Defensively, the Vikings are without Griffen, their best pass-rusher, but they’re still stacked at every level of their defense. The Rams averaged 32.9 points per game entering last year’s matchup with the Vikings, who held them to a single touchdown. Mike Zimmer’s unit suffocated Todd Gurley (56 yards and 2.46 yards per rush) and the inability to run the ball led to increased pressure on Jared Goff, who was uncomfortable virtually all game. Griffen was also banged-up heading into that matchup a year ago, so his absence tonight is being overblown a tad. Zimmer will still find ways to pressure Goff. He must.
Granted, the game a year ago was played in Minnesota and tonight will be in L.A. but the Coliseum isn’t exactly the tensest of environments for visiting NFL teams. The Vikings went into Lambeau Field two weeks ago and nearly pulled off an impressive comeback against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. I doubt the warm weather and hoard of USC fans will intimidate the Vikings tonight.
I just keep going back to that line. A touchdown? Talk about an overreaction to the Vikings’ loss to the Bills. The Rams may get their revenge, but Zimmer’s squad was embarrassed a week ago and it won’t go down without a fight.
Pick: Vikings +7
- Week 1: 5-0
- Week 2: 3-2
- Week 3: 4-1
- Overall: 12-3
Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images.