Two teams looking to improve their standing in the playoff race will collide tonight, with the New England Patriots visiting the Minnesota Vikings.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (+122) VS. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-144) TOTAL: 42.5 (O -106, U -114)
The 6-4 New England Patriots are set to visit the 8-2 Minnesota Vikings in the nightcap of the NFL’s Thanksgiving slate tonight. There are strengths to both teams’ rosters, with the Patriots’ identity being their defense. New England escaped with a 10-3 victory over the Jets on Sunday due to a late punt return, while the Vikings are coming off being obliterated by the Dallas Cowboys, 40-3.
Will tonight show a Vikings team looking to bounce back, or will they have another poor performance against a strong New England defense that isn’t afraid to rush the quarterback?
No matter how relevant you think this is, we must consider how Kirk Cousins plays in similar settings. When Cousins plays in a primetime game, the Vikings’ signal-caller is 10-18, which doesn’t provide a lot of confidence in Minnesota as home favorites. In addition, the Patriots’ defense will make it even harder to trust your money with the Vikings.
The Patriots should approach this game like the Cowboys, not allowing Cousins time to breathe in the pocket. That’s when he’s at his worst and prone to turnovers. The Vikings are listed as 2.5-point home favorites, and we like the Patriots to cover that number while also winning the game outright.
Best Bet: Patriots moneyline (+122)
When the Patriots win football games, it’s often because of their defense and two-headed ground game. That will play a role in this matchup while the Vikings focus on putting together a stronger offensive performance than last week. Even though the Vikings allowed a 40 spot to the Cowboys last weekend, their defense is much better than that indicates, so it should keep the Patriots in check. With the total set at 42.5, the game should come in just below that number, so side with the under at -114.
Best Bet: Under 42.5 (-114)
Game Pick: Patriots 21, Vikings 17
Vikings-Patriots: 5 things you can count on
If the turkey doesn’t put you to sleep on Thursday night, perhaps the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots will.
Thursday night will be the first time in franchise history the Vikings have hosted a Thanksgiving game but that’s where the excitement ends. The Patriots and Vikings are likely to have a physical, low-scoring contest with The Action Network putting the over/under at 42.5 points.
It may not be the most exciting night but here are five things you can count on when the Vikings meet the Patriots.
1. Kirk Cousins under pressure
The Vikings’ offensive line held its own earlier this season but it has fallen apart over the past couple of weeks. Ed Ingram currently leads all offensive linemen with 40 quarterback pressures allowed this season and Ezra Cleveland ranks eighth with 29.
As a unit, the Vikings have allowed a 40 percent or higher pressure rate in five of their past six games including a whopping 63 percent rate in Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The Vikings won’t get a break as they’ll face a Patriots defense that’s second in the league with a 29.8% pressure rate. Their pressure on the edge is a big reason why.
Matthew Judon leads the league with 13 sacks and Deatrich Wise Jr. ranks 13th among all edge rushers with 38 pressures this season. With Christian Darrisaw out with a concussion, there’s a good chance Bill Belichick salivated like a moist turkey was just set on his table when he threw on the tape and will find a way to get pressure on Cousins.
2. The Patriots keying in on Justin Jefferson
In the Vikings’ last meeting with the Patriots, Belichick devised a scheme that double-teamed Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen at all times. Relying on Laquon Treadwell and a pass-happy scheme under John DeFilippo, the Vikings struggled in a 24-10 loss at Foxborough.
This is an example of how Belichick can take away a team’s top weapons and that’s potentially bad news for Justin Jefferson on Thursday night.
Jefferson was held to 33 yards against the Cowboys, but it wasn’t his fault. With Cousins under big-time duress, there wasn’t much time to get Jefferson the ball on slow-to-develop plays.
Jefferson wanted the Vikings to adjust to a quicker passing game and it could be what we see Thursday night. There’s a better chance that Belichick will do everything he can to slow Jefferson down and it will be on Minnesota’s secondary weapons to step up.
3. A paper-thin secondary
Another issue for the Vikings is the current state of the secondary. Patrick Peterson has stepped up throughout the season but Cameron Dantzler remains out with an ankle injury while Akayleb Evans (concussion) and Andrew Booth Jr. (knee) have been ruled out.
That leaves Duke Shelley to play across from Peterson. Although he was one of the heroes in the Vikings’ victory over the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 13, he posted an overall PFF grade of 53.7 last season and allowed a 103.8 passer rating when targeted.
Although he’s not part of the secondary, linebacker Jordan Hicks could be another liability in pass coverage – allowing 102 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Cowboys.
We saw how easy it was to pick on a weak link in the secondary when Dak Prescott threw toward Andrew Booth a team-high eight times on Sunday. Belichick will likely try to do the same to take advantage of a banged-up secondary.
4. The Patriots running the ball
One of the most frustrating aspects of the loss to Dallas was their inability to stop the run. The Cowboys ran for 151 yards in the blowout and Tony Pollard was especially effective in weaving his way through the Minnesota defense.
This allowed the Cowboys to keep the ball away from the Vikings and put their defense on the field for just over 37 minutes.
Belichick probably cackled like The Grinch when he saw the tape, knowing he has two capable running backs of his own in Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris.
The Vikings might get Dalvin Tomlinson back after he was limited in practice this week, but he may not be ready for a full workload. The Patriots aren’t a dominant run-blocking unit either – ranking 23rd in PFF’s run-blocking grades – but if they can dominate the line of scrimmage, it could be a long night.
5. Bill Belichick’s dominance over the Vikings
Every time Belichick has crossed paths with the Vikings, bad things have happened. The Vikings have never defeated the Patriots since Belichick was hired in 2000 and haven’t made the playoffs in a year after playing Belichick.
Although the Vikings virtually have the NFC North (and the playoff spot that comes with it) wrapped up, there are still concerns that could lead to a sudden slump.
With Darrisaw out and several other players banged up, the Vikings are unlikely to be themselves, especially on a four-day turnaround. It shouldn’t be a season-long slump but one that could lead to another loss on Thursday night.