Today's Free Picks for
Posted Friday at 1:30 PM EST.
6:40 PM ST. It looked like the Vikings won the Super Bowl last weekend after the unlikely execution of a play called "7th Heaven" sent the Purple People Eaters to the NFC Championship game and their fans into a frenzy. The effects of that emotional victory have been the major talking point this week, as many in the market expect the Viking to hit the wall in a "letdown" spot this weekend in Philadelphia.
If you've ever wanted to see 72,000 fans dressed as dogs, Sunday is your chance. The underdog moniker is being taken quite literally in Philly, and now there's a shortage of the popular German Shepherd masks that are being worn in the stands at "The Link." In the Divisional round, the expectation was that Matt Ryan would easily outperform Nick Foles, but he didn't, and no one saw the Falcons only scoring 10 points. The Eagles defense has received the lion's share of the spotlight this week, as the pundits have highlighted the fact this team has not given up more than 10-points in four of their last five home games. While that makes for great fodder, these are the same talking heads that gave the Eagles no shot against the Falcons. A closer look at the teams the Iggles played down the stretch does not strengthen the argument for that impressive stat. Philly dominated the 49ers (without Garoppolo), Bears, Raiders and Cowboys, none of which made the playoffs. The Eagles actually gave up 23 points to the pitiful Broncos in Week 9, but they still had star QB, Carson Wentz, to pick up the slack and post 51-points on the board. The Eagles will not have that luxury with Nick Foles behind center. Finally, while the Eagles shut out Atlanta in the final 34 minutes of the game, results are easy to play. Don't forget despite all of their offensive struggles, the Falcons were on the two-yard line with a chance to win the game in the dying seconds.
Pundits are calling this a "defensive battle," with the perception that this game hinges more on the Eagles defense than relying on Foles in a shootout but we could not disagree more. While it might appear the Eagles are taking a step down in offensive competition here, that could not be further from the truth. Minnesota is so much better than the Falcons in every facet of the game it's not even funny. The Vikings offense finished the season ranked 5th in Weighted DVOA which values games played later in the season over those that went off months ago. It's a more accurate representation of a teams' current form. When comparing quarterbacks, the discrepancy between Case Keenum and Nick Foles is so great that it's not even worth mentioning all the area's where the former dominates the latter. For a fairer comparison, we can use Philly's opposing QB last week, Matt Ryan. Matty Ice sits behind Keenum in Total QB DVOA, DYAR, and QBR, all relevant metrics used to determine how good a quarterback is playing. Carson Wentz finished the season 2nd in QBR, which measures how important a specific quarterback is to his team winning. For comparison's sake, Wentz had a QBR of 75.8, while Nick Foles is just 27.9.
The Eagles may feel slighted after oddsmakers priced them as pooches again this week, but it is the Vikings who are being disrespected. They are analytics darlings that bring elite play in all facets of the game, while the Eagles are one-dimensional. For Minnesota to be priced in the same range as the Falcons were a week ago is a joke. Home field advantage is nice, but it's way overvalued here just like the Eagles. We've discussed this week on our podcast that when a line opens with the "hook" on a key number (i.e., 3½, 7½, 10½), it is usually a favorite play because it encourages bettors to wager on the dog. This week was no different, as Philly has been pounded by the market. The books are in the business of trying to balance the action, and they wanted to make sure they've got their fill of the Eagles before anything else. That tells us all we need to know. The "Minnesota Miracle" will be long forgotten after the Vikes leave little doubt about who is the best team in the NFC. SKOL, VIKINGS!
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Minnesota -3 +100 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.00)