Vikings-Rams TNF Betting Preview: Buy Low on Minnesota?
USA Today Sports.
Betting odds: Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Rams
- Spread: Rams -7
- Over/Under: 49.5
- Time: Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX/NFL Network
>> All odds as of Wednesday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets
Betting market: Betting action is extremely balanced at the time of writing, with Los Angeles attracting 53% of spread tickets and 40% of dollars wagered.
Trends to know: The Rams are undefeated against the spread and winning by more than three touchdowns per game entering Week 4, only the seventh team to do so since 2003.
Three of the previous six teams made the Super Bowl, four made the Conference Championship and the six teams averaged 12 wins per season. — Evan Abrams
How wild and unpredictable has the first month of the season been? So far the Saints (Week 1), Vikings (Week 3) and Jaguars (Week 3) have lost outright as a double-digit favorite.
It is the first time in the last 25 years that three double-digit favorites have lost straight up in the first three weeks of the season. — Evan Abrams
Teams that lost their previous game as double-digit favorites tend to bounce back. Since 2003, teams in this situation are 35-23-2 (60%) ATS in their next game. However, if that team is an underdog, as the Vikings are, they are 15-13-1 ATS. — John Ewing
If you took our football betting quiz, you would already know that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was the most profitable coach to bet on over the past five seasons coming into 2018. Zimmer has covered at an absurd 67.2% clip over that span. — Stuckey
Speaking of Zimmer, the Vikings have thrived as a road underdog (14-7 ATS) since he took over as head coach in 2014. — Stuckey
Matchup to watch: Vikings’ offensive line vs Rams defensive line
You might still be wondering how the Vikings lost as 17-point home favorites to the Buffalo Bills. Well, look no further than their offensive line play. Kirk Cousins had absolutely zero time to throw, as Jerry Hughes & Co. lived in the backfield all afternoon.
In fact, per PFF, Kirk Cousins was pressured on an astounding 32 of 60 total dropbacks — by far the highest in the league in Week 3.
The main culprit was left tackle Riley Reiff, who was beaten like a drum all day. The 29-year-old Iowa product allowed 12 pressures ALONE.
If you don’t have time to throw, you’re not going to move the ball regardless of how good of a receiving corps the Vikings have — even against a beat up Bills secondary.
You can apply that same narrative on Thursday. The Rams are depleted at corner, as they will likely be without both starting corners (Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib) — two shutdown corners who allow that defense to do so much and mask some of the team’s issues at linebacker.
While the secondary might be severely worse off Thursday night, the Rams still have a potentially dominant defensive line. And if the Vikings can’t contain the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers — it won’t matter what advantage the Vikings have on the outside.
But if the Vikings offensive line can hold up in Los Angeles, Cousins should exploit numerous advantages on the outside with one of the deepest and most talented group of pass catchers in the NFL.
Reasons for optimism: I believe Reiff was hurt last week, as he popped up on the injury report this week and likely won’t play Thursday.
That means Rashod Hill (also injured but a full participant Wednesday) will probably slide over to left tackle and rookie Brian O’Neill will start at right tackle. O’Neill, a second-round draft pick, has looked pretty good so far as a rookie.
It’s not the strongest group of tackles, but not an injured (or completely ineffective) Reiff, either.
More importantly, the Vikings will get Pat Elflein back at center this week. Brett Jones is a serviceable backup, but he has not been great this year and getting your starting center back can do wonders for an offensive line. That’s big against Suh.
Additionally, despite the name recognition on the Rams defensive line and playing with leads for the majority of games, LA has the second-fewest sacks in the NFL.
I also expect Minnesota to throw in some screens with running back Dalvin Cook looking like he’ll play.
While Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have plus matchups and should have big days if Cousins has time, Cook and tight end Kyle Rudolph can also exploit the Rams’ weak linebacking corps. — Stuckey
DFS edge: Todd Gurley’s receiving workload is not what we’re used to seeing from a running back. Overall, Gurley is one of just six backs to rack up triple-digit targets since Week 1 of last season.
This has naturally made Gurley and Jared Goff’s fantasy connection more lethal than most QB-RB stacks, as they’ve posted an absurd +0.67 correlation in fantasy production since joining forces with Sean McVay in 2017.
The league-average correlation between the positions since 2014 is just +0.32.
Dome teams typically face a heightened home/away stigma when it comes to projecting their performance in outdoor environments. This is warranted for a player like Diggs, who averages 16.1 DraftKings PPG with a +3.3 Plus/Minus at home compared to 13.7 PPG and a +1.1 Plus/Minus on the road since 2014.
Still, the likes of Thielen and Rudolph have overcome this narrative by increasing their PPG rates by +1.3 and +1.0 on the road, respectively, over the past three seasons. — Ian Hartitz
Injury news: As already mentioned, the Rams aren’t expected to have either of their starting corners Thursday night. Talib (ankle) is on injured reserve and Peters (calf) is considered questionable.
The front seven isn’t exactly in a great spot either, as Dominique Easley (knee) and Mark Barron (ankle) failed to practice on Monday or Tuesday and are far from guaranteed to suit up Thursday night.
Special teams will be without kicker Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein (groin) for another week.
For the Vikings, Cook (hamstring) still hasn’t returned to a full practice and should be considered questionable for Thursday night.
The offense also faces the prospect of potentially being without left tackle Reiff (foot) and right tackle Hill (foot) against the Rams’ fearsome defensive line.
The defensive side of the ball isn’t all that healthy either, as defensive end Everson Griffen (knee/personal) has already been ruled out, while starting cornerback Trae Waynes (ankle) and backup safety Anthony Harris (hamstring) should each be considered questionable. — Ian Hartitz
Bet To Watch: Vikings +7
I’m a huge believer in the buy-low/sell-high philosophy when betting the NFL, especially early in the season.
There isn’t an exact science and you must still consider matchups and other factors, but it’s certainly a guiding principle of mine.
This spot would certainly qualify as a buy-low/sell-high opportunity. You are not only selling the 3-0 Rams who everyone is wowed by, but you are also buying a 1-1-1 Vikings team that just suffered a historic home loss to the lowly Bills.
I think that recent perception is creating bias in a line that I think should be closer to 4.
Look, I have Rams at No. 1 in my power rankings and three points better than a large group of Tier 2 teams that includes the Vikings. (Their respective net yards per play numbers also has these teams separated by three points on a neutral field).
The Rams don’t have a great home field, but I still give them three points especially since they got to stay home on a short week. That would put the line at -6 for this game, but that’s before accounting for the significant Rams injuries.
The injury bundle at corner to Peters and Talib is a significant downgrade. Only quarterback injuries tend to matter in the NFL unless you have multiple key injuries at one position group, which is the case here.
The Rams also have impactful injuries on special teams with Zuerlein out again and return man JoJo Natson out for the week with a broken hand. Natson had looked solid as the dual return man in place of Pharoh Cooper, whom the Rams had to put on IR with an ankle injury.
The Rams can also be run on, as evidenced by their 5.0 yards per carry allowed (27th in NFL). That’s not a fluke from a small sample size, as they finished 30th in the NFL in that same category last season.
That’s what makes Cook’s potential return so key. Without him, the Vikings don’t really have a reliable running game.
You should get the Vikings’ best effort after an embarrassing performance and I think there are enough reasons to believe they can improve their O-line situation sufficiently to give Cousins time to exploit a severely undermanned defensive backfield — especially if Cook returns.
Take the few extra points of value in a classic buy-low/sell-high spot. — Stuckey
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.