Vikings vs Broncos Prediction, Odds, Pick | NFL Sunday Night Football
Getty Images. Pictured: Joshua Dobbs (left) and Russell Wilson (right).
Vikings vs Broncos Prediction, Odds, Pick | Sunday Night Football
Vikings vs Broncos odds for Sunday Night Football have Denver installed at -2.5 on the spread — -3 on BetRivers — with a game total of 42.5 or 43 depending on the sportsbook. The point spread is important for my Vikings vs Broncos prediction, which is on Joshua Dobbs and the underdog Vikings.
The Broncos have been a different team since giving up an unthinkable 31 points to the Zach Wilson-quarterbacked, Nathaniel Hackett-coordinated Jets in a home loss in Week 5 that dropped them to 1-4 straight-up (SU) and 0-5 against the spread (ATS). Since then, they are 3-1 both SU and ATS (with their only ATS loss coming by a half-point, no less). With its defense now looking like a strength, Denver enters this matchup riding a three-game winning streak.
Not to be outdone, the Vikings enter on a five-game winning streak in which they've covered every time. After starting 0-3 SU and 0-3 ATS, Minnesota has gone 6-1 SU and 6-1 ATS.
Which team is the better bet to see its streak snapped on Sunday Night Football? Let's make a Vikings vs Broncos pick and break down SNF.
Vikings vs Broncos Prediction
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how the Vikings and Broncos match up statistically:
Vikings vs. Broncos DVOA Breakdown
Note: All EPA data is from rbsdm.com. All quarterback pressure data is from PFF. All other data is from FTN Fantasy unless otherwise stated.
The key to handicapping the Broncos right now is to avoid putting too much weight on their full-season data, which is not only skewed by the outlier 70-20 loss to the Dolphins in Week 3, but also fails to reflect how well they've been playing of late.
Instead, we have to ask whether Denver's opponent has answers for the three key components fueling the Broncos' turnaround.
- A defense that went from league-worst to above-average. In Weeks 1-5, Vance Joseph's defense was an abject disaster, allowing 36.2 PPG and ranking last with 0.225 expected points added per play allowed. But Joseph has made the necessary adjustments while his players have gotten more familiar with the scheme, leading to a a drastic improvement that has seen Denver's defense allow 16.8 PPG. It ranks 10th in EPA/play (-0.056) since Week 6 despite facing Patrick Mahomes (twice) and Josh Allen.
- The return to form of Javonte Williams. With Williams in and out of the lineup in Weeks 1-5 as he worked his way back from a torn ACL sustained last October, the Broncos averaged 104.2 rushing yards per game and were 16th in EPA per rush (-0.104). Since Williams returned to the lineup fully healthy in Week 6, the Broncos are averaging 133.8 yards per game on the ground and rank eighth in EPA per rush (-0.039).
- Russell Wilson becoming a low-volume game manager. Wilson went from averaging 32.6 pass attempts per game in Weeks 1-5 to 24.8 from Week 6-on. He's been a below-average quarterback on a down-to-down basis by most metrics — he's 21st in yards per attempt (6.9), 24th in pass success rate (42.5%) and 28th in sack rate (10.3%) among 33 qualified quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Reference — but he has posted a sterling 18-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, which can be a winning formula when paired with a strong defense and run game.
Based on scheme and areas of strength, the Vikings profile as one of the toughest matchups Denver could possibly face. The Vikings have a decisive edge in each of the three facets that have driven Denver's resurgence.
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Vikings Edge No. 1: Play-action Passing
Offensively, the Vikings have the league's highest rate of play-action (28.6%, per Pro Football Reference), which is one area the Broncos haven't been able to solve defensively despite their turnaround.
On the season, the Broncos are last in play-action passer rating allowed (148.7) and play-action completion percentage allowed (82.5%). Even as their defense improved over the last four games, they continued to struggle versus play-action and were lucky to mostly face offenses which don't heavily utilize the concept.
- Week 6 at KC: Patrick Mahomes 5-of-6, 100 yards (16.7 YPA), 118.8 rating
- Week 7 vs. GB: Jordan Love: 9-of-9, 90 yards, 2 TDs (10.0 YPA), 147.9 rating
- Week 8 vs. KC: Mahomes 5-of-7, 74 yards (10.6 YPA), 105.7 rating
- Week 10 at BUF: Josh Allen 4-of-5, 43 yards (8.6 YPA), 102.5 rating
Overall, the Broncos allowed an 85.2% completion rate and 11.4 yards per attempt on play-action passes over the last four weeks, presenting an avenue to success for Joshua Dobbs, who has used play-action on 29.7% of his dropbacks as a Viking — up from 25.8% with Arizona. On the season, Dobbs is averaging a full yard more per attempt with play-action (6.8) than without (5.8).
In his brief Vikings tenure, Dobbs has yet to represent a downgrade from Kirk Cousins. Here's how they compare in terms of EPA and Adjusted EPA (which adjusts for opponent and situation) among the top 32 quarterbacks during their respective tenures as Minnesota's QB1.
- Cousins (Weeks 1-8:) 0.145 EPA/play (8th), 0.177 adjusted EPA/play (6th)
- Dobbs (Weeks 9-10): 0.210 EPA/play (7th), 0.255 adjusted EPA/play (7th)
The Vikings have gotten great play from injury replacements at premium positions all season long, and Dobbs is no exception. Last week against a Saints defense that has been one of the NFL's best for the better part of the past two seasons, Dobbs led the offense to 24 first-half points, rushing for one score and throwing for another.
Since both of these teams are currently in vastly different form compared to earlier in the season, comparing their performance during their current winning streaks can help lend insight to how they stack up. Here is how the two offenses stack up in terms of EPA during their current runs, with the Vikings split by quarterback:
- Vikings Weeks 6-8 (3-0 w/Cousins): 0.073 EPA/play (6th), 0.237 pass EPA (3rd), -0.211 rush EPA (26th)
- Vikings Weeks 9-10 (2-0 w/Dobbs): 0.025 EPA/play (10th), 0.215 pass EPA (7th), -0.300 rush EPA (30th)
- Broncos since Week 7: 0.017 EPA/play (12th), 0.087 pass EPA (10th), -0.065 rush EPA (11th)
While Minnesota's offense with Dobbs hasn't quite reached the same apex as it did with Cousins during the current winning streak, it's not far off. More importantly, the Dobbs offense compares favorably to the Broncos' Wilson-led attack during their three-game run.
The only thing the Broncos have going for them is more balance with the rushing attack, but that may very well flip this week, as the Vikings have played three of the NFL's top-four run defenses by EPA during their streak, including Atlanta (No. 4) and New Orleans (No. 3) in the last two games with Dobbs.
The Broncos, meanwhile, sit 30th in defensive rushing EPA this season (0.008) and 23rd in defensive rush EPA since the start of their winning streak (-0.028). Speaking of run defense …
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Vikings Edge No. 2: Run Defense
The Vikings are ninth in defensive EPA/play overall (-0.0055) and seventh in rushing EPA/play (-0.148). That not only represents the toughest run defense matchup the Broncos have faced all season, but also a stark difference from the ones Denver has faced on its winning streak (Buffalo is 19th; Kansas City 31st; Green Bay 25th).
Williams has seen his efficiency wane as his volume has increased over the past two weeks — 3.4 yards per carry on 48 rushes — and he could struggle again here.
A key component of the Broncos' new offense under Sean Payton has been targeting running backs out of the backfield; Denver's 61 receptions by running backs is the second-most in the league. Over the last two weeks alone, Williams has caught 7-of-7 targets for 43 yards and two touchdowns, but that may not be there against a Vikings defense that is limiting opposing running backs to the second-fewest yards per reception (5.3) and fifth-fewest receiving yards per game (23.9).
Vikings Edge No. 3: The Blitz
Nobody dials up more heat than Brian Flores.
Under Flores, the Vikings have sent five or more pass-rushers on an absurd 49.6% of opponent dropbacks, most in the NFL by over 10 percentage points. While Wilson did make a nice play against the blitz with time winding down last week to get into field-goal range, that's far from the norm with him.
His passer rating this season is 112.6 when the defense rushes four or fewer, but it falls to 78.6 when blitzed. Among 39 qualified quarterbacks against the blitz this season, Wilson's 33.7 drop-off in passer rating when blitzed is by far the largest. Wilson has also been dropped for a sack on 28.2% of pressures when blitzed, which also ranks last among qualified quarterbacks.
Vikings vs. Broncos
Betting Picks & Predictions
The Vikings present a tougher matchup than you'd think for a Broncos team coming off wins over the Chiefs and Bills and playing at home — although Denver's home-field advantage is offset somewhat by having to travel from Buffalo on a short week. The Broncos have simply yet to face a team that combines heavy play-action and heavy blitz with a stout run defense.
Despite two of the Vikings' three edges coming on defense — and primetime unders going 23-8 (74%) this season and 59-24 (69%) since the start of last season — I don't see much value in taking that route. You still have the Vikings offense being underrated, plus both quarterbacks have scrambling ability and can create off-schedule. And even though Wilson has struggled against the blitz, sending extra rushers makes a defense vulnerable to big plays in single coverage.
I see a lot more value on the Vikings, who have been undervalued by the market since Justin Jefferson kicked off their wave of injuries (-2.5 against the peak-disarray Bears were freely available for much of that week). One of these teams will have a letdown, and the odds are more in favor of it being the Broncos.
According to our Action Labs data, home teams on short rest favored by less than a touchdown are just 64-91-3 (41%) ATS since 2008. That includes an 8-20 (29%) ATS mark and -4.7 average ATS differential in primetime.
Road teams have struggled in primetime as of late (4-8 ATS in their last 12), but the Vikings are in a good spot to buck that trend. Over the past two decades, road teams (regardless of which side is favored) in primetime are 44-22-3 (67%) ATS when facing an opponent on a short week, covering by 2.6 points per game.
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