Panthers vs. Vikings Odds & Picks: Bet On Scoring From Motivated QBs
Grant Halverson/Getty Images. Pictured: Teddy Bridgewater.
Panthers vs. Vikings Odds
Two games away out of the current NFC picture, the Vikings will look to rebound from last week’s disappointing loss to the Cowboys and keep their playoff hopes alive by spoiling Teddy Bridgewater’s return to Minnesota, where he began his NFL career.
After the Vikings opted to let Bridgewater walk as a free agent at the end of his contract in 2018, I would expect him to be equally motivated coming into this matchup, which could mean plenty of points.
Despite making Bridgewater their franchise quarterback, the Panthers are still in rebuilding mode.
They’re only 4-7, but they’ve gotten some solid contribution from Bridgewater, who trails only Drew Brees with a 72.6% completion percentage. Bridgewater also ranks in the top half of the NFL with a 72.2 mark in ESPN’s Total QBR.
The Panthers can move the ball up and down the field, but it’s been their inefficiencies in the red zone that have prevented them from registering more wins. Now the Carolina offense will face off against a Minnesota defense that’s allowed the sixth-most points per game (27.8), though it’s surprising that the Vikings have allowed that many given that they’re ranked 11th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA.
The great equalizer can often be turnovers, and that is an area where the Vikings have struggled.
Minnesota has allowed the fifth-most turnovers and has a negative margin (-4), while Carolina has a positive turnover margin (+2) — and only the Ravens (10) have forced more fumbles than the Panthers (9). Keep in mind that Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook have each fumbled the ball three times, with the Vikings recovering only two of the six total.
Their turnover woes are part of the reason they’ve often lost the time of possession battle. Their average time of possession is 28 minutes and 43 seconds, while the Panthers are averaging 31 minutes of possession per game. If the Panthers can maintain the advantage in time of possession, it should afford them more opportunities to keep pace with the Vikings’ high-powered offense.
With only four wins on the season, the Vikings still remain one of the NFL’s more potent offenses. They’re averaging 26.4 points per game along with a league-leading 6.5 yards per play and 8.6 yards per pass.
Instead of matriculating the ball down the field, the Vikings instead opt for chunk plays. Per Stats.com, only the Packers (27) have more big play passes of more than 25 yards than the Vikings. They’re also ranked third in explosive run rate with plays of 10 or more yards.
For context on how potent this Minnesota’s offense has been, just look at the Vikings’ yards per play margin, which is a net positive at 0.7 yards per play. They’ve actually out-gained the Panthers by a half-yard per play despite losing the time of possession battle. And despite being a bit prone to a turning over the football, Cousins has yet to throw an interception when inside the red zone: He has 14 touchdowns in the red zone and the Vikings have the highest red-zone touchdown conversion rate in the league at 78.12%.
Carolina might not be able to offer much resistance to Minnesota moving the ball down the field given that the Panthers are ranked 31st on third-down conversations, allowing their opponents to convert 51.82% of their attempts. Look for Cousins and the Vikings to target a Panthers secondary that will be a bit thin without starting cornerback Donte Jackson.
On the injury front, the Vikings will be without wide receiver Adam Thielen for the first time this season. Cousins has targeted Thielen more than any other Viking this season, so that could be worrisome for over bettors. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. and right guard Ezra Cleveland have also been ruled out.
As for the defense, Minnesota’s unit has gotten healthier — particularly in the secondary — since its bye in Week 7. Safety Harrison Smith was listed on the the injury report due to a neck injury, but he should be ready to go.
Both teams should be motivated coming into this matchup, and the fact that this game will take place indoors should allow for a comfortable environment for the offenses to go to work.
Carolina could be vulnerable with Minnesota’s explosive plays particularly since the Panthers be without a starting cornerback. However, I expect Bridgewater to be up to the task to put forth a good offensive performance, too. Minnesota has allowed its fair share of points and playing in a dome is something Bridgewater is used to from his days as a New Orleans Saint.
Last week, Carolina scored 20 points against Detroit, but it could have been even more had backup quarterback P.J. Walker not thrown two interceptions inside the red zone. Contrast that with Bridgewater, who in 36 red-zone pass attempts has yet to throw a pick this season.
It’s worth noting that the Vikings are 5-0 to the over at home and 4-1 to the over as a favorite. When the total opened at 48.5, sharp money pushed it to as high as 52 before there was some buyback that dropped it back down to 49.5-50 as of early Sunday (shop real-time lines here).
It often pays to shop for numbers early in the week, and this is another one of those instances. But with BetMGM now offering 49.5, I’m riding this over.
PICK: Over 49.5