Buccaneers vs. Vikings Odds & Picks: Minnesota Is A Live Dog In NFL Week 14
Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Brady
Buccaneers vs. Vikings Odds
The Minnesota Vikings head south to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Week 14 matchup filled with playoff implications.
Minnesota is just one game behind Tampa Bay for the sixth playoff spot in the NFC. After a 1-5 start, the Vikings managed to turn their ship around with a 5-1 run over their last six games. As for the Bucs, they’re coming off a Week 13 bye with just one win over their last four games.
Despite recent form, Tampa Bay is a 7-point favorite. And while it makes sense to back teams off their bye, this spread might be a bit inflated for what figures to be a competitive matchup between two motivated teams. In fact, a closer look reveals that favorites have struggled to win by margin in this spot when coming off a bye this season.
Kirk Cousins has the Vikings offense humming this season. Per TeamRankings, they’re tied for second in the NFL with 6.3 yards per play, 11.9 yards per completion and 8.1 yards per pass attempt. Overall, the Vikings are out-gaining their opponents by 0.5 net yards per play.
Cousins has really caused problems for opposing defenses with his ability to push the ball down the field. He could be set to play a big role against a Bucs defense that’s ranked 22nd in allowing 255.8 passing yards per game and 31st over their last three matchups, averaging 318 passing yards allowed. Cousins will also be looking to add to his tally of 26 touchdown passes.
What will be interesting to watch is how Minnesota’s running game does against a Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked first in Football Outsiders’ rush defense DVOA — Tampa Bay leads the league in allowing only 74.2 rushing yards per game while Minnesota is sixth in rushing for 145.7 per game.
Should the Buccaneers contain the Vikings’ rushing attack, it’s more likely that Cousins will be called into action early and often. And if he’s able to have some success moving the ball down the field, you’d have to like Minnesota’s chances to convert opportunities, particularly in the red zone.
The Vikings have converted 75% of their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns, which is good enough for third in the league. Cousins has the highest completion rate (71%) inside the 20-yard line for any quarterback with at least 35 red-zone pass attempts, and he’s been able to rack up 19 touchdowns in this spot without throwing an interception.
A big concern for the Vikings will be the absence of All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks due to a calf injury. He’ll be joined by backup running back Alexander Mattison, who will miss his second straight game after appendectomy surgery last Saturday. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is listed as doubtful with a foot injury and isn’t expected to play according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, though Rudolph’s backup Irv Smith Jr. (questionable) is expected to suit up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs’ bye couldn’t have come at a better time — three of the four games they lost right before the break occurred with them at home. While Tampa Bay has out-gained its opponents by 0.5 net yards play this season, the Bucs have been out-gained at home by 0.2 net yards per play.
One thing that’s surprised me with the Buccaneers is how unbalanced their offense has been. Per TeamRankings, they’re running the ball just 36% of the time, which puts them 28th in the league. The four teams that have run the ball less than the Bucs have a combined record of 11 wins and 35 losses.
It’s almost as if the Buccaneers have abandoned the run with the hope that Tom Brady will serendipitously figure things out and lead them to victory.
For whatever reason, the Tampa Bay coaching staff has made a concerted effort to call fewer running plays despite averaging 4.2 yards per carry. Instead, the Bucs preferred to take deep shots down the field as they’re tied for third in explosive passing plays of 20 or more yards according to Sharp Football Stats. It’s likely that the Buccaneers take a similar approach against a Vikings defense ranked 28th in allowing 45 explosive passing plays. However, when their opponents are inside the red zone, the Vikings have been one of the best teams in allowing touchdowns in 51% of the scoring opportunities they’ve faced.
Despite having a late bye in Week 13, the Buccaneers come into this game with very few injuries, though of the limited injuries of note, cornerback Jamel Dean is listed as doubtful and is in danger of missing his second straight game.
The Buccaneers opened as 6.5-point favorites. There was a 15 to 20 cent juice on the line, which signaled there was a good chance it would go up prior to kickoff and I wouldn’t be surprised if gets as high as 7.5 (see real-time NFL odds).
Part of this line move likely has to do with the expected absences of Kendricks and Rudolph, but while the amount of explosive plays the Vikings allow does concern me, their red-zone defense suggests that their unit is willing to bend but not break. Minnesota has the offensive weapons to keep pace with Tampa Bay, and Cousins is playing some of the best football of his career.
This season, conference games with favorites of at least six points with more than a week of rest have struggled to win by margin.
I’ll gladly place my trust in Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who according to our Bet Labs database, is 64-41-1 for 21.5 units against the spread — though I am going to wait to see how high this line goes before looking to back the underdogs.
Pick: Vikings +7 or better