Lions vs. Vikings Odds & Picks: The Price To Bet Sunday’s Underdog
Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford
Editor’s note: This spread swung 3.5 points between publishing on Saturday night and our Sunday morning update.
Lions vs. Vikings Odds
The Minnesota Vikings head to Detroit for a matchup between two teams that entered the season with much higher expectations — now the Vikings and Lions will be playing short-handed with many players either ruled out or questionable.
How should we bet this battle for pride between NFC North rivals?
The Vikings are limping into this season finale with six players already ruled out, including four defensive starters. The absences of linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf), defensive ends Ifeadi Odenigbo (chest) and Jalyn Holmes (groin) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (hamstring) will again decimate an already short-handed Vikings defense.
On offense, Minnesota will be without lead running back Dalvin Cook, who left the team after the unexpected death of his father. Backup running back Alexander Mattison (concussion) practiced fully on Friday and should be available.
Head coach Mike Zimmer’s belief in a strong running game is illustrated by the Vikings’ sixth-highest rush percentage (46.1%) among all NFL teams. Even without Cook, look for the Vikings to feature Mattison, former Detroit running back Ameer Abdullah, or even annual preseason star Mike Boone — all three are capable of finding success against a Detroit defense that’s allowed the fifth-most rushing yards on the season.
The Lions have also allowed the most fantasy points per game and a league-high 26 total touchdowns to opposing backs.
The receiving star of this offense has been rookie wideout Justin Jefferson. The former LSU standout has 79 receptions on 113 targets, and ranks seventh at the position with 1,267 receiving yards.
Jefferson is balanced by veteran Adam Thielen, whose 14 total touchdowns rank third among all wide receivers. Both project for big games against a Lions defense that has also allowed the second-most receiving yards, third-most receptions and most overall fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
Tight end Irv Smith has enjoyed a late sophomore season breakout, producing the overall fantasy TE3 and TE1 stat lines over the past three weeks. He was the line bright spot in last week’s 52-33 bludgeoning at New Orleans, tallying six receptions, 53 receptions and two touchdowns.
Detroit has battled injuries all season, and Week 17 will be no different. Lead wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip), offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby (ankle) and guard Joe Dahl (back) are all ruled out.
The Lions could get a significant boost on offense with several key players that returned to practice this week. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (rib/right thumb/ankle), center Frank Ragnow (throat) and linebacker Jamie Collins (neck) were limited in practice and are listed as questionable — though NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on Saturday that, “barring any setbacks overnight,” Stafford is expected to start.
While the Lions defense has struggled against the run, the Vikings defense hasn’t been much better. Minnesota has allowed the sixth-most rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns to opposing running backs. This is a fantastic spot for Lions’ rookie running back D’Andre Swift.
In Detroit’s first game at Minnesota, Swift tallied 4.9 yards a carry and 97 total yards on just 13 touches. It was after this loss that Swift took over as lead running back for Detroit. I expect Swift to earn the majority of carries over a 35-year-old Adrian Peterson who will enter free agency in the offseason.
Even without Golladay, the Lions have enough passing-game playmakers to produce against a below-average Vikings defense. Veteran Marvin Jones (68 receptions, seven touchdowns) and tight end T.J. Hockenson (64 receptions, six touchdowns) present challenging positional matchups for Minnesota.
If Stafford can play, Detroit would receive a huge boost as a team that passes the ball at the fourth-highest rate (63.2%) in the league.
The Vikings have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and ninth-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends.
Similar to Minnesota, the Lions fail to generate pressure on the opposing quarterback. Detroit has produced just 1.4 sacks per game this season.
In a game with much personnel uncertainty on both sides of the ball, laying 7 points with the home team is simply too much.
The Lions struggled in Week 15 against Tampa Bay, but played without several offensive playmakers and their head coach. I expect a much better performance at home in a matchup against an equally poor defense.
Plus in the Vikings’ only game without Cook this season, they were embarrassed at home by the Falcons, 40-23.
I’m taking Detroit +7 points at home, which will be a huge number if Stafford plays as expected. The high game total indicates a shootout, and getting a touchdown with the home team in the season finale is too enticing.
Pick: Lions +7