Sunday NFL Betting Odds & Picks: Expect Defensive Struggle in Packers vs. Vikings (Sept. 13)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images. Pictured: Dalvin Cook
- The Minnesota Vikings are a short favorite over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon.
- We're looking toward the total, expecting both offenses to undergo some growing pains early on this season.
- Get Mike Randle's preview and Packers vs. Vikings pick below.
Packers vs. Vikings Odds
One of the NFL’s legendary rivalries renews in Week 1 when the Green Bay Packers visit the Minnesota Vikings.
Last season, the Packers swept the season series, snapping a five-game winless streak against Minnesota. With two strong pass defenses and a close point-spread, expect another tight battle between these two bitter NFC North enemies.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay doubled-down on head coach Matt LaFleur’s strong preference of running the football by selecting Boston College star running back A.J. Dillon in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft — and much to the disappointment of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers failed to draft a wide receiver.
After allowing an embarrassing 285 rushing yards in last season’s NFC Championship Game, LaFleur clearly wants to mirror San Francisco’s ball-control offense.
Green Bay reduced its team passing percentage from a league-leading 67.5% in 2018 to just 59.8% (16th) last season. The Packers were also the fifth-slowest team in offensive pace, per Football Outsiders.
The Packers now feature a strong trio of running backs led by Aaron Jones. The fourth-year rusher was brilliantly efficient with more than 1,500 total yards and 19 touchdowns. With Dillon and veteran Jamaal Williams serving as backups, the Packers have the talent and depth to control the clock throughout the game.
Their run defense needs to improve, though, especially up front. Green Bay ranked just 27th in run defensive efficiency, which the 49ers exploited in that NFC title game by rushing on 84% of their plays en route to a 37-20 win.
Cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King are the base of a strong secondary, which will limit the effectiveness of Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins. Green Bay will try to win the time of possession to avoid wearing down an overall defense that isn’t among the NFL’s elite.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has implemented his hard-nosed brand of football by supplementing a strong defense with a run-first offense: Minnesota ranked 30th in pass attempts per game and fourth in rushing attempts per game in 2019.
The Vikings traded explosive wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo over the offseason, depleting their low-volume passing attack even further. With unproven receivers — led by second-year pass-catcher Bisi Johnson and rookie Justin Jefferson — the Vikings will hope veteran Adam Thielen can rebound from a disappointing year that produced only 30 receptions and 418 receiving yards.
Expect Minnesota to lean on All Pro running back Dalvin Cook, who produced the overall RB1 line (three receptions, 191 total yards and one touchdown) in the Vikings’ 21-16 loss at Green Bay in Week 2 of 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, their offensive line grades only as the NFL’s 23rd-best due to major pass-blocking concerns.
Minnesota’s strong zone-blocking/play-action attack, however, should continue to flourish under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
The Minnesota defense will cause problems for the Green Bay offense all game. In last year’s home game against the Packers (without Cook), the Vikings tallied three sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles, recovering two. Now the Vikings will be without Pro Bowl defensive end Danielle Hunter (14.5 sacks) but still have a capable pass rush. Rodgers will see constant pressure from former Jacksonville defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (eight sacks) and third-year pass-rusher Ifeadi Odenigbo (seven sacks).
Six of the past seven games in this historic rivalry have totaled 41 or fewer points, with five of those games finishing under 38 points. Both head coaches want to establish a strong running game and have the respective backfield talent to do so.
During head coach Mike Zimmer’s tenure, the Vikings have been a lucrative bet to cover at home. Since his first season in 2014, Minnesota is 25-11-1 (69.4%) as a home favorite, with a Return On Investment (ROI) of 34.6%.
With the news of Hunter’s injury, the line has dropped to Vikings -2.5, so this game now presents two opportunities to fade the public: Green Bay is getting 70% of the money and 62% of the bets per our public betting data, while the under is drawing 70% of the bets but 93% of the money, indicating a sharp lean on a lower total.
I’m on Minnesota -2.5 but would not play below that value to cover a potential field goal win. I am also backing the under at 46, which I would play down to 45.5.
PICKS: Vikings -2.5; Under 46 (down to 45.5)