The Minnesota Vikings aren’t where they want to be after five weeks of the season, but they’re gaining favor again. Books opened the Vikings (2-3) as the slight one-point road underdogs against the Carolina Panthers, who boast a slightly better 3-2 record. However, the market turned on its head almost instantly as the public bet up the Vikings in this NFC tilt. As things currently stand, the Vikings are now laying 2½ points on the NFL odds board.
At first glance, it does seem counterintuitive to favor the team with the losing record over the team with the winning record – and on the road, no less. However, with the Panthers riding a two-game skid and public confidence waning in the merit of their hot 3-0 start, the Vikings not only appear to be a better bet, but they may well be a lock bet against the spread (ATS). Yup, true story.
Vikings Better Than Record
With a subpar 2-3 record, Mike Zimmer’s side falls below preseason expectations that projected the Minnesota Vikings as one of the league’s dangerous floaters. The good news is that the Vikings appear to be picking up steam, winning two of their last three games while covering the spread in each of those contests.
Arguably, Minnesota could have had a much better record. The first two games were decided by less than a handful of points – a 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and a 34-33 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Had either of those gone their way, things might have been different.
The loss to Kevin Stefanski’s Cleveland Browns in Week 4 was a strange one that resulted in a lackluster 14-7 defeat. Neither team played particularly well, nor seemed to be able to take the initiative.
However, the Vikings rebounded last Sunday with a much-needed 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions. It wasn’t pretty or impressive by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a season-saving decision nonetheless.
The Vikings are a long way from being perfect, but they’re moving in the right direction. Whether quarterback Kirk Cousins and Co. can parlay that into a complete turnaround over the course of the next 12 games remains to be seen. The probability of teams with a 2-3 record making the playoffs is about 20 percent.
So, a lot rests on Minnesota’s account in Week 6. Things might have not started out positively across the online sportsbook, but they weren’t written off in the beginning either as the one-point underdogs.
Panthers Flatter to Deceive
The Carolina Panthers figure to be a good test of Minnesota’s bounce-back ability. They’re an eminently beatable side, as evidenced by the NFL odds. Why else would bookmakers tip the Panthers at the small advantage at home against a team that boasts a losing record? Not that the advantage lasted long, though.
Yes, the Panthers started the season on a hot streak, winning their first three contests comfortably. But those wins don’t pass the litmus test. How much stock can one put in wins over the New York Jets, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans? Taking out the Saints game, the remaining two were against teams that have combined for a 2-8 record.
Recently, the Panthers have gone walkabout behind back-to-back losses. They were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys 38-26 and upset by the Philadelphia Eagles 21-18.
The defeat to the Eagles was highlighted by a concerning – and yet eerily familiar – second-half collapse. Sporting a 15-6 lead at halftime, the Panthers inexplicably fritted away the comfortable advantage to succumb to the stunning upset at the Bank of America Stadium.
Coach Matt Rhule pointed the finger at the defense in his postgame press interview, arguing the loss should never have happened. “With the players we have on defense, we should never lose,” said Rhule.
Now, either Rhule was watching a totally different game than the rest of us or he was intentionally diverting attention from the offense – and specifically quarterback Sam Darnold. The defense had a safety, an interception and a fumble recovery, and shut down Jalen Hurts for three quarters. Darnold, on the other hand, did his best impression of his New York Jets self for old time’s sake.
Sam Darnold fully back to NYJ Darnold cuz he got our defense looking like the 2000 Ravens today lmaooooooooooo
THREE INTERCEPTIONS?!?!?!?! pic.twitter.com/VnHSwYpr2Y
— Nipple H (@FlaminHotGeetos) October 10, 2021
Quarterback inefficiency, inept pass protection and an offensive line that was all over the map all together did the Panthers in. But, let’s face it, Darnold sparked the Eagles’ come-from-behind win single-handedly by throwing those three interceptions.
Lock Down the Vikings
These two outfits appear to be headed in opposite directions right now, and that’s likely providing the push toward the Vikings. However, as per the odds, the game is expected to be close and that means it could come down to the wire. Those nail-biting, drama-filled last few minutes of a game that are invariably defined by quarterback play – in this case Cousins and Darnold — and that can give fans apoplectic fits.
Although neither Cousins nor Darnold falls into the category of an elite quarterback, one is decidedly better than the other. Well, more trustworthy, shall we say. So, that’s why the Minnesota Vikings are the lock ATS bet for Week 6. And if you can find Minnesota at -1 odds, that’s probably the ideal time to lock down the Vikings on for NFL picks against the spread.