The Minnesota Vikings are 10-2. The Detroit Lions are five games behind them in the NFC North at 5-7. Yet for the teams’ meeting this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Ford Field, the Lions are 2-point favorites despite neither squad being particularly burdened by injuries.
The sportsbooks clearly aren’t blown away by the way the Vikings have gotten here — with only a plus-10 point differential — and are eagerly buying into the Lions’ 4-1 record in their last five games, with the only loss a heartbreaker to the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills.
This game will test the working theory among many NFL observers that the Vikings, with the No. 25 rushing offense and No. 31 overall defense, are nowhere near as good as their record indicates. It also will test the emerging theory that the Lions are playing inspired football under coach Dan Campbell and just might be sneaking up on the rest of the playoff field.
.@danorlovsky7 believes the Lions can make a run for the playoffs 👀
"I'll go on record of saying this, I think the Lions win out." pic.twitter.com/ppo8aR9WQL
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 7, 2022
Crazy, you say? Well, the Lions’ luck has been rotten compared to the Vikings’. Detroit has lost five games by four points or less. Head-to-head, the Vikings pulled out a 28-24 win in Minneapolis on Sept. 25 when the Lions blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. A win could put Detroit just a game out of a playoff berth, depending on what happens with the Seahawks and Giants this weekend.
This game opened at Lions -2.5 but has been bet down to -2 across the board, and some books, including FanDuel, have now moved it to -1.5.
The point total is set as low as 51 (at WynnBET) and as high as 52 (at PointsBet, among others). That’s the second-highest total in Week 14 of the NFL after the Miami Dolphins game in San Diego. When the Lions play in their dome, the bookmakers tend to offer high totals that usually land. To wit, the Lions have hit the over in five of their last seven home games. Meanwhile, the over has come in for five of the Vikings’ last seven games overall.
The Vikings certainly should be motivated, considering they can clinch the NFC North with a win or a tie here. But they’ll be fighting a bit of a tide historically, as the Lions have dominated the all-time series 80-40-2.
And the Lions do have a head of steam for this one, with quarterback Jared Goff playing perhaps the best football of his career. He has thrown eight touchdowns and only one interception in the Lions’ past eight games, and he led a Lions offense that scored on eight consecutive possessions last week.
A team with Justin Jefferson is always going to be a matchup problem, and the Lions have the 27th-ranked pass defense in the NFL, but Jefferson has been held under 50 yards receiving in two of his last three games. This game has shootout potential, certainly, but the Lions have the hotter offense.
A bet on the Lions here is really an acknowledgement of how soft Minnesota’s schedule has been. Of those 10 wins, six came against the Packers, Saints, Bears, Cardinals, Commanders, and Patriots. The other four were against the Lions (by four), Dolphins (by eight), Bills (by three), and Jets (by five). In other words, the Vikings have beaten just one decent team by as much as a touchdown.
As we mentioned, it’s not all that outrageous to imagine the Lions making the playoffs. After this, they finish their season at the 7-5 Jets, at the 4-8 Panthers, at home vs. the 3-10 Bears, and at 5-8 Green Bay, while Seattle still has to play the 49ers and Chiefs.
At DraftKings, “yes” on the Lions to make the playoffs is +700, while “no” is -1200. The projection site FiveThirtyEight.com indicates the Lions have an 8% chance to make the playoffs, which translates to +1150, meaning DraftKings might want to make its odds a bit more enticing.
If you think the Vikings are better than their detractors would suggest, you can get them at +1800 to win the Super Bowl at DraftKings.
Props to consider (odds via DraftKings)
Amon-Ra St. Brown over 7.5 receptions (+105)
The USC product has emerged as Goff’s favorite target, with at least seven catches in four straight games and five of his last six. The Vikings’ pass defense isn’t just iffy, it’s injured. Eleven receivers have put up at least 80 yards on them. Another way to go about this is to bet on St. Brown eclipsing 83.5 yards, but you’ll have to lay -115. If you’re feeling adventurous, parlay them and hope for an eight-catch, 84-yard day or better.
D’Andre Swift anytime TD scorer (-120)
He wasn’t healthy the first time these teams met, yet the Lions still managed to put up 139 yards rushing. Now their run game is starting to find its rhythm and they’re likely to get him involved early. Swift has reached the end zone in three of his last four games, and against a defense this porous he should have opportunities to hit paydirt again.
Photo: Lon Horwedel/USA TODAY