An NFL point spread rarely becomes a main talking point, let alone the headline of a game with playoff implications. But we have reached that juncture with the 5-7 Detroit Lions as 2-point home favorites over the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota opened the week as a favorite, but multiple sharp bettors wagered on Detroit, which swung the line in its favor. The Vikings have become a bit of a polarizing topic with doubters pointing to their seemingly unsustainable 9-0 record in one-score games and paltry point differential of +10, which is more consistent with teams around .500.
"Those that make and move markets are firmly of the belief that the Vikings have been lucky and not good, and the power rankings reflect this," BetMGM vice president of trading Jason Scott told ESPN. "Money from the top end of town has been all for the Lions this week."
Lions coach Dan Campbell fielded a question about his team being favored and was at a loss for words, saying he was "shocked." That's understandable, considering a team with a win percentage of .800 or better being an underdog to a team with a losing record this late in the season has happened only once before in the Super Bowl era, aside from a Week 16 or 17 situation with starters resting.
"The sell sign isn't just blinking. It is screaming," professional bettor Steve Fezzik told ESPN, sharing that he ranks the Vikings 15th in his power ratings and considers that possibly too high. "Minnesota is getting outgained on yards per play badly (5.2 to 6.0), and they are getting worse: 4.5 to 6.5 over the last three games."
I am torn because I am not as dismissive of Minnesota as most. I think winning NFL games is tough and a 10-2 record is impressive. I do not see an undefeated mark in one-score games as lucky or random. The parity in the league is quite possibly the highest it has ever been in history, so I am of the belief that their late-game execution is commendable.
But in this situational spot, I do like the Lions. Minnesota is coming off back-to-back nail-biters, and Detroit should be fresh following last week's blowout win.
The numbers you need to know
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5, 37)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
Fading a Tom Brady offense has been profitable this year. The Buccaneers are a league-worst 3-8-1 ATS this season. Additionally, 10 of their 12 games have gone under the total.
The Bucs are 3.5-point road underdogs to the 49ers, who will start 2022 seventh-round draft pick Brock Purdy. It's just the second time Brady has been an underdog to a rookie quarterback.
By all accounts, the 49ers love Purdy. He's won them over, and I think that matters. However, he definitely has some limitations and as one oddsmaker reminded me this week, how many quarterbacks undrafted or drafted that late actually play well? Kurt Warner is probably the only one.
Purdy played OK last week, but truthfully, the Miami Dolphins botched their chances. Or maybe I'm just bitter because I bet the Fins. Either way, I think Purdy will be more competent with a full week of practice, and I think very little of Tampa Bay. I am on San Francisco -3 (-120). Avoiding the hook on 3.5 is critical when the over/under is so low.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-3.5, 41)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
Tennessee didn't have anything left in the tank last week and was shut out in the second half by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Titans had a grueling game the previous week, so that performance did not shock me. However, a flat effort against the Jags would. I am laying it with the Titans. They are tough and well-coached, and Jacksonville has been inconsistent and unreliable. Doug Pederson has stabilized the disarray left over from the Urban Meyer era, but he still has a lot of work to do. The Jags are 1-5 SU and ATS on the road this season, and Tennessee is 6-0 ATS against teams with losing records. I know what I am getting with Mike Vrabel's squad, and I believe it's a cover.
Pick: Titans -3.5
Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys (-17, 44)
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
These types of point spreads are so difficult. Based on principle, I would look to the underdog. It's this season's highest point spread, and how on earth can Dallas be excited for this game? The Cowboys' defense ranks fifth in efficiency, but I do not think they will be as dominant as we have seen because of apathy. And don't be fooled by last week's final score against Indianapolis. The Colts dropped a 2-point conversion that would have tied the game late in the third quarter. I feel more comfortable with over 44 points, especially with Davis Mills starting ahead of Kyle Allen. Mills is somewhat competent, but when he isn't, he's turnover-prone, and that leads to points for the opposition.
Pick: over 44