Minnesota Vikings (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS)
Week 12 NFL
Date/Time: Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016 at 12:30PM EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: MIN +3/DET -3
Over/Under Total: 43
The Minnesota Vikings come to Ford Field to face the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. Both teams are 6-4 and the winner of this game will take command of first place in the NFC North division. Minnesota got a much-needed win on Sunday. Following 4 straight losses after a 5-0 start, a positive development was needed in a major way and they got it with a 30-24 win over Arizona at home. Detroit, meanwhile, got a strong fourth quarter to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, 26-19.
On November 6, these divisional teams met at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Detroit was able to inflict a painful home loss on the Vikings in a 22-16 overtime win. With just 23 seconds left, the Vikings looked to connect on the game-winner with a Rhett Ellison TD run. A pass-interference call later, Detroit was able to set up for a 58-yarder, which Matt Prater hit to take it to overtime. And Matthew Stafford hit Golden Tate for the game-winner in a game where numerous mistakes and penalties led to the Vikes losing what looked like a win. They look to atone for that this week.
Minnesota was watching their 5-0 start spiral out of control with four straight losses. Against the Cardinals, some of the same things that caused that losing streak were again evident, namely an offense that has trouble making good things happen. But on Sunday, special teams and defense were big contributors to the win. Cordarrelle Patterson's kickoff return for a touchdown was key. And cornerback Xavier Rhodes had two picks, one which he returned for a 100-yard score. Those turned out to be the deciding factors in getting the Vikes to 6-4.
Again, the Minnesota offense continues to labor. Without a run game in the absence of Adrian Peterson, they rely on Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, neither of whom have really been that productive in spelling AP. Sam Bradford is a good quarterback and his addition to this team has kept them afloat. Without a run game, however, he is forced to do too much without the tools to make it happen consistently. Adam Thielen scored a touchdown on Sunday, with Patterson adding some production. Stefon Diggs is an excellent receiver, but is not a consistent producer and ditto for TE Kyle Rudolph. In critical situations, they don't really have a go-to guy.
The Minnesota defense hadn't been that much worse in the last month. They weren't the ironclad force of the first 5 games perhaps, but most teams would be happy with what they were able to produce. And on Sunday, we saw more of that playmaking ability we saw earlier in the season. Rhodes two picks and a TD on a 100-yard return was critical. Daniele Hunter had two sacks. Free safety Harrison Smith was all over the field. Linval Joseph filled the line in the middle well, as he helped stuff the run. It was a key game for the defense and therefore, the entire team. They made positive contributions to the overall effort, scored points, and kept Arizona in check enough to allow the Vikes to win the game. They now try to win their first Thanksgiving game that they've had since 2000.
Detroit started the season with a nice win, lost three in a row, and have since won 5 of their last 6 games. Sunday saw a bit more of a grind against Jacksonville than some suspected, but they covered the spread and got the win. In all 5 of their most recent wins, they trailed at some point in the 4th quarter. That shows an ability to dig out the tough ones, in addition to a defense that is far from foolproof, but one that plays best when the situations are at their most critical.
The defense was big for Detroit on Sunday at home. They kept the Jaguars off the board late and made some big plays. Safeties Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson each recorded interceptions. The Detroit run-defense held Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon to 55 combined yards. Bortles was just over 200 yards on the day. While the defense looked a little dicey early as the Jaguars were competitive, they stepped up late and that has been their wont in recent games. Since October 16, no team has surpassed 20 points against the Lions.
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The Lions' offense lacks a running dimension. Theo Reddick can break off some useful runs here and there, but is more a threat in the passing game, where Detroit gets most of its production. Matthew Stafford has been more efficient and more of a game-manager. He has gotten a big boost from the increased playmaking ability of tight end Eric Ebron, who was big on Sunday. Marvin Jones has been productive in his first season in Detroit. Golden Tate has been quiet, but useful in key situations, with Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts filling out a diverse aerial attack.
Detroit is more-accustomed to the Thanksgiving game as an annual participant, with this being the Vikings first game on this holiday in 16 years. Both teams, however, are facing the short week. Minnesota should get a little emotional boost in being able to reverse the slide on Sunday. If they can just look at it the right way and realize not a lot of people would have projected they'd be in first place this late in the season after all their injury drama, they should be able to move ahead optimistically. Their first game was really close and I see another tight affair where taking the points seems like a good move.
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