Minnesota Vikings (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10 SU, 5-7 ATS)
Week 14 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: MIN -3.5/JAC +3.5
Over/Under Total: 39.5
The Minnesota Vikings come to EverBank Field on Sunday to face the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Vikings are coming off a tough Thursday Night Football loss to the Dallas Cowboys, coming within a two-point conversion of tying Dallas, instead settling for a 17-15 loss—their 6th in 7 games. On the surface, the Vikes appeared to have circled the drain. But still at 6-6 and with no one running away with the division, maybe the situation isn't as dire as it seems. That can't be said for the 2-10 Jaguars, losers of seven straight games. On Sunday, they lost 20-10 at home to the Broncos, failing to cover the spread for the fifth time in 7 games.
The Vikings have seen things sour since a 5-0 start. Last week, even their coach had to be rushed into eye surgery and missed the game. Having him back this week should help and one should hesitate before piling dirt on what looks like a buried team. They showed a lot of moxie and grit against Dallas and that same performance could have them in good stead for these remaining 4 games. Their last 4 losses were all one-score affairs. They've been fighting and are still in there giving a good effort.
Naturally, the issue remains the offense with the Vikings. It's a side of the ball that has struggled across all areas. The depreciation of the O-line hasn't helped, as they're struggling in springing a run game, in addition to keeping Sam Bradford safe in the pocket. Combine that with a threadbare offense without Adrian Peterson and that's how you end up with the 31st-ranked offense in the league. Since beating Houston on October 9, they've surpassed 20 points of scoring just once. They have some good players like Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and others, but they never seem to all have good games at the same time.
The Minnesota defense is still getting the job done and after giving up just 17 points to Dallas, it's clear they are still out there doing their thing and trying hard. They held Dak Prescott to a season-low 139 yards on Thursday, while keeping Ezekiel Elliott to under 100 yards rushing. Danielle Hunter registered two sacks and the line had a good game. It's just that the defense was getting better support earlier in the season from the offense, along with some big special teams plays that took a sad song and made it better. With less offensive production and return man Marcus Sherels out of action, the defense has been forced to carry too heavy of a load and have seen their overall effectiveness drop just enough to make the shortcomings of the rest of the team more visible.
The Vikes are a strange study. Usually when a team starts 5-0 and finds themselves at 6-6, you can make certain statements about where that team is heading. But they are in fact still out there trying to win. Not a lot of people thought they'd even be 6-6 after losing Bridgewater and Peterson. Maybe they can use the long week to work some things out, get more of what they have on offense, and see some things go their way in the next several weeks. For however bad things have gone recently, they still came within a two-point conversion of taking the hottest team in the league to overtime last week and against the Jaguars, will be facing a team that has enough issues of their own.
The situation is bad for the Jaguars. They are still showing decent energy, but that's small consolation for a team that was expecting a surge this season. They opened the season 0-3, won two straight, and then right into the tank with 7 straight defeats. The aerial attack seems stuck in neutral, despite ample talent. The run-game has no stars or anyone who can so much as step forth with the occasional big game, even as the cabaret approach worked well last week against Denver at times. The defense is among the less-clutch groups in the league—4th in the NFL in yards allowed, while also being 26th in points allowed. They now trudge forward with a lame-duck coach after a depressing three-quarters of season.
Even in holding Denver to just over 200 yards of total offense, Jacksonville never looked to be the winner on Sunday. Bortles threw no touchdowns and two picks, giving him 15 on the season. One was returned for a touchdown by Bradley Roby, Bortles' third pick-six in his last four games. After 1400 yards last season, WR Allen Robinson has 622 yards this season. WR Marqise Lee has been useful, but as a whole, the aerial attack underachieves on a pretty massive scale. Bortles ran in a score from 22 yards out in one of their few highlights. But there is a major chasm on this side of the ball between their potential and actual production.
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The Jacksonville defense has some things to like about it, namely a robust pass-defense that is ranked third in the NFL. Still, they've only picked off three passes all season, which underlines this defense's lack of playmaking ability. The pass-rush isn't terribly consistent and young potential has also failed to properly unfurl on this side of the ball. In the last five weeks, they've given up between 19 and 28 points in every game, not terrible, but not good enough for a sputtering offense.
We're looking at two teams with a 1-13 record in their last 14 combined games. So they're not getting the job done any way you want to cut it. At the same time, neither team appears to have given up. And it's not an easy spot for an NFC North team in Florida on December. Not too many Vikings highlights take place in the sun in December. The spread and total indicate that many are forecasting a close and lower-scoring affair. Fair enough, but I see the Vikes' defense giving the offense room to work en route to a win.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Minnesota Vikings minus 3.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Vikings vs. Jaguars by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!