Vikings-Saints Christmas Betting Preview: Odds, trends, pick

It’s Christmas, a good time to reflect on our blessings. One of those blessings — for football fans and bettors alike — is a rare four consecutive days of NFL action, starting with a Christmas Day matinee. Kicking off this Christmas weekend of pigskin bliss, the Saints (10-4) host the Vikings (6-8) at the Superdome. The Saints are listed as -7 favorites (-310 ML), and the over/under is set at 51 total points.

New Orleans felt blessed last week when veteran leader and future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees returned from a four-week absence after suffering 11 broken ribs and a punctured lung. Brees struggled early against the Chiefs but nearly mounted a second-half comeback against the defending Super Bowl champions, ultimately falling short 32-29. Meanwhile, the Vikings are likely just thankful their season is almost mercifully over and that they have Offensive Player of the Year candidate Dalvin Cook on their side.

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We at BetQL always want to help you achieve betting success, which is why we’ve offered a comprehensive Thursday Night Football betting preview and predictions here at Sporting News every week of the season. We can tell you right now that for this Friday Afternoon Football game, we are all-in on the OVER of 51 points, with our BetQL Best Bet Model listing it as a full five-star bet. Keep reading to reveal our detailed preview for this Christmas contest, as well as our full predictions against the spread and on the moneyline.

Vikings Outlook

The Vikings have experienced a couple different down stretches this season, losing five of their first six games and now three of their past five. They have also experienced some highs, like beating the Packers, Bears, and Texans, but they have also hit some pretty murky points.

Of course, in the spirit of the holiday season, it’s important to look at the bright side of things. Justin Jefferson has been the best rookie wide receiver in the 2020 Draft class and will almost assuredly receive some votes for Rookie of the Year. Fellow wideout Adam Thielen has experienced a bounce-back season and seems to have made the end zone his second home. Perhaps most noteworthy, running back Dalvin Cook has not only been healthy the majority of this season, he’s also dominated. Cook should be a frontrunner for Offensive Player of the Year honors.

That said, the Vikings have exhibited far more weaknesses than strengths during their 2020 campaign. They have struggled to execute defensively in big games, allowing an average of 29.5 points to the six teams they have played that are currently in playoff positions. Losing defensive end Danielle Hunter, linebacker Anthony Barr, and cornerback Mike Hughes to season-ending injuries was a brutal triple-punch to the gut. Now LB Erik Kendricks, arguably the leader of this defensive unit, has missed three consecutive games with a calf injury, and cornerback Cameron Dantzler is “questionable” with a nagging foot ailment.

The other major issue Mike Zimmer’s squad has faced has been its ability to protect quarterback Kirk Cousins. The veteran has been sacked 34 times on an astounding 7.2 percent of his pass attempts. Constant pressure has clearly affected his decision-making, as he has regularly forced passes and consequently ranks second in interceptions with 13. He’s also fumbled away the football five times on the season.

If Cousins had better protection, there’s no telling what kind of numbers he would have put up (and how many wins Minnesota would have). He has posted 3,569 passing yards and 29 TDs, but he has been haunted by sacks and QB hits all year. In Minnesota’s eight losses, he has been sacked a total of 22 times and thrown 11 picks. Tampa got to him six times two weeks ago, and Chicago registered three sacks and a pick last week. This dude is beat up, and he now faces a Saints team that ranks sixth in the NFL with 40 sacks and just took reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes down four times last week.

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Saints Outlook

Like Minnesota, the Saints need a win to break their two-game losing streak, but unlike Minnesota, who barely have any chance of making the playoffs, New Orleans clinched a postseason berth weeks ago. The Saints can cement their NFC South title this weekend with a win against the Vikings or with a Buccaneers loss to the Lions.

With Drew Brees one more week into healing his 11 rib fractures and punctured lung (which he sustained in Week 10 against San Francisco), it’s a good bet that New Orleans will punch its own ticket to the division championship and rest easy on the long holiday weekend. Who Dat Nation would then have their sights on a bye in the first week of the playoffs.

As good as their record suggests they are, the Saints have been largely carried by their dynamic defense in the second half of this season. Backup QB/TE/RB extraordinaire Taysom Hill led New Orleans to three wins after the Brees injury, but the pass game basically took a backseat on the priority list. In Week 14, Hill got outdueled at his own RPO game by mobile rookie QB Jalen Hurts and the Eagles. In Week 15, Brees and his wide receiver corps struggled to find connections in the first half.

Coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael should have their team more prepared to go against the injury-ravaged Vikings. Minnesota hovers around the bottom-third in the NFL in points allowed, total yards surrendered, rushing yards allowed, and all passing categories.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen’s unit should continue its torrid attack of the football, and its front seven should eat well this Christmas. The Saints rank sixth in the league in sacks with 40 and coincidentally also rank sixth in the league in points allowed. They give up the third-fewest total yards and have the fifth-most takeaways. No team has allowed fewer rushing TDs.

Veteran defensive end Trey Hendrickson has emerged as a star this season, tied for second in the NFL with 12.5 sacks. Cameron Jordan, who was just named to the Pro Bowl, has 6.5 sacks of his own. The tandem has combined for 22 tackles for loss and 39 QB hits. They lead the line, while Demario Davis (106 tackles/65 solo/4 sacks/10 TFL/10 QB hits) runs the linebackers. The addition of Malcolm Jenkins and re-signing of Janoris Jenkins to the secondary has boded well for everybody, lessening the load for Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

The Saints are an elite team designed for a Super Bowl run, so realistically the Vikings are just a blip on their radar. Expect Payton and his coaching staff to treat this as a playoff game and have a jolly Christmas filled with a plethora of points.

WEEK 16 PPR RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Prediction

The Vikings have been surprisingly good at third-down and red-zone defense this season, but they appear too banged up to hold a candle to this Saints offense in a key game in New Orleans. I think this one might be over by halftime, and I’m all in on the Saints’ moneyline (-310) and the spread (-7). 

The BetQL Best Bet Model agrees, putting two stars on the spread and four stars on the moneyline. The Model also loves the OVER in this one, projecting the total to be closer to 54 points than the listed number of 51. As far as first-half bets go, the Model puts two stars on the Saints -4 at halftime and another two stars on the OVER at the break (26). It’s also all over the first-half moneyline, putting a four-star confidence rating on New Orleans -245. I’ll take the Saints to clinch their division on Christmas, winning big 33-26.

You can find all updated lines, odds, spreads, and NFL picks at BetQL!

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