For a team that just dissected the reigning NFC champions, the Minnesota Vikings aren’t getting much love.
The Vikings are listed as 3-point home underdogs for this Monday night’s matchup against that most public of teams, the New England Patriots. This despite Minnesota’s 31-13 dismantling of the Seahawks at Qwest Field; Seattle hadn’t lost at home in 12 straight appearances, but they honked this one as 6.5-point favorites. The Vikings are now 4-2 straight up and 5-1 against the spread. New England’s record is a mirror image: 5-1 SU and 4-2 ATS.
This would be an instant “home dog” pick for handicappers, except for a couple of mitigating factors. The Vikings were able to romp over the Seahawks only after starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out of the game with a sprained right MCL. The game was tied at 10-10 before little-used backup Seneca Wallace was thrust into action. Also, three Minnesota receivers were injured in that matchup: Marcus Robinson (bruised lower back), Travis Taylor (concussion) and Troy Williamson (concussion). Coach Brad Childress was coy about their status for Monday night, only saying that he was “not going to count any of them out.”
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If those receivers are indeed ready to play with that extra day of rest and recuperation, the Vikings should be in good shape to handle the Patriots. Minnesota has already collected strong victories against Seattle and the Carolina Panthers; New England’s only win of note came against the Cincinnati Bengals. And the Patriots’ lone loss was against one of the toughest run defenses in the league, the Denver Broncos. Denver is ranked seventh in the NFL at 90.3 yards allowed per game; Minnesota is even better at 70.8 yards.
New England has managed to win despite continuing troubles in the receiving corps. The holdout and eventual departure of WR Deion Branch to Seattle leaves tight end Benjamin Watson (21 receptions, 271 yards, zero TDs) as the club’s leading pass threat. The Pats have leaned heavily on the tailback tandem of Corey Dillon and emerging star Laurence Maroney, giving the duo a combined 28 carries per game. In the Denver game, Brady was forced to go to the air instead; his 31-for-55 performance was only good for one TD as the Broncos won 17-7.
Minnesota’s offense, meanwhile, isn’t nearly as challenged as Denver’s. Vikings pivot Brad Johnson has been quietly effective with an 80.7 QB rating, compared to 60.4 for the struggling Jake Plummer. Johnson’s steady hand should be enough to guide Minnesota to the end zone while the Vikings’ defense stuffs the New England running game – again, provided most of those injured receivers can play on Monday.