The New York Giants are taking on the Minnesota Vikings in a rematch of a Week 16 contest that saw the Vikings pull out a late 27-24 victory. The Giants are feeling good after a 9-7-1 regular season under first-year leader and likely Coach of the Year Brian Daboll. The Vikings finished with a 13-4 record under their new coach Kevin O'Connell. Currently, sportsbooks have the home Vikings as 3-point favorites and an over/under of 48.5 points. Let's analyze a few components of this game and see if we can find a betting edge.
Are the Vikings as Good as Their 13-4 Record?
This question seems to be one of the biggest debates in football over the last several months. Teams with 12 or 13 wins in a particular season normally have a point differential of more than +100 points, while the Vikings have a stunning -3 point differential. While that statistic alone has you thinking that Minnesota has greatly outperformed their expected results, and they have, it should also tell you that the Vikings are great in close games and often blown out in the ones they lose. The Vikings are 11-0 in one score contests this season, and while that means they have had a strong element of luck on their side, it also means their best players are peaking at crunch time. This seems like a critical statistic to look at when trying to handicap a game with a point spread of just a field goal.
Both teams have a similar turnover differential, but the Giants have a much more conservative approach on both sides of the ball, which is one of the reasons why they have also played so many one score games this year. I think much of the data tells us that despite a difference of four wins, the talent gap between these two teams is much smaller.
In short, while the Vikings might not be as good as your typical team with a 13-4 record, we can't discredit their ability to win tight football games. Take their first meeting against the Giants, when the Vikings won with a 61-yard field goal as time expired. 11 times is more than a coincidence, it's a trend.
Are There Any Distinct Matchup Advantages in this Game?
One area that immediately stands out is the red area. Both teams showcase top 10 red zone offenses that score on more than 62 percent of their possessions, but the defenses are a different story. The Giants are ranked fifth in the league allowing touchdowns on less than half of opponents red zone possessions. The Vikings have struggled holding opponents out of the red zone most of the year, ranking 21st in red zone defense. This gives New York a solid advantage in the scoring area.
When I look at the unit matchups, I think a lot will hang in the balance of the Vikings poor rushing offense matching up against the Giants poor rushing defense. New York is allowing nearly 145 yards on the ground per game, but the Vikings haven't been a potent rush offense this year and Dalvin Cook hasn't rushed for over 100 yards in two months. If Minnesota gets any semblance of a running game going, it will make their potent passing attack led by the league leader in receiving Justin Jefferson, even more difficult for the Giants to handle. Jefferson torched the Giants with 12 catches in their earlier meeting.
What Can We Learn from the First Matchup Between these Teams?
What we can take away is that both teams threw the ball all over the field and the secondaries were outmatched. Daniel Jones had 40 pass attempts and 334 yards in that game, good for his second highest yardage total in a game this year. Kirk Cousins meanwhile threw for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Giants rush defense did hold up, allowing just 83 yards on the ground which kept them in the game and the teams combined for four scores in the last 6:30 of the game.
Jefferson was the real difference maker in this contest with 133 yards, including a 17 yard catch on 3rd and 11 that set up the game winning field goal. Despite his dominance, you could make an argument if it weren't for the Giants two turnovers and blocked punt, they may have been able to pull off the win on the road. This sounds pretty typical for many of Minnesota's wins this year, they just find a way.
Is There Anything We Can Tell from the Betting Trends?
There isn't much we can tell when it comes to wagering on the total as betting numbers are mostly split, but when it comes to the spread, the sharp money is squarely on the Giants. 90 percent of the bets are on the Giants to cover and a lot of money has also come in on the money line for the underdog Giants to win outright.
So Where Should We Place Our Money?
I have an unpopular opinion on this game, and it's that I am staying away from placing a bet. I do think there is a decent chance the Giants cover because to me it's a toss up, so in that case you always want to take the points. This is likely the rational that much of the sharp money is using to place their bets on the Giants.
I also think both coaches are fantastic minds, particularly on offense, so I would lean toward an over, but I hesitate to place a wager on it because they both have solid film on each other, having played so recently.
In the end, I've just watched too many close Vikings games and seen them excel in the critical moments. The roster talent is better than the Giants and the coaching edge is negligible. If I had to guess a final score, we are looking at a near replay of the first meeting, with the Vikings winning 26-23 on a game-winning field goal. Even though I won't be placing any bets, I will watch every moment because I love playoff football and I want to see if I can find an edge for whichever team advances to next week. If you don't bet, scout.
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