On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings return home to take on the reeling Cincinnati Bengals. The Vikings just completed a 3 game road trip where they ended up going 2-1. This weekend, they have a chance to stake their claim for the top spot in the NFC Conference. With a wounded Eagles team trending downward, the NFC is now wide open for someone to claim. Will it be the Vikings? As for the Bengals, they have nothing left to play for and they showed it last weekend with a blowout loss at home against the Bears. Can Cincinnati make this week’s game competitive against the Vikings? Kickoff inside U.S. Bank Stadium is at 1 PM ET.
These two teams have only played 3 times since the turn of the century. The Bengals hold a 2-1 record against the Vikings this side of 2000 and they won the last game between these two teams, which took place in 2013. Ironically, their last encounter featured current Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer as the Bengals defensive coordinator.
The Bengals (5-7) are 2-4 on the road and have lost two straight games overall. Last weekend, they were blown out by the Bears 33-7. It pretty much ended any legit shot at a playoff spot and has put head coach Marvin Lewis and his coordinators on the hot seat. The Bengals still have a chance to finish with a winning record this season and a win over one of the NFC’s best teams could brighten up the mood in Cincinnati.
The Vikings (10-2) are 5-1 at home and have won their last 3 games at home. Unfortunately, they lost a tough battle at Carolina last weekend, which snapped their 8 game winning streak. A win this weekend would clinch the NFC North for the 2nd time in 4 seasons and be the best franchise start since 2009. It would also boost their record to 11-4 all-time at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Over/Under opened at 41 points and has gone up to 42 total points. The spread opened with Minnesota favored at 10.5 points and it remains unchanged.
This game begins and ends with the Purple People Eaters on defense. If they show up and play to their potential then the Bengals have absolutely no chance of winning. Minnesota is 3rd in the NFL in yards allowed as they’re holding opponents to just 293.4 ypg. They’re also 3rd in the NFL at points allowed, coming in at 18.1 ppg. Minnesota is 2nd against the run at 88.3 ypg and 5th against the pass at 205.1 ypg. Any way you cut it, the Vikings defense is too good for the Bengals to move the ball and score on.
The Bengals are coming off a huge dud last weekend. They only scored 7 points, which is the 5th time they’ve only scored single digit points this season. QB Andy Dalton mustered up 141 yards and 1 TD to go along with 1 INT. The running game was held to under 100 yards and the Bengals had 2 turnovers overall. I expect a similar performance this week as they head up to Minnesota and face a ferocious defense that can take away the Bengals top weapon AJ Green, while shutting down the run and getting after Dalton.
Offensively, the Vikings are surprisingly 7th in the NFL at 369.3 ypg and average nearly 24 ppg. Backup QB Case Keenum has posted an 8-3 record this season with 18 TDs and just 7 picks. He has a passer rating of 96.2 and has led the Vikings to some big wins this year. Keeping this surprise train rolling is the fact that the Vikings are 8th in the league in rushing with 121.1 ypg. This success comes after they lost their top back for the season over 2 months ago.
When you break it all down, the Vikings are clearly the better team on both sides of the ball and they will crush the Bengals this weekend. I expect a big showing by the Vikings defense, which will force a few turnovers and give the offense short fields to work with. Look for the Vikings to easily cover the spread as they win this one 30-13.
The Vikings are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games, 6-1 ATS in their last 7 home games, 6-3 ATS this season as a favorite, 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games vs AFC teams, and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games against teams with a losing record.