I used to be a “purist” who preferred outdoor football on natural grass fields. I still feel that way to a large extent, but there are definite positives to handicapping a scrum to be played indoors in December.
Analysts love looking at special-teams scenarios because judging the efficiency XP conversions vs 2-point conversions (for instance) can clear-away a lot of complications and statistical noise. “Complications and statistical noise” is exactly what the handicapper must deal with when trying to determine how weather could affect a late-season NFL game. An example is when meteorologists don’t know if heavy snow or a light sprinkle of winter precipitation will fall on a northern field on a given Sunday. The light dusting could help the offenses and make Over bets pay off, since runners and receivers can run where they’ve rehearsed running while defenders must react. But let 3 or 4 inches of snow fall during a contest and even NFL athletes will have a hard time producing points.
When a match-up is scheduled indoors that conundrum goes away. It’s “pure” football in a certain sense, with (almost) no breeze, no cold or hot temperatures, no potentially-changing conditions. That means less variables.
Don’t get excited over your (unnecessary) skis just yet, though. There are still plenty of variables to consider before wagering on this Monday night’s NFL clash between Green Bay and host Minnesota, even though the game will kick-off under a dome in the Twin Cities.
Not the least of which is the NFC North division race. MNF takes a beating in public opinion when the series airs meaningless games on TV. As they say in the military, goodbye to all that – this week’s contest may seal a division champion and have a profound effect on the National Football League postseason.
Who: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
When: Monday, December 23rd, 8:15 PM
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Lines: GB (+5) at MINN (-5) / O/U Total: (47)
The chances of the 10-4 Vikings pulling ahead of the 11-3 Packers and winning the NFC North are slim, and a successful quest has to begin with a win on Monday Night Football.
That might not feel so daunting with all hands on deck. Mike Zimmer’s club will be without star running back Dalvin Cook who is out with a shoulder injury, and the status of backup Alexander Mattison remains in doubt as he deals with an ankle sprain. Not many teams can boast a tailback trio like Minnesota can, however, and 3rd-string running back Mike Boone was able to find pay-dirt twice in the Vikings 39-10 rout of the host Chargers last week. Boone has shown flashes in the preseason over the last couple of years and is now a proven commodity under fire, but needless to say he could have an awful lot of responsibility on his shoulders this Monday.
Green Bay won the first meeting between the rivals at Lambeau Field way back in Week 2. Kirk Cousins tried to force a pass in the end zone that resulted in an losing interception, later admitting that he should have thrown it away. Cousins has been no less than brilliant ever since, but he’s still more likely to throw a crucial pick than laser-accurate Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“Rah-jahs” has been aided tremendously by an improved Green Bay ground game as former UTEP star Aaron Jones has scored 14 touchdowns. Complimentary back Jamaal Williams has emerged in a well-blocked scheme, making his mark as a handy ball-carrier as well as a crack 3rd-down receiver out of the backfield. Williams currently leads the Pack with 5 receiving touchdowns, a testament to Rodgers’ ability to squeeze efficiency out of the offense from all angles.
Defensively, Green Bay has an emerging star in CB Jaire Alexander. However, it could be argued that the off-season acquisitions of veteran linebackers Preston Smith and ZaDarius Smith are the key to the Packer defense. The pair has combined for more than 20 sacks in 14 games.
Speaking of pass-rushers, it would be ill-advised not to mention Viking defensive end Danielle Hunter. The now 25-year-old was one of the youngest players in the league when drafted in the 3rd round in 2015. Hunter was a raw talent back then, but has developed into a fearsome athlete who has emerged as Minnesota’s top QB hunter with nearly a sack per game in 2019. The LSU product dropped Lions QB David Blough 3 times in a scrum 2 weeks ago.
Minnesota and Green Bay each rank top-10 in the NFL on defense and feature ball-hawking secondaries. It’s not hard to imagine that a big turnover of some sort will play a key role in this Monday’s outcome.
Minnesota’s point-spread edge is largely due to home-field advantage. While the stadium will undoubtedly be rocking, veteran Norsemen who have glanced at the Week 17 schedule (Green Bay plays pitiful Detroit) may start to pull-off the gas pedal a little bit if things look bleak in the 2nd half. Green Bay won’t suffer from that psychology if trailing by 2 or 3 touchdowns – any kind of a win would clinch the division and put the Saints, 49ers, and Seahawks on notice.
Furthermore, it’s likely that a decent amount of Packer fans will be there to rattle Cousins just a little bit on 3rd downs. Minnesota’s possessions won’t sound like golf tournaments. I’m sure Twin Cities newspapers and message boards are full of “Don’t Let Cheeseheads Get Tickets!” content right now. Cheeseheads will get tickets, or at least the rich ones will. When there’s a will and a whale of a wallet, there’s a way.
Given the lack of depth in the Viking backfield right now, this result feels like a toss-up. In any toss-up scenario the underdog is always the right wager.
Bet on the Packers (+5) to surprise and potentially win SU with an easy cover.