Games of this magnitude are why the Vikings signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a 3-year $84 million dollar contract. With the team currently scrapping for a Wild Card spot in the playoffs, a road game against the Brady Bunch will certainly test the fortitude of their expensive quarterback.
Cousins has been on target, completing a 3rd ranked 71.1% of his passes, but it has not resulted in the high-flying offense Viking fans anticipated. The Purple and Gold are in the middle of the pack ranking 16th with 24.1 points per game.
But with an ailing Tom Brady at the helm for New England, NFL odds-makers are not giving the Pats so much as a touchdown margin in the point spread.
Who: Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots
When: Sunday, December 2nd 4:25 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
Lines: Minnesota (+5) vs New England (-5) / O/U Total: (48.5)
The disappearance of the running game has done Cousins no favors, as leading rusher Latavius Murray has 455 yards on the year. Mr. Reliable Adam Thielen, is having a Pro Bowl year and looks to have a field day against the shaky secondary of the Patriots.
Thielen leads the league with 93 receptions and is 2nd with 1,138 yards.
The Viking defense will take the fight directly to Brady as they rank 5th in the league, allowing just 221 passing yards per game and tied for 3rd out of 32 teams with 36 sacks on the year.
Is New England vulnerable to the upset at home? The Patriots have not displayed the same level of dominance this season that NFL fans are accustomed to in the Brady-Belichick era. Yet in spite of all, Patriots are within perfect striking distance of precious home-field advantage yet again.
Brady might be having a statistical off-year with only 19 touchdowns on the season, but the veteran always seems to have his squad in position to win games. The future Hall of Fame QB will gain extra help in the backfield in time for the showdown with the Vikings, as Rex Burkhead has been activated off injured reserve from his Week 3 neck injury.
The signal-caller is still a master of utilizing his running backs in the passing game, and running back James White leads the team with 67 catches for 567 yards and 6 touchdowns.
On the defensive side, the Patriots’ secondary will have to step up its game as they face the deadly Thielen-Diggs duo of the Vikings. The Patriots are 25th in the league in pass defense, allowing 270 passing yards per game.
Is Brady finally healthy heading into the matchup with the Vikings? CBS Boston has more:
At this point in the season, no one is really healthy in the NFL. That includes Tom Brady, who went in great depth about his health during his Monday evening interview with Westwood One’s Jim Gray. Brady was on New England’s injury report last week, limited by a knee issue on both Wednesday and Thursday. He was then absent from Friday’s practice with the knee and an illness, listed as questionable for the team’s Week 12 matchup with the New York Jets. He was under center on Sunday but the Pats QB did appear to be off at times during New England’s 27-13 victory. He still finished the game 20-for-31 for 283 yards, two touchdowns, no picks, and his 115.4 rating was the best he’s had all season. Brady says he’s kicked the flu that has been making its way through the New England locker room, and his balky knee is feeling better as the Patriots prepare for their Week 13 clash with the Vikings.
“I’m certainly doing better this week,” said Brady. “We had the game against Tennessee where I got a little nicked up and then had the bye week and was hoping to have a full week of practice, and it just didn’t allow for it. I think a lot of NFL players are nursing things at this point. I’m nursing a couple of little things. I’m feeling a lot better. A little flu has been going around, but I’m feeling a lot better and hopefully I really turned the corner with my knee this week.” Brady has never let minor injuries keep him from taking the playing field on Sundays, and it’s not something he’s going to let that start now. He believes the knee will get better even if he does play the final five games of the regular season.
An aging QB must pick his spots to open up an offense. While the old pro is doing a fine job of protecting his body, the conservative tactics may be holding the Pats back from covering more often.
If the Patriots are going to suffer a truly bad match-up at home at any point this season, this is probably the week. I’m liking the Vikes to pass the ball well enough in the 1st half to set up a ball-control offense in the 2nd half, as the Patriots are not leaps and bounds better vs the run than they are against the pass.
Take the Vikings as this week’s upset-special pick, on the moneyline or to cover (+5).