The Minnesota Vikings just picked up one of the most important wins of the NFL season, beating the Buffalo Bills. There was some skepticism over the Vikings' 8-1 start. That win over the Bills seemed to legitimize Minnesota's start to the season.
That's why it was surprising to see the Vikings as a 1.5-point home underdog to the Dallas Cowboys at BetMGM.
There is sometimes a disconnect between bettors and those who don't understand it (though, with sports betting spreading rapidly, that gap is shrinking). Often commentators will declare a game in which a team with a better record loses an "upset," but bettors know that's not really the case. If the Cowboys win Sunday, you'll hear it described as an upset. It really wouldn't be.
The Vikings being underdogs to the Cowboys is also a good way to test how you feel about analytics. Advanced stats still don't love the Vikings, who have won a lot of close games and games in which they've been out-gained. The Vikings, who are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for best record in the NFL, are just 17th in Football Outsiders' DVOA. The Cowboys are fourth. In per-play differential, the Cowboys rank much higher than the Vikings. The Cowboys are also better in point differential, a more common stat.
The overall record favors the Vikings. Everything else favors the Cowboys.
The Cowboys are coming off a loss to the Green Bay Packers and there has been a lot of conversation over the fourth-down decision by Mike McCarthy that didn't work out. It's not ideal to blow a 14-point fourth-quarter lead but had the Cowboys executed better on fourth-and-3 in overtime, they probably win the game. Dallas has been excellent since a bad Week 1 loss.
Now the test is if they can go on the road and beat an 8-1 Vikings team. I'll trust all the underlying stats and take the Cowboys as a 1.5-point favorite. It won't be an upset if they beat the Vikings.
Here are the rest of the picks against the spread for Week 11, with point spreads from BetMGM:
Titans (+3) over Packers
In the Daily Sweat today, I talked about how this line is disrespectful to the Titans.
Bears (+3) over Falcons
Justin Fields has been playing really well, but the Bears aren't winning. That's what happens when you trade your two best defensive players and your offense doesn't have much help around Fields. On the other side, the Falcons' good start has melted away. They're a team that doesn't have a lot of positives. Take the three points, though it's not like you'd feel good about either side.
Browns (+8) over Bills
As of now, the Bills are still hosting the Browns for what might be a snowpocalypse. Good luck with this one. A few feet of snow seems better for the underdog and run-first Browns, if "three to six feet of snow" can really help any team. This one could be some 3-0 debacle if the game stays there and the weather forecast holds. Take the points.
Colts (+6.5) over Eagles
One thing leads me to the Colts and the points: Indianapolis' run game against the Eagles' run D. Without monster rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who is on IR, the Eagles have been vulnerable against the run. Jonathan Taylor finally looked healthy last week and had his first big game of the season. Maybe the Eagles just take out their frustration from Monday's loss on the Colts, but it's a lot of points.
Jets (+3) over Patriots
The Patriots just beat the Jets 22-17 a few weeks ago. But the Jets keep gaining momentum and confidence. The Patriots offense still has a lot of issues. I worry about Zach Wilson melting down against a Bill Belichick defense again, but I'll go with the Jets and the points.
Saints (-3) over Rams
The Saints probably should be favored by more. The Rams will be without Cooper Kupp, and I have no idea how they generate offense without him. The Rams' offensive line is beyond broken. It's hard to field a lineup with as many injuries as the Rams have had across the line. The Saints are bad too, but I'm not sure how the Rams move the ball this week.
Giants (-3) over Lions
The Giants are living a charmed life and everyone knows it. Being just a field-goal favorite against a Lions team that started 1-6 says that oddsmakers aren't convinced they're for real. The Giants do find ways to win though, and while the Lions have won two in a row, they still have their issues.
Ravens (-13) over Panthers
Baltimore has led by double digits in every game this season. They'll extend the streak this week. The Ravens are rested and they looked really good against the Saints the last time we saw them. I don't like double-digit favorites in the NFL, but the Ravens are about to get on a hot streak.
Commanders (-3) over Texans
There are a few lines that don't show a lot of respect for a team this week, and this might top the list. The Commanders just went on the road and beat the Eagles, yet they're just a field-goal favorite over the worst team in the NFL? Maybe the Texans win — the 2022 NFL has no rhyme or reason at times — but I'll ride with the far better team.
Broncos (-2.5) over Raiders
The two worst coaches in the NFL this season might be Josh McDaniels and Nathaniel Hackett. That includes Matt Rhule, who was fired weeks ago. I don't take the Broncos with much confidence, but their defense is legit.
Bengals (-4) over Steelers
I don't love taking so many favorites this week, but I can't talk myself into the Steelers, who have been pretty bad this season.
Chargers (+6) over Chiefs
The Chargers should get healthier at receiver this week. They're beat up, but there's still a lot of talent. And every Chiefs line will be inflated the rest of the season, because they're one of the few teams that seems reliable week after week.
Cardinals (+8) over 49ers
We haven't seen the 49ers really open it up against anyone. They did dominate the Rams a bit in both meetings. Otherwise, we keep hearing about how talented the 49ers are, but it hasn't translated to blowout wins. It will probably happen one of these weeks. I just feel better taking more than a touchdown with the Cards.
Last week: 6-8
Season to date: 78-69-1