The Arizona Cardinals (3-4 straight up, 4-3 ATS) hit the road following their Week 7 win on Thursday Night Football to take on the Minnesota Vikings (5-1 SU, 2-4 ATS). While the Vikings occupy first place in the NFC North, and their only loss is to the lone undefeated Eagles, their stats suggest this team should be much closer to .500. They have gained an average of 5.4 yards per play on offense (middle of the pack) and allowed and average of 6 yards per play on defense (30th in the league). A team that is being out-gained on a play-to-play basis through 6 games should simply not be 5-1. Take the Vikings last win for example. They won in Miami in Week 6 while being out-gained 458 to 234, surrendering 6.3 yards per play while gaining 4.7 ypp on offense, and lost the first down battle 23 to 11. And while they deserve credit for winning all of these close games, their five wins are not exactly against the elite teams in the league. Miami played second and third string quarterbacks (Skylar Thompson and Teddy Bridgewater) while the Saints (who also had a host of injuries), Bears, Lions and Packers make up the rest of their victories. To go even further, the Vikings needed 4th quarter rallies at home to come from behind and beat the Saints, Bears, and Lions. The perception of the Vikings is inflated based on their record, and thus there is value on the other side.
Let’s look quickly at their opponent, who last week enjoyed the return of their star wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. In his first game back from suspension, Hopkins saw 14 targets, caught 10 passes for 103 yards and boosted quarterback Kyler Murray to his first game this season with a passer rating of over 100. For his career, Murray is now 9-2 with Hopkins on the field, 3-7 without him- a true difference maker. The Vikings are allowing a league -worst 7.9 yards per pass attempt, and now have to deal with a rejuvenated passing attack as the Cardinals not only get back Hopkins, but also traded for Robbie Anderson recently to compliment Hopkins. Even if the Vikings are leading this game late, they are extremely vulnerable to allowing a backdoor cover with their inept pass defense. Getting over a field goal is the key here with games landing on 3 more than any other number in the NFL. Cards cover, and have a chance at the outright upset.