The Vikings are starting to get no respect from Vegas, which could have them struggling to be a favorite the rest of the season. Plus, we delve into the rankings of the Vikings and Cardinals.
Few teams have enjoyed more of a home field advantage over the years than the Vikings at the Metrodome. Even over years of struggling to win more than a couple of games a year on the road, the Vikings could make up for it by defending their home turf.
That is going to be a difficult proposition this year. Even if the Vikings are able to pull out of their current tailspin, they are going to be in an underdog role for the majority of the 2011 season.
It got tongues wagging when the Vikings were a home dog to the Detroit Lions, a team the Vikings have routinely flogged and a team in which those taking the Vikings and the points with a bookie were buying drinks at halftime with a 20-0 lead. As it turned out, not only did the Lions end up winning, they covered the spread.
Under typical Vegas rules, the home team gets three points just for being at home. The Vikings are 1½-point favorites over Arizona. What it says is that, if the game were being played in Arizona, the Vikings would be 4½-point underdogs.
What makes today's game so important is that it will be one of the few times the rest of the season that the Vikings will enter the game as a favorite, barring a dominant winning streak over the next month. Following today's game with Arizona, the Vikings will head to Chicago for a Sunday night game. No chance they will be favored in that game. When they host the Packers Oct. 23, they could potentially be double-digit home underdogs to lure the Minnesota gamblers out of hiding. In Week 8, they play Carolina on the road. It's still a long way off, but, barring the Vikings being on a serious role, the best they could hope for is a pick ‘em.
Following the bye week, the Vikings go into Green Bay on Monday night. Again, double-digit "dog" may stare them straight in the face. They come home to play Oakland, which isn't the slouch it used to be. If Darren McFadden
remains healthy, the Vikings may be hard-pressed to be viewed as an oddsmaker-favorite to win the game. At Atlanta? Not even if they've won three or four straight. The only game in which they likely will be a favorite will be at home vs. Denver Dec. 4. After that, it gets tough.
At Detroit will be a hard sell. New Orleans at home will be a near-impossibility unless Drew Brees
is on the sideline in a cast. If Donovan McNabb
is still the starter, heading back into Washington to stick it to Mike Shanahan might get some interest from the "revenge-oriented" gambler. They close out the regular season with the Bears. By that time, Jay Cutler
will be a 235-pound walking bruise. Anything is possible there.
Why is this information being presented? In 2010, even when the Vikings were struggling, they were still point-spread favorites in most of those games. Vegas had a Viking-love even during the darkest of times, which was only bolstered late when the Vikings were a prohibitive dog going up against Michael Vick
(pun intended) and the Eagles and came away with a win that sent the Eagles into a late-season death spiral. This year is going to be different for Vikings fans.
There is something to be said for fan loyalty. If the Vikings are 1-3 at this point, they're at least a three-point favorite over Arizona. If they're 2-2, they're about a six-point favorite. If they're 3-1, it's seven points at a minimum. Vikings fans who show a Pete Rose-type loyalty of only betting on their favorite team (those who bet against the Vikings are recognizable by their penchant for buying drinks because they got fat in September) will get the bonus option of getting the team they love at a discount price. The Vikings should be a minimum 3-point favorite over Arizona. They're not. Why? Vegas wants to get Vikings fans to bet. They're going to.
The Vikings haven't lost faith, but Las Vegas has. As a result, if the Vikings make the kind of season rehabilitation they expect they will, they will be doing so often getting points as a cushion to fans that hedge their bet. To a gambler, if he takes a four-point underdog and that team loses by three, he wins.
You find many people among the non-face painting ilk willing to risk significant money betting on the Vikings right now. As a result, gambling odds are going to stack against them to force gamblers to essentially say "that's too many points to give the Vikings." It's already started with today's 1½-point anticipated margin of victory for the Vikings. If they are as good as think they are, the gambler may want to start riding the wave of comeback. The point spreads from Monday until after Thanksgiving are going to be offers many Vikings fans will find hard to refuse.
VIKINGS-CARDINALS BY THE NUMBERS
The Vikings have the 23rd-ranked offense (3rd rushing, 31st passing) and 19th-ranked defense (5th rushing, 28th passing).
The Cardinals have the 18th-ranked offense (tied for 15th rushing, 14th passing) and the 24th-ranked defense (15th rushing, 26th passing).
The only team with worse passing yardage numbers than the Vikings is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have journeyman Josh McCown and rookie Blaine Gabbert, which helps explain why the Jags are averaging 10 points a game.
The Vikings have averaged 312 yards a game on offense – 157 rushing, 155 passing. In a record-setting year for passing yardage, the Vikings are the only team in the league to have more yards rushing than passing.
In 2010, when the Vikings were struggling, the excuse that could be invoked was that they had far too many turnovers. That's not an excuse this year. The Vikings are tied for 15th in the league in giveaway-takeaway ratio at even (three giveaways, three takeaways). The Cardinals are tied for 18th at minus-1 (seven giveaways, six takeaways).
The Vikings are 19th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on six of 14 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Arizona is tied for 13th, scoring TDs on six of 12 drives into the red zone.
No offense in the league has come away empty more often than the Cardinals. In one of every three times in the red zone this season (four of 12), the Cardinals have come out of it with no points – the lowest scoring percentage in the league.
In a non-related, must-pass-along note, through four games, Jacksonville has been in the red zone on offense just three times and has scored just once.
For their woes on offense, the Vikings defense is tied for second in the league in red zone defense, allowing just five touchdowns on 15 red zone possessions. That ties them with Detroit, which has exactly the same numbers – possessions, touchdowns, field goals and points allowed.
Arizona is tied for 14th in red zone defense, allowing seven touchdowns in 15 opponent possessions.
The league-wide average on third-down conversions is 38.5 percent. The Vikings have converted just 36 percent (18 of 50) and the Cardinals have made good on just 29.8 percent (14 of 47).
The Vikings have struggled on third-down defense, allowing conversions on 26 of 57 chances (45.6 percent). The Cardinals have allowed conversions on just 36.8 percent (21 of 57).
Donovan McNabb is 18th in the league in passer rating, which uses a confusing system of scoring to determine QB value, but he is tied for 28th in pass attempts, 29th is completions, 30th in yardage and is tied for 22nd in touchdowns.
Adrian Peterson is third in the league in rushing with 376 yards, 92 yards behind league leader Darren McFadden of the Raiders. Beanie Wells is tied for eighth with 321 yards, despite missing a game due to injury. Based on average per game, he is second in the league.
Peterson is tied with Frank Gore in converting first downs on third-and-1 situations. Both are 4-for-4. Makes you wonder why Toby Gerhart got the fourth-and-1 carry in the loss to Detroit.
Larry Fitzgerald is tied for 17th in the league with 23 receptions. Percy Harvin leads the Vikings with 17 receptions, tied for 37th in the league.
Fitzgerald is eighth in the NFL with 361 receiving yards. Harvin leads the Vikings with 172 receiving yards – 73rd in the league.
In a receiving yardage-related note, Wes Welker of the Patriots has 40 catches for 616 receiving yards and five touchdowns. On that pace, he will have 160 catches for 2,464 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. MVP?
In a somewhat surprising stat, when it comes to third-down receptions, Fitzgerald isn't the man, it's Early Doucet. He is tied for third in the NFL with eight receptions on third down and has averaged 19.4 yards per reception. Fitzgerald has just three third-down receptions, two fewer than Vikings leader Michael Jenkins.
Ryan Longwell is tied for 19th in scoring for kickers with 29 points – coming on eight extra points and making 7 of 7 field goals. Jay Feely of the Cardinals is 30th in scoring with 20 points, making 11 extra points and just 3 of 6 field goals.
Expect to see kick-return opportunities Sunday. Longwell and Feely are both tied for 28th in the league with five touchbacks. The only players behind them are John Kasay and Mike Scifries. Kasay was signed after Garrett Hartley got injured and Scifres replaced Nate Kaeding against the Vikings when he was injured on the opening kickoff – and got two touchbacks in his only game. For the record, the Saints have 15 touchbacks and the Chargers have nine, which actually ties Longwell and Feely for last in the league.
Harvin is second in the league with a 35.4-yard kick return average, but he has just five returns in four games.
Jared Allen is second in the league in sacks with 6.5. Jason Babin of the Eagles leads the league with seven.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.