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Two weeks ago
Dec 1, 2017

NFL preview: Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons

Can the Falcons make the playoffs?

What’s causing Atlanta’s decline?

Vikings vs. Falcons odds: Where is the value?

NFL preview: Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons

The NFL regular season is drawing to a close. Minnesota Vikings' second of three straight road games against an Atlanta Falcons side who also have ambitions to make this season’s playoffs is the highlight game this weekend. What value can be found in the Vikings vs. Falcons odds? Read on for expert Vikings vs. Falcons betting insight.

Live Vikings vs. Falcons odds

Can the Falcons make the playoffs?

All eyes are now looking towards the postseason and the likely seeding for the 12 sides - six from each conference - who will take part in knockout football to decide the Super Bowl winner come February.

Offences have found it extremely difficult to move the ball against Minnesota - They’ve restricted their opponents passing to nearly a yard per attempt shorter than average.

Three teams have already been mathematically eliminated from the contest and a dozen more have less than a 5% chance of advancing.

At the other end of the spectrum, four sides, New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Minnesota are virtual certainties to play postseason football, but even within this select band of teams there are still incentives to continue to play winning football through to Week 17.

While postseason play is always the aim, a side’s chances of progressing to the ultimate game can be greatly enhanced by a high seeding, particularly by capturing one of the top two seeding positions and avoiding the prospect of a wild card fixture, especially one on the road.

Randomness plays a huge role in one-off matches; just ask Atlanta when they led the Patriots 28-9 at the beginning of the 4th quarter of Super Bowl LI, but avoiding a wildcard game by winning a top two place is always an advantage.

The top two seeds have more preparation time, but most importantly potentially just three games to negotiate to win a Super Bowl rather than four. 

There’s no doubting Atlanta’s motivation to win on Sunday. They are currently seeded 6th, but with a full house of NFC South opponents to finish the season; including two games against current leaders, the Saints.

They are around 60/40 to make the playoffs, but every loss will deplete their chances and increase the already substantial likelihood that they will fail to win a bye week.

Vikings vs. Falcons betting: Top two motivation

Minnesota, despite being upwards of 98% to win the now uncompetitive NFC North, will be eager to continue their seven-game winning streak to try and stay in the top two seeding positions that will secure them a bye week in the postseason. 

They are being closely chased by three teams who are just a win behind them and two others, including Atlanta, who trail the Vikings by just two wins.

Sunday’s game is one packed full of playoff implications, which may play a factor in the Vikings vs. Falcons odds.

What’s causing Atlanta’s decline?

Atlanta has struggled to repeat their win totals from last season. Their large positive turnover differential from last year has been replaced by a negative one.

Quarterback Matt Ryan has already thrown more picks in the current regular season than he did in the whole of the last campaign.

Lost fumbles are also higher, while the defensive side of the ball is struggling to generate interceptions, often regarded as the type of turnover that is more likely to persist as a repeatable skill.

There’s no doubting Atlanta’s motivation to win on Sunday. They are currently seeded 6th, but with a full house of NFC South opponents to finish the season

Scoring has been greatly reduced from their Super Bowl appearing season; they are only just outscoring opposing teams by generating just over a point per game more than their opponents have allowed on average. 

A far cry from last season’s 10-point winning margin per game where the Falcons scored 30 or more points on 11 regular season occasions, compared to just four so far this year. 

Offensive efficiencies, both on the ground and through the air have also declined but Ryan in particular still remains well above average, passing the ball for a yard per attempt longer than defences usually allow.

Defensively, Atlanta has improved their underlying core efficiency stats. They are above average against the pass, below par on the ground, and are proving more difficult to score against as they allow a point per game fewer than is average for their opponents.

They’ve scored 265 points, allowing 230, a positive differential that is consistent with a 0.58 Pythagorean win expectation, or a 9 or 10 win team over a 16 game regular season.

Are the Vikings benefitting from good fortune?

Green Bay’s loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers during a Week 6 loss to Minnesota sent them into a 1-5 tailspin and handed the NFC North to the Vikings. It’s a situation that has been familiar to the Vikings themselves in recent years, albeit one they’ve generally coped well with. 

Current passer Case Keenum is the third Vikings quarterback in three seasons, with injury claiming Sam Bradford in Week 1, who replaced the also stricken Teddy Bridgewater in 2016. 

Only 17.7 points per game are conceded by Minnesota, over 5 ppg below par for the offences they have faced, indicative their fine defensive showing this year.

Acquired as a cheap stop gap until either Bradford or Bridgewater returned, Keenum has surpassed all expectations. 

His passing efficiency belies his journeyman status and is on par with that of Matt Ryan’s and despite a below average running game, he’s helped the Vikings score 2.5 points per game more than their opponents allow, on average. 

Early season struggles to put points on the board during a 2-2 start has been largely corrected, as have a run of midseason interceptions and Keenum has given the consistently excellent Vikings defence at least 20 points to defend during their current seven-game winning streak.

Offences have found it extremely difficult to move the ball against Minnesota. They’ve restricted their opponents passing to nearly a yard per attempt shorter than average and rivals who typically average 4 yards per carry on the ground have managed just 3.4 against Minnesota.

Vikings vs. Falcons odds: Where is the value?

Only 17.7 points per game are conceded by Minnesota, over 5 ppg below par for the offences they have faced, indicative their fine defensive showing this year. Under 46.5 points odds of 2.030* may be the smart bet after looking at the strength of the Vikings’ defence (with considerations made for the Falcons’ home field advantage).

The Vikings’ points differential eclipses that of the Falcons; they have a 0.69 Pythagorean, worth around 11 wins over a 16 game season, the same regular season total Minnesota gained as recently as 2015.

Underlying efficiency stats make Minnesota marginally the stronger team, even after factoring in Atlanta’s home field advantage and a matchup between two above average offences and two above par defences estimates the total at around 45 points with Minnesota Viking’s +2.5 handicap odds of 2.120* perhaps making the most appeal to bettors.

Odds subject to change

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