The Minnesota Vikings travel to Detroit to take on the Lions in the pick of this week’s NFL fixtures. Looking for value in the NFL Week 7 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 7 predictions.
NFL Week 7 predictions
The Detroit Lions return home to host divisional rivals, the Minnesota Vikings following a crushing and controversial one point defeat to current NFC North leaders the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.
They not only conceded an early double digit lead and failed to make the most of visits to the red zone, they were then hampered by poor officiating, since acknowledged by the league.
The defeat also highlights the fine margins that exist within divisions. Had the Lions held on until winning in Green Bay, it would be them, rather than the Packers who leads the NFC North.
Instead, they entertain Minnesota as the division’s fourth placed side.
Matt Stafford: A quarter back in decline?
The importance of divisional matches cannot be undersold, as head-to-head results are the first method to break ties in the regular season.
Fourth place was where the Lions ended up in 2018, and it is a position they had become accustomed to since re-alignment in 2002. A trio of wildcard appearances since 2011 has slightly lifted expectations, but the franchise needs to go back to 1991 to register their most recent post-season victory.
Five games into 2019, Stafford does seem to have arrested the decline from 2018
Matt Stafford has been a consistent if league average passer for the Lions since he became their ever-present starter in 2011.
2018 hinted at a fall from his regular output, passing almost half a yard per attempt below the average yardage allowed by the defenses he faced. That dropped him into the bottom third of quarterbacks for 2018 and the Lions’ lowest total wins for six years.
They did have a slightly skewed record in 2018 in narrowly-decided games, losing three more than they won, and they also had a small negative turnover differential.
Overall, seven, rather than six wins would have been a more equitable return for their on-field efforts.
Five games into 2019, Stafford does seem to have arrested the decline from 2018. His throwing efficiency is nearly half a yard per attempt above par for the opposition faced, although the running offense that was well below average in 2018 has taken another step backwards.
They are however, converting this pass-dependent offense into around league average rates of points scoring, which wasn’t the case in 2018.
Last season’s defense was an unappealing mix of well below-average pass defense and a near league average ground unit, but they have traded that efficient run stopping for a much better aerial unit in 2019.
This has fed through into points allowed, and they are conceding around an opponent adjusted, point per game below average.
They currently have a 0.500 2-2-1 win/loss/tie record, their points allowed is one below the points they have scored and this has them on course for an 8-8 regular season tally.
Minnesota Vikings analysis: A team on the up?
The Vikings have a much more illustrious record than the Lions, although the cyclical nature of the NFL has seen consecutive divisional titles be followed by consecutive fourth placed finishes over the last decade.
Defeat in the Conference championship in 2017 triggered Minnesota to secure the services of Kirk Cousins by offering the biggest guaranteed contract in NFL history.
Defensively, they are a top five unit in 2019. Excellent against the pass, opponent adjusted, they are allowing a yard less per attempt than average
However, rather than nudge them to the Super Bowl, the 2018 season was a disappointment.
Cousins’ passing efficiency was marginally below par, the ground game was equally substandard and the offensive production slipped out of the top five to a lackluster below average berth.
Their underlying performance was fully deserving of the meagre 8-7-1 return for such an ambitious financial outlay.
There’s much more to like about Minnesota’s offensive output in 2019.
Cousins’ opponent-adjusted efficiency is over half a yard per attempt above par, the ground game is trending towards the Vikings’ historically excellent levels and their opponent-adjusted scoring efficiency is a point and a half per game above average.
Defensively, they are a top five unit in 2019. Excellent against the pass, opponent adjusted, they are allowing a yard less per attempt than average.
This combined with a run defense that is almost as good, they are conceding six fewer points per game than their opponents typically score.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions: Where might bettors find value?
Overall, they are currently playing like a 12-win team over the course of a regular season.
Detroit has a slightly shortened week to prepare for the visit of Minnesota.
While the Vikings sit above them in the NFC North standings, you can certainly make a case for the Lions to be deserving of a better position in the division.
Similarly, both of Minnesota’s losses in 2019 have come within the division.
However, underlying metrics place the Vikings above their hosts on Sunday, and either by efficiency ratings or scoring rates Minnesota are favoured by at least a field goal in a game were the points total is centred at 43.