WITH just two more weeks of regular season action, if you're not tuning into the NFL over the festive period, you're doing it round. This weekend, we have a potentially epic battle between the Packers and the Vikings in Minnesota for NFC North supremacy.
To talk us through that one, and two more intriguing matchups, here's our resident NFL tipster Nat Coombs who has been in sensational tipping form of late!
The NFC North is a two-way shoot-out between the Green Bay Packers (11-3) and the Minnesota Vikings (10-4) who play each other in Minneapolis on Monday Night Football. The Packers hold the edge with the tie breaker, should both teams end up with identical W-L records, so will remain on top even if Minnesota wins this.
The Vikings have been buoyed by the return of WR Adam Thielen, absent for much of their recent run in, but it’s a case of two steps forward, and two back, as superstar RB Dalvin Cook is unlikely to play against Green Bay due to a shoulder injury. This will most likely force Kirk Cousins to air things out more than usual – they’re ranked second behind the Ravens in terms of volume of running plays called – but that’s won’t phase the Vikings too much, with Minnesota’s passing offense one of the stronger in the league, ranked second in percentage completion (over 70%), top 12 in (passing) TDs, and top three in fewest interceptions.
Green Bay’s pass defence is a mixed bag, in the bottom 10 in the league in a number of statistical categories, including yards per play (7.8), but holding firm elsewhere, including points per game, and if Minnesota can’t establish any kind of run game this may prove to be trickier, but I still like Cousins to put up points.
The Vikings have one of the sturdier run defences, but then so do the Bears, and Aaron Jones ran in two TDs against Chicago last time out. Davante Adams rebounded with a 100-yard game and a score in the Packers 21-13 win and Aaron Rodgers should be able to post a similar amount against Minnesota this time around, so this comes down to if you think Cousins & co will keep up. The line has the home team as 5.5 point favourites, and whilst I think that looks tempting, the play here is the over, at 46. PICK – Over 46 points
A win for the #Packers on #MNF clinches the #NFCNorth. GB is 0-3 all-time at U.S. Bank. The #Vikings are 6-0 at home this season. Aaron Rodgers thinks they're, "due." #GoPackGo #Skol #Rivalry #GBvsMIN @GBPdaily #NFL100 pic.twitter.com/QBaRpMnaB0
— Josh Moser (@TheMozKnowz) December 19, 2019
The Bears may be improving, as Mitchell Trubisky starts to near competence, but it’s an offense that’s woefully inadequate when offset as the counterbalance to a strong defense. Indeed, the relative year on year regression with Chicago’s D is in some part down to the inertia of the offense, heaping far too much pressure on a unit that’s suffered accordingly. They won’t make the playoffs and have little left to play for.
Conversely, Kansas City are getting stronger as they bid for homefield advantage in the playoffs, blowing away the Raiders, taking down the Pats in Foxboro and limiting Denver to just three points in their last three games. Indeed, they’ve only conceded 45 points in the last four, as former NY Giants Defensive Co-ordinator Steve Spagnuolo strengthens the unit that has been for a long time the weak link. They’ll keep Trubisky in check, and Patrick Mahomes will steer his team to a road win by a TD. Pick – Chiefs – 6
Pick: Chiefs -6 (10/11)
Arizona stacked up 38 points on the Browns last weekend, with former Dolphin Kenyan Drake bulldozing his way to four TDs. Seattle’s run D is a different proposition to Cleveland’s but has given up 17 rushing scores to the opposition this season, the third worst in the NFL. Kyler Murray is completing an impressive debut season and is a dangerous foe under the direction of fellow rookie Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury, looking increasingly composed, and genuinely dual threat, with over 3k passing yards, and 500 rushing yards.
The same of course can be said of his counterpart Russell Wilson who has been in MVP form for much of the season and Seattle has a lot riding on the game, with eyes on the number one seed, and this is one of the more impactful homefield advantages in the league, so I think Seattle wins, but keeping within 9.5 is more than attainable for the Cards, so I like the upstart road dogs, with the points.
Pick: Cardinals +9.5 (10/11)