Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET
Matthew Stafford is quite the human being. Various times throughout his 12-year career, we’ve seen the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick compete through injury, even while playing for the goddamn Lions.
Today’s season finale will be no different. Another meaningless game for Detroit, another outing for Stafford to battle through pain on the gridiron. Perhaps in this case, the most he’s ever dealt with at once — three ailments, to be particular.
One is an ankle injury, suffered just last week, that forced Stafford from the game early (before his Lions were poached on national television). He’s already still trying to fend off injured ribs and ligament issues on the thumb of his throwing hand.
That’s a lot. Perhaps normally, despite a reputation as one of the league’s true iron men at his position, Stafford would opt to sit this game out with nothing at stake and another last-place campaign already locked up for the Lions. Alas, trade whispers have emerged and are louder than ever, which would make this the potential last stand for the longtime QB1.
So, Stafford is essentially forcing his way into this contest, and who could blame him or the organization for allowing it to happen? When you’ve dedicated all 12 of your years in the pros to one franchise, of course you should go out on your terms.
At the same time, that’s notable to take advantage of from a betting standpoint. Look, Stafford is definitely still good and has more than enough juice left. But operating at far less than 100 percent? Eh. Yes, Minnesota will be down four defensive starters here but a severely hurt quarterback can hinder any offense and also initiate an extra reliance on running the ball, something delightful for an under.
Yet the linesmakers — at least based on the over/under — have elected to treat this as if a healthy Stafford will be under center. Remember, also, that he’s still without his best weapon, Kenny Golladay, so it’s pretty intriguing to see a total of 54.
On the other side of the equation, Kirk Cousins, too, won’t have his most explosive player, Dalvin Cook. The Vikings offense is definitely much more deeper than its counterpart, with one of football’s top wide-receiver pairings in Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson, but the absence of Cook since Cousins first signed with Minnesota has been glaring.
In the seven games Cousins suited up for the Vikings without his star running back, his performance was only OK. After all, he collectively registered a 91.4 passer rating — a fine number but down from his usual work — en route to leading his squad to a mere 20.9 points on average. Nothing big.
Relative to the high over/under, we would love another such output or even anything close to that. And there’s still a good shot at Minnesota continuing their run-heavy approach (they rank eighth in rush attempts per game), as workhorse Alexander Mattison will draw the start.
The elephant in the room, of course, is that both defenses stunk last week, yielding a whopping 99 points combined! That’s tough to do between two given teams in any week! Given the aforementioned scenarios faced by each quarterback as they enter this afternoon, though, I think that can go a long way in sparking a spirited showing on both sides.
This bet may be challenging. Games featuring NFC North residents this season have seen the over go 8-1-1. But if the anticipated game script and effectiveness on offense is true, it will go the other way.
The Bet: UNDER 54 (-110)
The Record: 8-7-1, Even
Last Week: Colts-Steelers Under 45 (loss)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit