The 49ers are looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season, while the Vikings can grab second place in the NFC North and be a half-game out of a wild-card spot if they win at home in prime time.
Of course, that means Kirk Cousins on Monday night – a scary proposition for those looking to back the underdog. However, there are a few reasons that might be the right play in this one.
Cousins started his career 0-9 on Monday night. But his team’s defense failed him repeatedly in those contests, allowing an average of 388 total yards, including 170 yards on the ground. Since then, Cousins has won two of his last three Monday-nighters.
We’re not necessarily asking Cousins to win this game unless we’re hoping to close a few legs of a round-round underdog moneyline parlay. Those backing the Vikings against the spread just need Minnesota to keep this game close – something they’re known to do, win or lose.
A point spread that’s been ping-ponging between +7 and +6.5 all week exists because the Vikings’ team rating in the betting market has taken a hit from before the season, mainly due to a hamstring injury keeping Justin Jefferson sidelined. By comparison, Minnesota was widely available at +4 against the Chiefs – a team rated alongside San Francisco. The Vikings were considered an above-average squad, but now they’re on the other side of .500.
Maybe that’s a fair assessment since the Vikings’ offense has slowed since the first three games when Cousins ripped off 340-plus yards per contest. Then again, they lost those games. What’s gone largely unnoticed is a turnaround from Minnesota’s defense. Brian Flores has taken over after the club allowed the third-most yards per play last season (5.9). But the Vikings are down a full yard this campaign at 4.9 YPP against, and their defensive DVOA is at least in the middle of the pack.
There’s also the matter of personnel missing for the 49ers. Deebo Samuel is out for a few weeks, and left tackle Trent Williams is doubtful for Monday. Those are two key pieces for Brock Purdy, who lost the first game of his career last week in the toughest road environment he’s faced from start to finish. While he won’t have wind to throw through, communication in the dome will be critical. Having Christian McCaffrey suit up is also crucial. The running back is listed as questionable but is expected to play.
Only eight teams have allowed fewer yards per carry than Minnesota, and only three give up fewer receptions per game to opposing running backs. The last time Flores faced Kyle Shanahan, his Dolphins won convincingly. The Vikings’ defensive coordinator blitzes at the highest rate in the league. Not having Samuel as an outlet for yards after the catch should hurt Purdy’s efficiency, especially if George Kittle is required to block more than run routes.
Pick: Vikings (+6.5)
Jordan Addison: Over 4.5 receptions (-105)
Jordan Addison was Cousins’ top target in the Vikings’ game versus the Chiefs, recording six catches on nine looks in a contest that Minnesota mostly trailed as underdogs. The Vikings were the favorites last week and tried to limit risk on the road on a windy day in Chicago, so Addison’s modest game might be keeping this total in check for a matchup that should look more like the one against K.C.
Jauan Jennings: Anytime touchdown (+350)
Josh Oliver: Anytime touchdown (+1000)
Both teams are missing top receiving targets, so let’s attack the touchdown market with players who might replace their roll in the red zone.
Jauan Jennings has long been a reliable replacement in any receiving role and has the size to play the slot. But he won’t garner the same attention as Samuel would have.
Josh Oliver is the No. 2 tight end for the Vikings, but he plays 38% of the snaps for a team that might see its ’12 personnel’ usage go up without Jefferson. Oliver’s another big target at the goal line who could leak out during Cousins’ play-action passes. He already has a touchdown in four games played this season.
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.