If you judge the 2022 Minnesota Vikings by their record alone, you’d think they’re the second-best team in the NFL. At 10-2, the Vikings have a better record than the Super Bowl-favorite Buffalo Bills, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Cincinnati Bengals. The 11-1 Philadelphia Eagles are the only team in the league with fewer losses.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, if you dive deeper into the Vikings’ resume, the NFC North leaders aren’t nearly as good as their record suggests. Minnesota is closer to a mediocre team than a Super Bowl contender, and the point spread in Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions should prove just that.
The 10-2 Vikings are two-point underdogs against the 5-7 Lions
You read that right. The 10-2 Vikings, who currently hold the second-best record in the NFL and the No. 2 seed in the NFC, are two-point underdogs against the 5-7 Lions in Week 14, per DraftKings.
Sure, the Lions have been playing much better of late. After a 1-6 start to the season, Dan Campbell‘s bunch has won four of its last five games. Detroit’s only two losses since Oct. 30 came by four points to the Miami Dolphins and three points to the Bills. Meanwhile, Minnesota has lost only two games all season, and they came against the Eagles and Cowboys.
But the Lions closed as 1.5-point home favorites against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, and now they’re bigger faves against the division-leading Vikings seven days later? What’s up with that?
I’ll tell you what’s up with that.
The peculiar Vikings-Lions spread proves how fraudulent Minnesota is
If you told a casual NFL bettor to create a point spread for Sunday’s Vikings-Lions game, they would look at the two records and make Minnesota at least a three-point favorite. Maybe even six or seven.
But records only make up a small part of a team’s resume, and the Vikings’ resume is flawed under the surface.
Let’s start with net yards per play, which measures how much a team outgains their opponents on a per-play basis. The Bills have the best mark in the NFL at +1.16, while the Pittsburgh Steelers have the worst at -0.99. The Houston Texans, the most incompetent team in the league this year, have the second-worst mark at -0.94. The third-worst team in net yards per play? The Minnesota Vikings at -0.9. Last week, they were outgained 486-287 by Mike White and the New York Jets, and they won.
How about DVOA? This metric measures “a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent,” per Football Outsiders. Essentially, the most efficient teams (Bills, Cowboys, Eagles) are at the top, and the least efficient teams (Cardinals, Colts, Texans) are at the bottom. The Vikings rank 20th in overall DVOA, right behind the Falcons, Steelers, and Commanders. For reference, the Lions rank 13th.
In terms of luck ratings, the Vikings have been the luckiest team in the league this season by a wide margin. Minnesota is 9-0 in one-score games, and the team has been outgained in five of those wins. In games against the Eagles and Cowboys, the two best teams in the NFC, the Vikings were throttled 24-7 and 40-3, respectively.
You have to give the Vikings credit. They don’t beat themselves, they convert red-zone opportunities into points, and they know how to win close games.
Only, this luck isn’t going to last, and sportsbooks know that better than anyone. Minnesota needed a double-digit comeback to beat Detroit at home in Week 3, and it deserves to be an underdog on the road this Sunday.