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For this selection, we'll be focusing on is a matchup between two NFC playoff hopefuls as the San Francisco 49ers head to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings. The Niners are trying to build off last season's strong finish, while the Vikings have their eye on the Super Bowl after getting oh-so-close last season. We're betting the pointspread in this one - a closer look at the matchup will show you why.
NFL Pick of the Day:
Jimmy Garoppolo lead the 49ers to a strong finish, but his stats were worse than you might think
All eyes in the NFC will be on the battle between the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings. With both teams sporting new quarterbacks and high expectations to perform in the NFC, this game should be a good barometer for two teams that will be disappointed if they aren’t featured in the playoffs.
In San Francisco, the Niners are hoping that Jimmy Garoppolo will be the savior of their franchise. After being traded from the New England Patriots to the Niners last season, Jimmy G won all five of his starts. But Garoppolo didn’t look overly impressive in those wins though, as he threw seven touchdown passes against five interceptions. If he is going to live up to the expectations that have been heaped upon him, that ratio will need to improve.
Of course, Garoppolo made headlines in the offseason for his night out with an adult film star, but Niners fans are hoping that he will do more scoring on the field this year than he clearly has off the field. And Garoppolo will need to play well, as the team’s running back situation has been thrown into chaos now that Jerick McKinnon is set to miss the season with a knee injury.
There may not have been a worse run of luck than the Niners have gone through at the running back position. The team let their young star Carlos Hyde walk, with him ending up in Cleveland with the Browns. They thought that McKinnon would be the man to fill the void left by Hyde, but that plan has been cast asunder before the opening kickoff of the season. That will shift more of the responsibility onto Garoppolo, and it will be interesting to see how he handles that.
Kirk Cousins has been brought in to take the Vikings to the next level
Minnesota boasts a fearsome pass rush, with Sheldon Richardson and Everson Griffen occupying each side of the defensive line. And the addition of George Iloka to a defensive backfield that already features Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, and Trae Waynes could conceivably make the Vikings defense even better than it was last season.
On the other side of the ball, the Vikings are hoping that Kirk Cousins can be the solution for the team at quarterback. After he spent years dangling in franchise tag purgatory, Cousins finally got the big-money, long-term contract that he was after. Now Cousins will have to live up to that contract, and do something that he has never done before if the Vikings are to play as well as they did last season.
That something is win more than nine games in a season. Cousins’ teams have had a best record of 9-7 over the course of a full regular season, with his teams finishing 9-7, 8-7-1, and 7-9 over the three seasons that he has played a full 16 games in his career. Cousins has thrown 25 or more touchdowns over each of the last three seasons, which would be an upgrade over the 22 that Case Keenum threw for them last year. The Vikings should be ahead more frequently than Cousins was in Washington last year, so those numbers could change for the better this season.
Minnesota is also working a new offensive coordinator into the mix, as Joe Defilippo has taken over for new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. That process would be more difficult if the Vikings had Keenum at quarterback again this year, but the switch to Cousins had them starting from square one anyway and shouldn’t be too big a concern.
In terms of betting on this matchup between the Niners and Vikings, the six and a half point spread may seem a little high to some bettors given how well the Niners played at the end of last season. But a look at the way the Vikings played last year at home could prove that laying the points here is a good decision.
NFL Free Pick:
Stefon and the Vikings should be able to pull away with this one
Minnesota played eight home games during the regular season in 2017, and won seven of them straight up. Of those seven wins, all of them were by eight points or more. Granted, their strength of schedule at home wasn’t too tough, with wins over the Buccaneers, Bears, and Bengals as some of the lowlights. But teams last year would have had an easier time battling with actual Vikings than trying to score on the Minnesota Vikings.
The key to this game, and the decision to wager on it, will come down to how well you think Jimmy Garoppolo will do against the stout defense of Minnesota. Given the Niners’ woes at running back, combined with the great defense of the Vikings, and it is hard to imagine that San Francisco will be terribly productive on the ground in Week One. So if you think that Garoppolo will be able to carry the Niners in spite of that deficiency, getting nearly a full touchdown is the play. If not, you can be happy laying the points with a team that blew their opponents out at home for the bulk of last season.
We’re confident that laying the points is the right play. Public perception of the Niners is much better than the actual talent of the football team, thanks in large part to the fact that Garoppolo has been considered such a hot prospect for most of his career while sitting behind Tom Brady in New England. Aside from his dating record, Garoppolo hasn’t done anything to prove that he is a star just yet, and a defense as talented as that of the Vikings will give him a reality check to start the 2018 season.