The Buffalo Bills will travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings in a Week 13 match-up with little playoff implications. The Vikings are heavily favored, but you shouldn’t let the Bills history and 2-9 record cloud the reality that they have stayed toe-to-toe with many of the NFL’s elite teams recently.
The early spread on this game is Minnesota Vikings (-6.5). Here are five of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for when betting.
#1: Deceptive Record?
There is only one team with a worse record than the 2-9 Bills. The combination of their overall record and the line against a 4-7 Vikings team may lead one to believe that the Bills have been getting dominated. The perception is that the Bills have been horrible for the past decade and that they don’t have the talent to keep up with the Vikings.
The Bills record is bad, but they have been competitive. Before the bye week, they played within eight points of the New England Patriots. Following their Week 6 bye, the Bills would lose three more games before winning their next two against the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals. Then, the Bills were a dropped reception away from upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since being 0-5 before the bye, the four Bills losses have come at Baltimore (8-3), at Kansas City (7-4), neutral against Chicago (8-3), and vs. Pittsburgh (8-3). At a combined record of 31-13, the Bills have lost all these games by three points, three of the four going into overtime. Their two victories came against the Lions (2-9) and Bengals (2-9).
The Vikings are somewhere in-between these teams with their underachieving play this season.
The Vikings Achilles heel to the 2010 season has been turnovers. Brett Favre has led the Vikings to a -12 turnover ratio, second worst in the NFL. Still, they’ve remained competitive deep into the fourth quarter in their match-ups. With the Bills at -7, the turnover factor may not hurt the Vikings in this game as much. Bills must win the turnover battle because they don’t have the talent to outplay the Vikings.
#3: Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson’s status for this game is uncertain because of an ankle injury he sustained against the Washington Redskins. Since the Vikings are essentially eliminated from playoff contention, he may remain inactive. Then again, Leslie Frazier is coaching for a permanent coaching position in 2011, alas Brett Favre starting.
How important is this injury? It’s a difference between Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart getting a crack at the NFL’s worst ranked rushing defense.
#4: Home field advantage
Before their Redskins victory, the Vikings 3-7 record relied on a 3-2 home mark. They were one yard away from potentially being 4-1 had they punched it in against the Miami Dolphins. That was with the Brad Childress disruptions surrounding the organization. Now, the Vikings are playing for Leslie Frazier and pride. Vikings are always better in their house.
#5: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Since Fitzpatrick took over in Week 5, he has been the individual passing leader in six of the Bills seven games. Trent Edwards failed to accomplish this during any of his four. It’s obvious that Fitzpatrick has settled into the role as the Bills starting quarterback, and his presence has helped the Bills become more competitive.
This pick comes down to Adrian Peterson’s status. If you’re confident in Peterson not playing, then Bills (+ 6 ½) is a great bet. It’s still a very good pick if Peterson plays because the Bills have proven that they can play with upper-echelon teams; just not beat them.
And that’s where you shouldn’t take the Bills straight-up. The Bills find ways to lose games against good teams. They don’t match-up well with the Vikings rushing game, and the Vikings passing defense will be a tad stouter than most that Fitzpatrick has seen. Unless Favre goes on an interception spree, then the Vikings are a solid pick.
Against the Spread: Buffalo Bills (+6.5)
Straight Pick: Minnesota Vikings
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Week 13 NFL Predictions Against the Spread (Complete Version)
Cooper’s Picks, November 29, 2010.
NFL.com, November 29, 2010.