By Raymond Harrison | @MondoHarrison
2020 has been a hard year, but at least we get an NFL game on Christmas!
The Minnesota Vikings (6-8) are taking on the New Orleans Saints (10-4) in the 22nd Christmas game in NFL history.
The Vikings are hanging on to miniscule playoff hopes following a Week 15 loss to Chicago Bears. A 1-5 start coupled with a battered defense has made this a year to forget, even with the continued success of star players like Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson.
Meanwhile, the Saints are coming off of a disheartening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Drew Brees, their 41-year-old quarterback, returned to action after missing four weeks with broken ribs and a punctured lung. He looked a little rusty against the Chiefs, but a matchup against the Vikings’ 24th-ranked passing defense may be just what he needs.
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET
Money line: Saints -310, Vikings +240
Spread: Saints -7
We have seen a bit of line movement in the days leading up to the contest. The Saints spread moved up a half point from 6.5 to 7, while the total opened at 53 and dropped to 50.5.
In this piece, I’ll go over my best bets for the contest, and provide my reasoning behind all the picks. All odds provided in this piece are courtesy of Betway. As always, please play responsibly.
Dalvin Cook Over 21.5 Receiving Yards (-118)
It is impossible to handicap a Vikings game without looking at the Dalvin Cook prop market. The 25-year-old running back has had a monster season for the Vikings, sitting second in the league in rushing yards and tied for first in rushing touchdowns.
Despite that, I am going a different route for this prop, mainly because of game script. I do not think the Vikings’ defense can hang with the Saints. Therefore, I think their offense has to abandon the run early and start airing the ball out.
Since Week 5, Cook has averaged 34.3 receiving yards per game. Similarly, the Saints are allowing an average of 24.3 receiving yards per game to opposing running backs. I’d even think about pairing this with Cook over 3.5 receptions (+100), as it is likely he is a heavy feature in the passing game.
Kirk Cousins Over 250.5 Passing Yards (-118)
Sticking with the Vikings here, and for similar reasons.
Kirk Cousins is a steady target of criticism, but he is averaging 285.7 passing yards per game since Week 10. The books seem to believe that the Vikings will play from behind for most of this game, meaning Captain Kirk will need to keep the offense afloat.
With Jefferson, Cook, and Adam Thielen at his disposal, he should be able to find enough completions to hit this number. Make no mistake, the Saints’ secondary is one of the best in the league, but garbage time is a beautiful thing.
People also love to criticize Cousins’ numbers in prime-time. His record is one thing, but across 24 regular-season games in front of national TV audiences, he has averaged 286.5 yards per contest. Look for the 32-year-old to throw 35-plus times to keep pace.
Total Points Over 50.5 (-115)
Even without top wideout Michael Thomas, the Saints are a different team with Brees running the offense. The over is 8-1 in games where Brees played at least three quarters. On the flip side, without Brees, the over was just 1-4.
Brees looked incredibly rusty against the Chiefs in Week 15, and the offense could still put up 29 points. They will get even more confidence against a miserable Vikings’ defense that is allowing 27.7 points per game.
On the other side, the Vikings are 9-5 to the over throughout 2020. They possess the fifth-ranked offense in yards per game and have scored at least 26 points on ten separate occasions. I think we get a decent amount of points on Christmas day between two talented offenses.