The Minnesota Vikings (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS) and Carolina Panthers (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS) look to bolster their early playoff positioning when they meet in Charlotte in Week 6.
After jumping out to a 3-0 start, the Panthers have lost two straight, including as 2.5-point favorites in their Week 5 tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings, meanwhile, have won two of three after starting the season 0-2.
Most North Carolina online sportsbooks opened the Panthers as slight 1-point home favorites, but the line has shifted in the days since.
Don’t be offensive
While both the Vikings and Panthers field solid defenses, their offenses have struggled.
The Panthers have shown sparks offensively under new quarterback Sam Darnold, but consistency has been absent. They rank 26th in offensive DVOA, Football Outsider’s advanced efficiency metric, and stand middle-of-the-pack in scoring average at 23 PPG. Darnold has been sacked 14 times behind a leaky offensive line. Many of those takedowns have stalled drives and erased prime scoring opportunities.
Minnesota has been more respectable than Carolina, per DVOA (17th), but have averaged fewer points per game (22.6). Similar to the Panthers, however, the Vikings have shown flashes of being more dangerous with the ball. They eclipsed 30 points in Weeks 2 and 3, covering in both instances, but finishing 1-1 in the win-loss column.
Missing the “Mac”?
Both teams have struggled offensively thanks in part to injuries suffered by their stud running backs.
The Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey was forced from Week 3’s contest against the Houston Texans with a pulled hamstring. Head coach Matt Rhule said Wednesday McCaffrey was 50-50 to play Sunday, but CMC was ruled out Friday.
The Vikings have been without a completely healthy Dalvin Cook. He missed Weeks 3 and 5 and struggled in Week 4 as he was clearly less than 100 percent. Minnesota has its bye in Week 7, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him rested for one more week. Cook returned to full practice on Thursday though — he didn’t practice at all leading up to Week 5 — so it appears as if he’s trending to making a complete return.
Old school football
Offense reigns supreme in this day and age, but the Panthers and Vikings will lean on their defense in this matchup.
Both teams rank top 10 in defensive DVOA and points allowed. And while neither side has taken the ball away with much frequency — they combine for nine takeaways — they’re Nos. 1 and 2 in pressure percentage, and have combined for 33 sacks.
As of Thursday evening, oddsboards show this line moving in Minnesota’s direction. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Vikings as 2-point road favorites (-114), with the Panthers catching +2 (-106). PointsBet has Vikes -1 (-121)/Panthers +1 (even), while several shops are dealing 1.5 with varying degrees of juice.
The total ranges from 45.5 to 46.5.
For anyone who bets NFL win totals, the Vikings lost their first two road games of the season, covering one of them. For bettors interested in the over/under, they went over in both of those contests, but are currently riding a three-game under streak.
With a pair of strong defenses and inconsistent offenses in the mix, the under is a logical lean. Value on the under has diminished since books were opening with totals as high as 48.5. If totals remain steady, the best number prospective under-leaning bettors will find is 46.5 (WynnBet).