New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings (1/4/19): NFL Betting Picks, Lines

Week 16: 2-4
All Time Results: 108-94-2, +16.98 Units

Minnesota Vikings +8 @ New Orleans Saints – 1 Unit

Claim: Kirk Cousins is a decent quarterback that can’t perform in the biggest games.

Counter-claim: Kirk Cousins is a decent quarterback that plays far better when in his regular routine.

For a long time, the book on Kirk Cousins has been that he shrinks under the bright lights.  Some numbers support this notion.  Cousins is 0-8 on Monday Night Football, 0-1 in the playoffs and has a terrible record against winning teams.

Early this fall, Fox Sports Radio Host Jonas Knox suggested that Kirk Cousins’s real problem might be his inability to adapt his routine.  Knox recalled an article in which Cousins professed his love to keep his entire day scheduled down to 15-minute intervals.  Since then, as a researcher for Pregame.com, I have been keeping track of Cousins splits, tracking how he performs at the normal 1:00 PM Eastern start time vs. all other start times.  The results are night and day.

minnesota vikingsKirk Cousins has covered 65% ATS in games that start at 1:00 PM Eastern (33-18-1).  In all other starts, Cousins is only 33% ATS (12-24-1).

Sunday we have a rare playoff game that kicks off at 1:00 PM Eastern (1:05 PM to be exact).  Minnesota Vikings +8 @ New Orleans Saints.

We have a tremendous opportunity here to examine these trends.  If Cousins really can’t play in high-pressure games then expect the Saints to roll the Vikings and Cousins to throw three picks.  However, if Cousins routine is really the issue then he should excel Sunday.  Every aspect of this work week will mirror a regular-season week for Cousins, down to the Sunday morning team breakfast at the hotel, to the 9:00 AM bus to the game.

Outside of quarterback pedigree, these teams are not that far apart.   According to Football Outsiders, the Saints are 4th in Offensive Efficiency and 11th in Defensive Efficiency.  The Vikings are slightly better on defense (7th) and slightly worse on offense (10th).  I think the only reason this line isn’t -6 in favor of the Saints instead of -8 is because bettors don’t trust Kirk Cousins to play even adequately in this spot.  I do.  Hence, my biggest bet of Wild Card Weekend.

What is the Saint’s Biggest win?

The Saints haven’t beaten a team better than the Minnesota Vikings all season.  The one win they had over a team even comparable to Minnesota came all the way back in Week 3 when they rallied around Teddy Bridgewater’s first start, winning in Seattle by 6 .  In that game, the Seahawks outgained the Saints by 1.5 yards per play.  The Saints got the win, however, largely due to not one but two return touchdowns.

Their other big wins in hindsight are similarly unimpressive.  The Saints beat the Cowboys by 2 points at home thanks to a +2 turnover margin, in another game they were outgained.  In week 1, the Saints snuck out another 2-point win against the Texans, miraculously securing a late field goal after being an 8/1 underdog in the final minute of that game.

While I expect the Saints to secure victory this weekend – I don’t think the point spread is justified.  Nothing I’ve seen during the regular season suggests to me that the Saints are capable of blowing out a team as good as Minnesota.

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2-team, 6.5 Point Teaser (-120): Minnesota Vikings +14.5 @ New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots +1.5 vs. Tennessee Titans – .3 Units

2-team, 6.5 Point Teaser (-120): New Orleans Saints -1.5 vs. Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots +1.5 vs. Tennessee Titans – .2 Units

I like a teaser here in both directions here.  The Vikings over the regular season had the 2nd least variance from week to week, and the Saints had the 6th least variance.  I expect both offenses to be able to move the ball, especially if down by multiple scores late where the opposition is likely to adopt a prevent defense.

The more discussion I hear about this New England/Tennessee game, the more I like the Patriots to secure victory.  Ryan Tannehill is 0-6 for his career in Foxborough, and the weather might be nasty with wind and rain at kickoff.

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Born in Chicago, born for Las Vegas, Mackenzie is a graduate of Yale University with a BA in English & Creative Writting. Mackenzie runs AlternativeStats.blog, which seeks to by-pass the minutiae of commonly cited sports statistics and expose the heart of what drives athletic success. After several successful years investing in Las Vegas real estate, Mackenzie is excited to transition in 2019 into betting on sports full time, as well as documenting his thought process as he further learns the craft.

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