Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Sunday December 24, 01:30 GMT
TV - Live on Sky Sports Action and Main Event
Vikings Superbowl credentials should be tested
Going to Green Bay is never easy. The Packers have one of the stronger home-field advantages in the league, due to the inhospitable crowd and conditions that often greet visiting teams.
The Vikings have the benefit of familiarity as a divisional rival, so they should not be fazed by Lambeau Field at least, though Green Bay will still want to win this game to upset their neighbour.
With Aaron Rodgers shut down for the season after the Packers' playoffs hopes were extinguished in Carolina last week, the question from a betting perspective is how to value him over Brett Hundley.
Packers depth poses big questions
Though the Packers had a glimmer of hope until last week's loss, their season all but ended in week six, with Aaron Rodgers' collarbone break.
Rodgers' play covers for deficiencies across the offence. Some bright spots have come in the running game, where rookies Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams may have solved a problem position for the Pack, but it's fair to wonder how good some of their receivers are given their play without their superstar QB.
Back-up QB Brett Hundley did establish rapport with Davante Adams, though he misses this week's game following a concussion last week. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will need to help the second-string quarterback against Minnesota's tough defence.
Injuries make for significant contrast
Where one injury snuffed out Green Bay's season, Minnesota have thrived despite losing important starters. That they can be talked of as potential champions at all is an achievement, given how their season started.
Without Teddy Bridgewater already, they lost their opening week QB Sam Bradford for the season after a tantalising performance in week one against New Orleans.
He was replaced by journeyman Case Keenum, but Minnesota have hardly missed a beat. Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph have led the team in receptions. The former, undrafted in 2013, currently ranks fifth in the league for receiving yards and seventh for receptions, while Rudolph (no red-nose jokes please) is joint second among tight ends in touchdowns scored.
It's easy to forget how good rookie Dalvin Cook looked at running-back through the opening weeks too. He was lost after an ACL tear in week four, but the combination of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have covered ably.
Credit for this resilience has to lie largely with the offensive-line, which was sieve-like a year ago. Keenum has been sacked 17 times this year. No starting QB has suffered fewer.
Minnesota are -8.5 point favourites going into Green Bay. The last time Minnesota were favoured going to Lambeau was 2000, where they were getting 3.5 points. They lost that day 20-26.
The reason they're favoured is because Aaron Rodgers is now gone for the season. According to Andrew Brandt, had Rodgers played this week, the Pack would've been slight favourites with bookmakers, meaning Rodgers is being valued at approximately ten points.
Rodgers is the best QB in the league (sorry Tom), but is he worth ten points? Hundley has put up creditable performances in big games previously, most notably against Pittsburgh. Ten points is a huge swing in any game, let alone a road game for the Vikings against their biggest rivals. The Vikings should win the game here, but the pick, purely based on the swing, is the Packers -8.5 on the Handicap market at 1.910/11 or better.
Similarly, the line on the Total Points market at 40.5 looks a little low to me due to expectations about the Packers giving up, so I would take the 1.9110/11 available on that.
For an interest in touchdown scorers, Kyle Rudolph in the First Touchdown Scorer market on the Sportsbook looks like reasonable value at 15/2. Longer shot plays are Case Keenum at 45/1 and 50/1 in the First and Last Touchdown Scorer markets respectively.