Minnesota Vikings @ Arizona Cardinals: Value Vikings to put points on the board

Battering ram: Adrian Peterson can destroy Arizona's defensive line
Battering ram: Adrian Peterson can destroy Arizona's defensive line

Arizona are the hot, hot favourites to triumph in this week's Thursday Night Football. But all the value lies in siding with Minnesota according to our analyst Neil Harvey...

"Against the three quality opponents they faced, the Cardinals gave-up an average of just over 29 points. That's big. And suggests that their defense isn't as impressive as it's been hailed."

Minnesota Vikings @ Arizona Cardinals
Friday, 01:25

I've just watched a panel of the NFL experts, consisting of former players and and coaches, give their assessment of this game. And to a man, they backed Arizona to cut down the Vikings with ease. Was this a case of collective, informed insight? Or was it just a knee-jerk reaction to the two teams' most recent results, which saw Minnesota crushed 38-7 by the resurgent Seahawks, while Arizona sauntered past St. Louis 27-3.

Well, let's see. First off, one of the arguments given for the Cardinals was that much-espoused cliche that this is a short week, on the road, for Minnesota. And, yes, this is true. But it could be that the effects of having less preparation time, combined with having to travel, are not quite so devastating as are frequently prophesised. Because the reality is that, of this season's 13 'Thursday Night Football' games to date, the majority (seven) have been won by the away team.

What about form then? Well, Arizona (10-2) are having an excellent season. And they did crush the Rams last week. But I would argue that they've had one of the weakest schedules in the entire league this year, including San Francisco twice, St. Louis twice (one of which they lost), New Orleans, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit (when they were in free-fall). Yes, you can only beat what's put in front of you. But what was put there was not very good!.

Arguably, Arizona have only faced three credible opponents, Seattle, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, winning two of these but emerging with an aggregate (-2) points difference. In short, the Cardinals have been beating up the little guys but have been pushed all the way by opponents their own size.

And that's what the (8-4) Vikings are - sizeable opponents. I'd rate their schedule as having been visibly more difficult. The concern is that their form's been very up and down, alternating wins and losses for example over the past four weeks. But where Minnesota have been at their best is on the road, winning four of their six away games this season, which included a very creditable three point loss in Denver.

The biggest concern for the Vikings is injuries. They've been beset by them. And suffered further knocks to Pro-Bowl hopefuls Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith last time out. The Vikings will have several squad players slotted into their secondary for this game. And that's a concern for them, going up against Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer in arguably the best season of this career. Not to mention the receiving trio of John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd who've caught 16 touchdowns between them so far.

Arizona have scored 70% of their touchdowns through the air, and should once again make hay against a Vikings pass-defense that's seriously beaten up. That in turn should open up space for the Cardinals' ground game, which already has a statistical edge over the Minnesota run-defense.

All that doesn't mean the Vikings are out of it though. While they have Adrian Peterson, they still have a chance. the NFL's leading rusher has eight touchdowns and is averaging a fraction shy of 100 yards per game. Minnesota get the bulk of their scores on the ground. Arizona haven't faced many good sides this year, and they've not faced any rushers as good as the Viking's lead-man, which for me makes Peterson a strong bet to come up with a big performance here.

Certainly I Expect AP to play an integral role, with the Vikings loading him up time and time again as they try to batter down Arizona's defensive line. And that's because there's little alternative. Minnesota's passing game ranks down the bottom of the league, with QB Teddy Bridgewater yet to live up to the pre-season hype.

In Stefon Diggs the Vikings possess a receiver of seemingly genuine top quality. Diggs emerged mid-season and continues to impress. Against a solid Arizona defense though, it's the big-bodied guys who tend to get the looks in the end zone. And that's why tight end Kyle Rudolph is the man with the most touchdowns for the Vikings (4). So I'm expecting Bridgewater to look his way first when the Vikings get into the red zone.

Arizona look tough to oppose on paper. But they're nowhere near as battle-hardened as they should be to deserve such heavy favouritism. Against the three quality opponents they faced, the Cardinals gave-up an average of just over 29 points. That's big. And suggests that their defense isn't as impressive as it's been hailed.

So for me, the value lies in getting with the total points, with Minnesota's points, and by backing the Vikings to give the home side a scare or two along the way.

Recommended Bets:

3pts Minnesota Points to be Over 18.5 @ 2.001/1
3pts Adrian Peterson rushing yards to be Over 79.5 @ 2.001/1
2pts Total Points to be Over 45.5 @ 1.981/1
Kyle Rudolph to score 1st touchdown @ 16.5
Kyle Rudolph to score anytime touchdown @ 4.03/1
H/T-F/T result to be Minnesota-Arizona @ 9.008/1
2pts Minnesota (+9) to beat Arizona @ 1.9620/21

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