NFL Week 4 Monday Night Football: New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings
New York Giants @ Minnesota Vikings -4 (-115)
U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota
October 3,2016, 5:30PM PDT
Our primary handicapping factors support the red-hot Minnesota Vikings to cover versus the visiting New York football Giants Monday evening. In fact, as our power rankings composite makes Minnesota at home to be more than a touchdown better than the Giants tomorrow night, this matchup constitutes one of our highest conviction spread plays of week 4.
A core Vikings' strength, which we expect will be key tomorrow, is the defense's ability to force turnovers. Minnesota's foes commit the fifth-most fumbles in the league, and the Vikings are second in opponents' interceptions. As if that is not foreboding enough for Giants backers, New York is the third-worst team in the NFL by fumbles per game, and 11th by INTs per contest.
To this latter point, data from the Elias Sports Bureau in 2013 (featured below) suggests that Eli Manning's TD/INT ratio was among the worst of then-active seasoned quarterbacks at the point of this examination. The following table illustrates summary statistics for Manning's first 144 starts, along with the same figures for other QBs that achieved this hallmark of longevity.
Though the company is, for the most part, elite, Manning has thrown the ball to the other team more than any other QB to reach the 144-start milestone. We expect the Vikings' fourth-best passing defense to exacerbate the Giants' innate vulnerability to turnovers on Monday.
In assessing quarterback play more broadly, consider that Eli Manning ranks 12th to Sam Bradford's 16th by Football Outsiders' DYAR statistic, however, Bradford shows as modestly superior by DVOA (11th versus 14th). Further, the following chart from SportingCharts.com illustrates that the young gun is on pace to surpass the veteran QB this year by QB Rating (which considers attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions).
We note though that the Giants uber-talented receiving core of Sterling Shepard, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Victor Cruz -- two top ten and one top 30 receiver, constitute more of New York's offensive threat than an Eli Manning approaching the tail end of his (accomplished) career. And while the Vikings' Stefon Diggs is arguably the best receiver in the NFL through the first three weeks of the season, Minnesota's aerial attack is not nearly as diverse as is New Yorks'. Nonetheless, we see Minnesota's defense as the equalizer, and are looking for forced turnovers to translate into points for the Vikings Monday night.
Separately, in recent years the Vikings have become an increasingly profitable against the spread bet. According to TeamRankings, in 2013 the Vikings finished the regular season 9-7 ATS. Their record improved to 10-6 the following year, and then to 14-3 last year. So far, Minnesota is 3-0 against the betting line this season. Further, since last year, the Vikings are 8-2 when expected to win, and 6-1 as home favorites.
Conversely, in aggregate, New York is a lowly 23-27-1 ATS since 2013 and the Giants have not enjoyed a winning season versus the number over this horizon. In the Giant's favor though, New York is 5-3-1 as an underdog and 3-2-1 as the road dog since last year. Nonetheless, in aggregate, we estimate that Minnesota's consistency against the spread over the longer-term, coupled with the Vikings' near-term excellence tips betting trends in favor of the home cover.