We’re ten weeks in to a great NFL season and we still haven’t had a Thursday Night Football betting matchup that’s been worth talking about. Sure, we started with Peyton Manning having an historic night in Week 1, but calling these mid-week games anything other than “terrible” or “blowouts” is a lie. Can we find salvation when Washington visits Minnesota?
Actually, we might be able to.
These are two of the worst teams in the league at a combined record of just 4-12 SU this year, and neither of them have been on the winning side of the betting line all season. Both teams are 3-5 ATS and have been unreliable bets. In fact, both teams seem to cover in games where you don’t expect them to. That explains why this line is wobbling so much between the host and the visitors – nobody really knows what to expect from either team.
Still, you can have hope that you get an entertaining game when two teams on equal playing fields go to war. When good teams play against good teams, you get a great game. And the same thing happens when two bottom feeders lock horns. The Redskins and Vikings match up well because both are capable of scoring on the ground, and neither side has a strong defense. There is a big possibility that this becomes one of the best Thursday Night betting battles we’ve had all year (and I can’t believe I just wrote that).
Minnesota has been stuck in quarterback carousel hell all year long, which has pretty much been par for the course for their tortured fan base. It’s safe to say that Josh Freeman was an absolute waste of $3 million, and while Matt Cassel had one great game this season, he’s equally awful. What’s actually kind of stunning is that Christian Ponder has emerged from all of this as their best option.
The problem is that if Ponder is your best option, you’re in a lot of trouble. Ponder has played in the last five games and Minnesota has lost all of them while going just 2-3 ATS. Ponder hasn’t thrown for more than 236 yards in any of those games and is leaning just 3 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. The only saving grace is that he’s picked up 4 rushing touchdowns in those games as well.
What makes Minnesota a somewhat attractive play is Peterson going up against Washington’s defense. Outside of safety Brandon Meriweather, the Redskins are one of the worst tackling defenses in the league. And if you can’t tackle Adrian Peterson, you can’t hope to stop him. Peterson was a wrecking ball last weekend when he picked up 140 yards and a touchdown against Dallas, and will be counted on to do most of the damage for the Vikings. The more they can take the game out of Ponder’s hands, the better.
That in itself presents problems for Minnesota. Peterson is by far the best back in the league, but he’s struggled to produce because he’s practically facing 10 guys in the box on every play. The Vikings lack a go-to scoring threat at receiver, and their defense hasn’t been able to stop a soul this year. They’ve allowed 31.5 points against on average this season. Landry and Meriweather will be tabbing Peterson all night long, and it’s unthinkable that Ponder is smart enough to take advantage of them cheating up towards the line of scrimmage.
Even worse for Vikings backers is the fact that Washington seems to be hitting some sort of stride. They’re 2-2 SU and ATS in their last four games. They toppled San Diego and Chicago in those wins, but lost on the road to Denver and Dallas. Robert Griffin hasn’t put up the monster numbers he did last year, but he seems fully recovered from the concerns about his knee. When RG3 is rushing for first downs, pulverizing opponents with his legs and keeping defense on their toes, everything opens up for Washington.
What also saves Washington in this game as the team to bet on is that they’re also 5-1 ATS when playing in November, and 5-1 ATS when playing indoors. They have struggled to find their offensive rhythm as they’ve rehabbed Griffin on the job, but in the past few games we’ve seen glimpses of the upstart Redskins that we saw last year.
Keep in mind that Washington was barely a playoff team last year. They won a ton of close games largely based on Griffin’s heroics. That being said, when RG3 is able to play full tilt, the Redskins are a dangerous and sexy cover team. They can rush the ball effectively with Minnesota having to account for Griffin bootlegging his way up field, and that means Alfred Morris can go back to pounding the rock effectively like he did in his rookie campaign.
Hashing out all the minute details of this game shouldn’t deter you from two barren facts about these teams: Minnesota practically invents new ways to lose football games every week, while RG3 simply finds ways to win them. If that doesn’t attract you to Washington’s side of the Thursday Night betting line, then nothing will. Washington can still stuff the box to contain Peterson, while worrying less and less about Ponder beating them. On the other side, I don’t think Minnesota will have an answer for RG3 and Alfred Morris, who can pound out a strong willed victory.
I’m still worried about how RG3’s body holds up for the remainder of the season, but as long as he’s healthy, the Redskins are worth betting on. The smart play here is on Washington, especially when you consider that the favorite has gone 6-3 ATS in Thursday Night Football betting. While you’re at it, cross all your fingers that we have an exciting football game.
NFL Thursday Night Betting Pick – Washington -2.5 (UNDER)