We’re at that point in the post-season where from a betting perspective, you can bet on just about every detail of the remaining 3 NFL games. And the Vikings-Eagles NFC Championship game is no exception.
Looking through the odds, there are some implied expectations going into the NFC Championship, a few of which I found a little surprising. Let’s have a look.
The Vikings are 3.5 point favorites on the road in Philadelphia, and that hasn’t changed all week. But as additional betting lines have been added, there are some implied expectations worth noting:
First Half Scoring
Probably the most surprising implied expectation is the scoring margin at the end of the first half. The most likely odds (4-1) is for the Vikings to be ahead by 13 or more points. The Vikings ahead by 7-9 points has the second most likely odds at 5.5-1. That is followed by the Vikings ahead by 1-3 points or it being a tie, both 6.5-1 odds.
Clearly these are implied expectations that the Vikings will get out to an early lead against the Eagles on Sunday, most likely a big lead similar to the Saints game. The odds of the Eagles having any sort of lead at halftime are at least 8-1 - twice that of the Vikings being up 13 or more.
Margin of Victory
While the first-half scoring implied expectations clearly favor the Vikings getting off to an early lead, perhaps a big one, the final margin of victory odds imply a closer final score.
The Vikings winning by a 1-6 point margin has the most likely odds, at 2.6-1, followed by the Eagles winning by that margin at 3.75-1. But beyond that, the expectations implied by the odds are biased in favor of a bigger Vikings victory.
The odds of the Vikings winning by 7-12 points, at 4.25-1, are almost as short as the Eagles winning by 1-6. And the odds of the Vikings winning by 13-18 points (6-1), are better than those for an Eagles victory by 7-12 points (6.5-1). Odds of the Vikings winning by 19-24 points are 10-1.
So, the expectations implied from these odds are that if it isn’t a close game, it’s more likely the Vikings win comfortably.
Other scoring odds:
- Vikings are favored to score both first and (more narrowly) last
- Latavius Murray is the favorite player among both teams to score a touchdown; Adam Thielen is 2nd, followed by a four-way tie for third between Jay Ajayi, Zach Ertz, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph.
- Expectations favor one team scoring 3 unanswered times during the game
Individual Player Implied Performance Odds
Based on the over/under numbers for each player, the expectations are that:
- Case Keenum will go around 21/33 for around 245 yards passing.
- Nick Foles will go around 19/32 for around 209 yards passing.
- Odds suggest Foles more likely to throw an interception than Keenum, and Keenum slightly better odds to throw more than one TD pass than Foles.
- Latavius Murray will have around 60 yards rushing
- Jay Ajayi will have around 57 yards rushing
- Jerick McKinnon will have around 32 yards rushing
- Lagarette Blount will have around 27 yards rushing
- Adam Thielen will have around 70 yards receiving
- Stefon Diggs will have around 59 yards receiving
- Alshon Jeffrey will have around 50 yards receiving
- Zach Ertz will have around 47 yards receiving
- Kyle Rudolph will have around 32 yards receiving
- Nelson Agohlor will have around 37 yards receiving
There are at least 87 total bets you can make on this game, the rest being even less relevant in terms of the expected outcome of the game.
My take on the implied expectations from these odds is that there is about a 35% chance the Vikings win narrowly, about a 30% chance the Eagles win narrowly, a 30% chance the Vikings win comfortably, and a 5% chance the Eagles win comfortably.
As the week wore on up to the Saints game, I thought it would be a close game. The Saints had become more dependent on Drew Brees in their last few games, and less successful in their run game. But they had also done well defensively, and the matchups were challenging for the Vikings OL, receivers, and Vikings defense with so many weapons and Drew Brees.
This week the main challenge is for the Vikings OL. Watching the Saints game again, the OL didn’t do so bad in that Keenum had time to make his throws, or was able to move in the pocket without much drama most of the time. Cam Jordan was the highest rated edge rusher in the league, according to PFF. The rest of the Saints defensive line- Tyeler Davison, Sheldon Rankins, and David Onyemata all had good, 80+ grades for the season from PFF. So while the Eagles defensive front maybe a little better than the Saints’, it may not be that much better.
But while the Eagles’ defensive front may be better than the Saints’, their secondary is not as good. Marshon Lattimore has become a shut-down corner that can play tight press-man coverage. The Eagles don’t have a CB that can do that. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, while they’ve been effective for the most part in their off-coverage, they’ll give up short completions and occasionally will bite on double-moves for big plays. They’re also not as good in tackling.
My point here is that the Vikings scored 29 points and produced over 400 yards of offense against the Saints. And while the Eagles defense has had better results overall compared to the Saints, from a match-up standpoints against the Vikings, they may not be that much tougher than the Saints, particularly against the pass, where they may not be as tough overall.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles offense under Nick Foles is no where near that of the Saints offense with Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara. The Eagles don’t have comparable play-makers on offense. They have a stronger OL overall than the Saints, but also a bigger weakness at LT than the Saints had. I’d rate Mark Ingram and Jay Ajayi/LaGarrette Blount as being roughly equal threats. Corey Coleman, while capable of big plays, is not Alvin Kamara. Just as Alshon Jeffrey is not Michael Thomas. I could go on but at the heart of it is that Nick Foles is no where near the threat Drew Brees is at quarterback. The truth is he’s a liability.
SI has a good story here of what the Vikings may do against Nick Foles. The Vikings defense will likely confuse Foles with pre-snap movement - just like they did with Jared Goff against the Rams- blitz him to keep him off-balance and uncomfortable, and present him with tight windows in coverage that he’s not comfortable throwing into.
And while the Eagles can mount a decent ground game, the Vikings are one of the top defenses in yards per carry allowed - better than the Eagles defense.
So if the Eagles defense is roughly the same as the Saints- better defensive front, not as good a secondary, and the Eagles offense is much worse than the Saints, and the Vikings put up 400 yards and 29 points against the Saints, how in the world can the Eagles offense keep pace with that?
Honestly, the only way I see the Vikings losing this game is if they have some sort of Carolina-like meltdown- giving up huge running plays, 3 turnovers, 6 sacks, missed field goal, and several key dropped passes. But even then the Vikings were able to score 24 points against a solid Carolina defense, which may be enough to beat the Eagles even if all the other things happened.
Certainly anything can happen, and playing on the road is never an easy task, especially in the NFL. But if both teams play at roughly the same level they did in the Divisional Round- which was easily Nick Foles’ best game- I think the Vikings will win by double digits. Which is why, I think, the odds for the NFC Championship are set with a sort of a ‘likely a close game, but if the Vikings handle themselves ok on the road they’ll win comfortably’ sort of bias.
My sense is that the Vikings will go into this game with a new lease on life motivation, determined not to squander the Minneapolis Miracle with a poor showing in Philadelphia. On the other side, I suspect the Eagles don’t really see themselves as a Super Bowl team without Carson Wentz, and if the game starts to slip away from them, they may start to think they made a good run without him, but this is as far as they can take it.
But we’ll have to wait and see how things play out on Sunday.