- Kirk Cousins takes over the reins for a Vikings team that had the third-best record against the spread last season.
San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings (-6)
Sun. 9/9, 1:00 p.m. EST
Three things you need to know before betting on 49ers-Vikings:
1. The Minnesota Vikings came very close to becoming the first team to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium last season, losing in the NFC Championship Game to eventual champion Philadelphia 38-7. But more important to NFL gamblers, Minnesota had the third-best record against the spread in 2017 (11-6-1 including the playoffs). Heading into the Vikings' Week 1 game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota seems poised to continue delivering for those who bet on them. The Vikings are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games in which they were favored by at least six points.
With the addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings should be able to score even more in 2018. Over the past three seasons with the Washington Redskins, Cousins threw for a combined 81 touchdowns. During that same span, Minnesota completed just 59 TD passes. The Vikings ranked 10th in points per game in 2017 (23.9). Look for that number to go up against the 49ers with Cousins under center, especially since San Francisco doesn't do a good job of getting to the quarterback. In 2017, San Francisco ranked 26th in the NFL in sacks (30).
2. On defense, Minnesota is stacked. The Vikings allowed the fewest points per game last season (15.8). And the D is even better at home, thanks to one of the most raucous crowds in the NFL. Last season, the Vikings allowed just 12.5 points per game at U.S. Bank.
Defensive end Everson Griffen finished the season with 13.0 sacks and should be able to take advantage of a San Francisco offensive line that struggled to protect the quarterback. In 2017, the 49ers were tied for the fourth-most sacks allowed (43) in the NFC. Minnesota's secondary is equally intimidating, especially with the drafting of cornerback Mike Hughes and the signing of safety George Iloka. Since the 49ers lack a receiver that can truly stretch the field, Minnesota should be able to keep Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco offense from finding a groove and reaching the end zone on a consistent basis.
3. Despite their NFC West-worst 6-10 record last season, the 49ers did have a winning record against the spread (9-7). The Jimmy Garoppolo era is in full swing in the Bay, and this game will provide a clearer picture of what that era will look like. After becoming the starter in Week 13, Garoppolo helped the 49ers finish the season with five straight wins and four straight covers. With a full offseason to get comfortable in Kyle Shanahan's offense, Garoppolo should be even better in 2018. But he can't do it alone. The Niners just don't have enough other weapons on offense to compete against Minnesota's tough D. Receivers Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon are fine, but they shouldn't present the kind of matchup problems that will prevent Minnesota from covering.
The Pick: Vikings -6
Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)