If you were anything like me, your eyebrows raised considerably when you saw the 5-7 Detroit Lions jump out as the betting favorite against the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings for their divisional showdown in Week 14. After all, this makes the Vikings the first team since the 1970 merger to be eight or more games over .500 and still be considered an underdog against a club with a losing record (excluding teams resting starters).
This momentum swing came after the Vikings initially opened as a 2.5-point favorite before Week 13. At Caesars Sportsbook, Minnesota's advantage started to dwindle last Sunday when the line dipped to Vikings -1 by around kickoff of "Sunday Night Football" and after both the Vikings and Lions pulled out wins in their respective matchups. By noon on Monday, the script was flipped in favor of Detroit, which is now laying two points in this head-to-head.
"I really don't even know how to respond to that," said Lions head coach Dan Campbell when asked about his team being favored over a Vikings team that simply needs a win or tie to lock up the NFC North on Sunday, via MLive.com. "I'm shocked by that."
While Campbell may be shocked like most folks, it's not as surprising once you dig a little deeper on these two teams.
Particularly with the Lions, they have been playing solid football as of late. They have won four of their past five games (covered in all five) and that includes a 40-point avalanche over the Jaguars in Week 13. While that offensive display was impressive, it's really been Detroit's defense that has sparked the turnaround. Over the past five weeks, the Lions are allowing just 19.8 points per game and the second-lowest passer rating in the league. Through the first six weeks of the season, they were allowing both the highest points-per-game average and highest passer rating in the league. Detroit is also tied for the league lead in takeaways over this stretch.
Moreover, the Lions have been a fantastic team to bet on under Campbell's watch. The team is 19-10 ATS under Campbell, which is tied for the second-best ATS record since the start of last season. Detroit has also covered seven straight divisional games, including a 3-0 ATS record this season.
Those figures alone make Detroit a fascinating team, but there's also the another side to this coin: the Vikings.
Despite sitting at 10-2 on the season and on the doorstep of clinching the NFC North, Minnesota might be a chunk of fool's gold. According to Football Outsiders, the Vikings have the lowest DVOA (21st) for a 10-2 team in NFL history. The team's +10 point differential this season is also the worst by a 10-win team through 12 games in league history.
The Vikings Achilles heel thus far -- and what could prove to be a fatal flaw in this matchup and going forward -- has been the secondary. Minnesota's defense is allowing 283.6 passing yards per game and 8 yards per attempt entering Week 14, which both rank 32nd in the NFL. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins has already tied the most wins in a season for his career, but ranks 18th or worse in the league in completion percentage, TD-INT ratio, and passer rating.
So, while the records between these two division rivals may tell one story, the line for this head-to-head and the nitty-gritty stats tell a different one entirely.