Another Matchbook Insights winner last week for Fabian Sommer as he moves to 8-3 on the season (72%). This week he’s locking in on a play in the Panthers vs Vikings!
Imagine there are two relatively equal teams squaring off and I am giving you 3.5 points on one side. It’s a no-brainer, right?
After eleven weeks of football, there is not a single case you can make about either the Minnesota Vikings or Carolina Panthers in terms of which is the superior team.
Both teams are basically equal, maybe a slight advantage in favour of the Vikings. Only 0.7% are separating both teams in total DVOA. The Panthers are the slightly better team in schedule-adjusted EPA/play. I’ve got the Vikings rated slightly higher as the Panthers, so I don’t even get to 3 as a fair spread.
This number is sitting on the wrong side of 3.
Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady is doing a phenomenal job this season. After orchestrating the most prolific offense in College Football history with Joe Burrow at LSU last year, he has transformed the Panthers offense from a bottom-five unit into an above-average one with QB Teddy Bridgewater.
- Carolina signed deep threat Robby Anderson and turned him into a big play machine on underneath routes.
- DJ Moore has turned into a big play machine down the field.
- Curtis Samuel is a swiss army knife.
Joe Brady has built a passing game with three receivers that complement each other very well and specific route concepts that can attack every coverage the opposing defenses might play. Furthermore, he adjusts his offense every week and attacks weaknesses of the opposing defense.
We didn’t even recognize a downgrade in the run game without Christian McCaffrey.
The Vikings defense presents a great matchup for Brady and Bridgewater.
The unit from Mike Zimmer features a very young and inexperienced cornerback group consisting of rookies Jeff Gladney and Cam Dantzler, and 2019 seventh-round pick Kris Boyd.
Out of 129 qualifying cornerbacks, this trio ranks 100th, 77th, and 84th in PFFs coverage grade.
Moore, Samuel and Anderson should have a field day.
Joe Brady is absolutely going to cook.
It’s not like the Vikings are able to compensate their coverage woes with proper pass rush – it’s a very underwhelming front-seven that struggles to get to the opposing signal-caller.
Starting edge rusher Ifeadi Odenigbo is dealing with an injury and didn’t practice on Wednesday. In addition, star safety Harrison Smith hasn’t practised with a neck injury thus far.
The Panthers could get starting left tackle Russell Okung back this week who has dealt with a calf injury. His replacement Trent Scott was a downgrade.
I truly believe the Panthers offense is going to roll in this matchup.
The Vikings have a highly-priced quarterback and two of the best wide receivers in the game right now.
Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson rank 2nd and 3rd in PFFs receiving grade.
The major problem here is that the Vikings don’t design their offense up to their strengths.
Since the start of Justin Jefferson’s emergence in week 3, OC Gary Kubiak has called 57% runs on early downs in neutral game situations, 2nd-most in the league. On those runs, the Vikes are averaging -0.046 EPA per play versus 0.219 EPA per play on passes.
Since the Bye Week, Kirk Cousins posted 1.084 EPA/Dropback (15% garbage time filter) on late downs. He is bailing this offense out, while Kubiak is making it as hard as possible for him because of his stubborn run-first offense.
— Jonas Stärk (@JonasStaerk) November 23, 2020
Their offensive play-calling doesn’t make any sense from an analytical point of view.
They are consistently behind the chains on early downs and rely on Kirk Cousins to perform some magic on 3rd downs.
They aren’t doing their offense any favor with their stone-age philosophy.
They always rely on breakout runs by Dalvin Cook and a favorable game script. But that’s very likely not going to happen against the Panthers. Joe Brady is going to attack that Vikings defense early and often which could force the Vikes to play from behind and get them out of their comfort zone.
There’s a decent difference in offensive coaching and I am siding with the Panthers here.
The price point of 3.5 doesn’t make sense to me and I expect that number to come down until kickoff – especially when the injury report for the Vikings gets worse. WR Adam Thielen is still on the covid list but I expect him to be cleared until Sunday.
- Carolina Panthers +3.5 at 1.91