After suffocating the Atlanta Falcons (7-5) offense in a 14-9 victory last week, the Minnesota Vikings (10-2) took control of the NFC standings – and gave themselves a chance to make NFL history.
If the Vikes can keep their hold on the NFC’s top spot to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they could be the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl on their home turf. We’re still two months away from Super Bowl 52 kicking off in Minneapolis, but for now, the Vikings are on the inside track to making it a home game.
Their quest continues this week when Minnesota hits the road to take on the Carolina Panthers (8-4), a fellow NFC heavyweight with playoff aspirations on the line.
The Panthers had a shot at the NFC South title last week, but a disappointing loss to the New Orleans Saints (9-3) left Carolina clinging to the sixth seed. Another defeat could see the Panthers tumble out of a postseason spot altogether, so quarterback Cam Newton will be looking to get the offense back in the same gear that saw Carolina score 100 points during a recent three-game winning streak.
That won’t be easy with Minnesota coming to town – even for their third consecutive road game – as the Vikings boast the second-ranked scoring defense at just 17.0 points against per contest.
Per the latest lines posted by online sportsbook Bovada, the Vikings get the nod as 3-point favorites in this pivotal NFC matchup.
In another tilt between top NFC contenders, the Los Angeles Rams (9-3) host the Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) as both teams look to solidify their playoff positioning.
The Eagles have held the top seed all season, but last week’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks (8-4) saw them slip to the second-seed. The Rams own the third-seed as the NFC West leaders, but a win this Sunday would flip that dynamic.
This game could turn into a shootout, as the Eagles and Rams are the top teams in the NFL when it comes to point differential, at +146 and +139, respectively.
But while Philadelphia has feasted on sub-.500 teams to build its sterling record, the Eagles have fallen flat twice on the road when facing top-tier teams in the Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs (6-6). Conversely, Los Angeles has wins over the Saints, the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4), and the Dallas Cowboys (6-6) with their full roster to bolster the Rams’ resume.
Accordingly, the linemakers lean slightly to Los Angeles with the Rams as 2-point home favorites.
The aforementioned Seahawks and Jaguars also clash this Sunday looking to notch their ninth win of the year. For Seattle, winning records are old hat, but Jacksonville has failed to finish above .500 for nine straight seasons. In fact, the Jags have only recorded two winning seasons during the 21st century.
Sufficed to say, securing a winning year would be monumental for Jacksonville, but young stars like cornerback Jalen Ramsey and running back Leonard Fournette don’t seem to know any better. For these former college standouts, winning is the norm, not the exception – and they have Jacksonville on the verge of an AFC South title.
Seattle is still struggling through serious injuries, but the loss of defensive stalwarts like Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor hasn’t had the impact many observers expected. Instead, quarterback Russell Wilson took the team on his back last Sunday night while almost single-handedly downing the Eagles.
This one couldn’t be any closer, as evidenced by the standard 3-point spread posted in favor of the Jaguars as the home team.