Last week was a light week for our NFL underdog picks following the Chargers (+3) win over the Raiders, and we'll post Week 16 picks on Saturday following Christmas Day. We did chip in a winner and loser on the player props in that contest, and we'll fire for some gifts and player props on the Christmas Day special between the Saints (10-4) and Vikings (6-8) in New Orleans.
But unlike Monday night's snoozer that saw bettors pile on Pittsburgh and put a triple bogey on their scorecard in the Bengals (+14) big upset win 27-17, the Saints and Vikings will generate much more offense and opportunities for profits and Christmas Day gifts. The Steelers (244 yards) and Bengals (230 yards) combined for 25 first downs and 4.0 yards per play with both teams gererating the fewest yards of 32 teams on the entire Week 15 schedule.
The Christmas Day clash between the Saints and Vikings has some superbly talented offensive players to follow and bet on and the leading online sportsbooks have plenty of prop bets to add to your Christmas Day stocking stuffers. Fantasy football players will also be tuning for championship week if they are alive and have so many of the offensive stars to watch.
The Saints are looking to celebrate the season by wearing their Christmas Day 'Color Rush' uniforms as they close in on their fourth consecutive NFC South division title.
Saints vs Vikings Odds and Picks
Line: Saints: -7
The Saints are going to the playoffs while the Vikings will miss the playoffs unless another Minneapolis Miracle happens over the next two weeks. I wouldn't bet on the 1-outer on the river with data-driven analysis site FiveThirtyEight giving the Vikings a 2% chance to make the playoffs in their current playoff projections model.
From a consensus of seven top online sportsbooks and data tracked by SportsInsights NFL odds, the Saints are taking 66% of the spread bets and 58% of the totals bets are betting OVER.
Saints and Vikings Player Props
Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson made the NFC Pro Bowl team in his rookie season, and he's a popular player for props. Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Saints running back Alvin Kamara also made the team, along with Saints offensive linemen Adrus Peat (G) and Terron Armstead (T). Saints defensive stars Cameron Jordan (DE) and Marshon Lattimore (CB) also earned Pro Bowl honors, but the game won't be played in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both quarterbacks Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins are not pro bowlers this season, but they are still among the better quarterbacks in the league. Brees is an all-time great and returned to play last week after missing four full games with multiple broken ribs. Cousins ranks No. 9 in Pro Football Focus QB rankings, while Vikings wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen both rank top-6 in PFF's WR rankings. Jefferson and Cousins will try to hookup over the top with Saints safety Marcus Williams (ankle) ruled out for this game.
I expect the Vikings to fall behind in this contest, and made a first quarter bet on the Saints. I also expect QB Cousins to be under plenty of pressure from a focused Saints team and fierce defense. New Orleans’ defense leads the league with a 45% pressure rate over the past five weeks, and their top defensive front will take advantage of a Vikings left guard and center that rank poorly in allowing pressures and pass blocking efficiency.
I'm targeting Saints RB Alvin Kamara across the board in this match-up and especially as a receiver. Kamara leads all running backs in catches and receiving yardage with 80 receptions for 739 yards and five touchdowns. As I dug deeper, I noticed his receiving production was way down the first three games Brees missed with injury in Weeks 11-13. But in the Saints five home games with Brees at quarterback prior to his injuries, Kamara had the following reception stats:
- Week 1 vs Tampa Bay: 5 catches for 51 yards (8 targets)
- Week 3 vs Green Bay: 13 catches for 139 yards (14 targets)
- Week 5 vs LA Chargers: 8 catches for 74 yards (10 targets)
- Week 7 vs Carolina: 8 catches for 65 yards (8 targets)
- Week 10 vs San Francisco: 7 catches for 83 yards (8 targets)
Drew Brees was injured in the Week 10 game against the 49ers and missed the second half. Following a rusty start last week that saw the Saints fall behind 14-0 and Brees never fully in rhythm, Drew found his groove on a late drive when he passed for 75 of his 234 yards. More balance, rhythm and efficiency is expected this week and I see Alvin Kamara as a focal point of the Saints offense.
The player prop bets often have significant yardage differences, so it's worth having multiple online sportsbooks and betting options when wagering, including on player props. Last week our prop bet loser on Chargers RB Austin Ekeler 'over' 39.5 receiving yards saw the line move as high as 54.5 prior to kickoff. Plenty of motivation for the Saints against the Vikings not only from two recent seasons playoff knockouts, but to snap a 2-game losing streak and hold onto their current No. 2 playoff position in the NFC. The Saints defense is superior and the Vikings playoff bubble burst last week against the Bears, so I see a focused and strong effort from New Orleans on Christmas Day.
I'm not betting on the Vikings or including them in our weekly underdog picks. In fact, I teased the Saints to -1 and added them to other Week 16 games including Saturday's contests, which will likely include the Raiders on our weekly 'Dog log as we review more injury information and the starting quarterback announcements.
Alvin Kamar's rushing yards prop is over/under 65.5 at William Hill. I can see him going over that total, although former Vikings RB Latavius Murray (O/U 33.5 rushing yards) could be a bit more involved in the running game this week.
So I bet Alvin Kamara over 45.5 receiving yards and over 5.5 receptions, and see it's offered up to 49.5 and goes higher on game day.
The Vikings have surrended 33, 26, 27, 28 and 28 points over their last five games. That includes to sub-par below league average offenses of Chicago, Jacksonville, Carolina and Dallas. I bet 'over' 50.5 even with the Saints stronger defense, as I expect New Orleans to keep firing and its offense to move the ball while the Vikings hold nothing back even if playing from behind in the second half. Saints head coach Sean Payton is going to call a good game and attack the Vikings defensive weaknesses which is especially thin at linebacker and without All-Pro Eric Kendricks (calf) for a fourth straight game. Remember, the Vikings had the league's best yards per play offense at 6.4 YPPL just three weeks ago and are currenly No. 4 in the NFL at 6.1 yards per play after facing some better defenses in recent weeks of Tampa Bay and Chicago. But the Vikings offense still moved the ball well and have a strong offensive mind and play caller in the booth in offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
One under-the-radar player to add to your prop bets this week is Vikings TE Tyler Conklin (over 1.5 receptions). I would also include over 15.5 receiving yards as available. I listened to a pre and post game comments from Vikings players and head coach Mike Zimmer in recent weeks, and they rave about Tyler Conklin and his work in practice. The 2018 fifth round pick is making the most of his opportunity with TE Kyle Rudolph hampered and now sidelined for the third straight game this week with a foot injury. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has full confidence in Conklin, who scored his first touchdown last week on a short pass and catch for 20 yards. Conklin has caught 3 and 5 passes the past two games for 57 and 40 yards. Tight end Irv Smith dropped a short TD pass last week, and QB Cousins and the Vikings offense is going to keep spreading the ball to this underrated rising starter.
But the Christmas Day present is going to be a Saints win, and I suggest adding the Saints to your teaser bets as you shoot for more winning wagers, production and profits in Week 16.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay