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Against the Spread: 2011 NFL Picks: Week 4

Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs (+1.5)

A battle of two 0-3 teams may not be compelling for your average, run-of-the-mill Sunday football fan, but there looks to be quite a lot of value thanks to the minuscule line in this game.

After the fuss I made about watching out for home dogs, this is the one game where I'm more than happy to back the road favorite. The Vikings are not laying a touchdown in this game or even a field goal; picking one side or another against the spread is essentially a bet on who will probably win this game.

To be sure, neither team has been that impressive through three weeks. Even though the public wants to blame Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb for the winless record, he's not the real problem for the Vikings. Minnesota plays well in the first half and falls apart in the second half, and the reasons are crystal clear.

Take the second half of last week's game against the Lions. After building a 20-point lead against Detroit, the Vikings produced five drives of five plays or fewer, with nearly all resulting in a punt. The only other drive in the second half went for nine plays and resulted in a field goal. Adrian Peterson carried the ball twice in the third quarter and three times in the fourth quarter. For a team with a 20-point lead after two quarters, shouldn't it be handing the ball off to someone who's arguably the league's best running back? Couple that with the vanishing pass rush for the Viking defense, and you've got a recipe for how to blow a huge lead.

On the other side of the ball, Chiefs fans can't be psyched about the prospect of watching Matt Cassel trying to throw the ball in the second half to catch up to the Vikings should Kansas City fall behind early. Minnesota has blown three straight games when leading at halftime, but they've allowed proficient quarterbacks like Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman and Matthew Stafford to throw against them in the second half. Cassel, though, is without star running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki. Cassell has more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (3) and has fumbled twice this year. Minnesota's defense probably can't wait to get on the field Sunday.

According to Vegas Insider, the Las Vegas Hilton opened this game on Sept. 25 as a pick. The line moved to Vikings -1, back down to pick, and now is Vikings -1.5. In other words, there hasn't been a big point spread move, perhaps reflecting uncertainty over which 0-3 team will finally get a win. Vegas is down on the Chiefs, but it's a little puzzling why isn't this line isn't a little higher.

Pregame.com's Leonard sees quite a bit of value in this game. "I think Minnesota is the best bet on the board," he says. "The Vikings are the superior unit. McNabb knows how to manage the game, and Adrian Peterson will be by far the most superior player on the field this week. The Chiefs cannot sustain enough offense to keep [their] battered defense off the field. If Minnesota does score first, Kansas City will be forced to play from behind once again, and I don't think they can come back to win."

The Pick: Vikings -1.5. Adrian Peterson this week openly questioned why he hasn't gotten the ball more. If the Vikings take the lead, I expect them to have better clock management, as this is really a do-or-die situation against a much worse team. The Vikings score early, they keep the momentum up, and they walk out of Arrowhead Stadium with an 8-point victory.
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