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July 30, 2014

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Football:

Week 7 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Vikings are six-point favorites against Cardinals in our betting game of the week

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Minnesota Viking quarterback Christian Ponder prepares to throw a pass during the first half of an NFL football game between the Vikings and Washington Redskins Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Landover, Md. The Redskins defeated the Vikings 38-26.

Sun's NFL betting game of Week 7

What’s the right side to bet in Arizona at Minnesota?
Vikings -6.5 — 60.1%
Cardinals +6.5 — 39.9%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Click to enlarge photo

Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington sacks St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in St. Louis.

This weekend’s NFL slate features only two games between teams with winning records.

Before the season, the odds against Minnesota and Arizona making it out of the first six weeks with 4-2 marks — though only 3-3 against the spread — would have been astronomical. The league’s two most surprising teams clash in an early game Sunday when the Vikings host the Cardinals as 6.5-point favorites.

Oddsmakers were as blindsided by the success of these two teams as everyone else. The preseason futures market indicated the Vikings were the worst team in the NFC, as their Super Bowl odds were 150-to-1.

The Cardinals weren’t much better at 85-to-1, ahead of only the Vikings, the St. Louis Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their conference. The Cardinals and Vikings currently hover around a more respectable 50-to-1 to win the Super Bowl at most local sports books.

Arizona’s turnaround almost can be entirely attributed to its defense. The Cardinals have the fifth-best defense in the league, according to Football Outsiders’ unrivaled DVOA power ratings, with linebacker Daryl Washington as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and Patrick Peterson developing into a shutdown cornerback.

Minnesota also boasts an above-average defense, but its offense has improved more drastically. Quarterback Christian Ponder has made the necessary leaps in his game as a second-year starter, and receiver Percy Harvin has stayed healthy to serve as the all-around threat of which he’s capable.

Despite Ponder’s promise, he’s gone 7-8-1 against the spread in his NFL starts. The Cardinals' fellow 24-year-old quarterback, John Skelton, who once again takes over for Kevin Kolb after Kolb suffered a chest injury in a loss to the Buffalo Bills last week, has treated gamblers better with a 6-2 against-the-spread record.

One of the most intriguing aspects of teams such as Minnesota and Arizona starting hot are the polarizing opinions that follow. That’s seen in the Sun’s handicapping contest where all three participants used one of their six picks to take a side in the game.

Two sportswriters bet on the Vikings while one took the points with the Cardinals. The two other most popular selections were the New Orleans Saints laying 2.5 points at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers getting 2.5 points at home against the Dallas Cowboys.

No one weighed in on the other contest between winning teams, where the Houston Texans give the Baltimore Ravens 6.5 points at home.

Check below for all of the Week 7 contest picks. Games are listed in order of kickoff time.

 

Case Keefer

Record: 20-16 (4-2 last week)

Redskins +6 at Giants

Panthers +2.5 vs. Cowboys

Vikings -6.5 vs. Cardinals

Ravens vs. Texans under 48.5

Packers vs. Rams under 45

Lions +6 at Bears

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 15-20-1 (3-3 last week)

Colts -2.5 vs. Browns

Saints -2.5 at Buccaneers

Cardinals +6.5 at Vikings

Cowboys vs. Panthers over 45

Jets +10.5 at Patriots

Jaguars vs. Raiders over 43.5

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 14-21-1 (3-3 last week)

Vikings -6.5 vs. Cardinals

Panthers +2.5 vs. Cowboys

Giants -6 vs. Redskins

Saints -2.5 at Buccaneers

Steelers -1.5 at Bengals

Bears -6 vs. Lions

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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