Patriots

What NFL experts are predicting for Thursday’s Patriots-Vikings game

The Patriots are underdogs, but Kirk Cousins doesn't have the best track record in night games.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. AP

COMMENTARY

Apologies to the rest of the Thanksgiving-evening, football-hungry fan bases…

Just getting the repentance out of the way, seeing as the rest of the nation will be forced to watch a football team that helped give us, perhaps, the most-boring football game in history last Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Aside from Jaguars games, of course.

The Patriots are scheduled for the primetime airwaves three of the next four weeks (NBC has made some questionable decisions in its history, but not flexing Bills-Dolphins for Patriots-Raiders won’t be one of them), bringing New England’s dull version of offensive preparation to the masses of America.

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Thursday night could be a breakout game for either the Patriots or Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is only 10-19 over his career in primetime games. The Patriots are just looking to score their first offensive touchdown in three weeks.

But after watching the ways the Cowboys were able to get after Cousins last Sunday, it does, perhaps, provide a blueprint for New England heading to Minnesota. It’s one thing to watch the Cowboys put up 40 points on the Vikings though. If the Patriots are able to stop the Minnesota offense, the hope is that two or three field goals will be enough to win the game.

I mean, you thought Thursday Night Football was bad before. Wait until New England gets its hands on it next week against the Bills.

So, we’re sorry, America. You used to hate the Patriots for being so dominant. Now, you’ll hate them for being offensively incompetent. Maybe with the giving mood of the holiday, you’ll find some sympathy for us Northeasterners.

This week’s predictions

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Vikings 24, Patriots 14. “The Vikings were embarrassed Sunday at home, getting blown out by the Cowboys. They will bounce back and play better here. The New England offense is struggling, but the defense is playing well. Even so, I think the Vikings will respond on offense in this one to win it. The Patriots offense is bad.”

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Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Patriots (+2.5). “Now, I don’t know which quarterback will get strip-sacked more. But I do know the game is being played at night. And Kirk Cousins doesn’t do ‘night’ so well. I generally hate the road team on a short week if that road team isn’t excellent, but Prime-Time Kirk can be the difference-maker in that equation.”

Frank Schwab, Yahoo! Sports: Vikings (-2.5). “There’s an argument to be made for the Patriots, which is why the spread is just a field goal. They do play great defense and Bill Belichick will have a great plan to fluster Kirk Cousins. The Patriots offense will be better when it’s not facing the Jets, who have a much better defense than the Vikings. But I’ll ride with the Vikings. They might not be an elite team, but they’re nowhere near as bad as what we saw against Dallas.”

Sheil Kapadia, The Ringer: Patriots (+2.5). “The Patriots beat the Jets on a punt return touchdown last week. Their defense ranks first in EPA per drive through 11 weeks. New England’s offensive line got pushed around last week, and Mac Jones turtled under pressure. Jones and Kirk Cousins are similar in many ways. Give them time, and they can pick you apart. Pressure them or confuse them, and it’s over. Cousins has faced Belichick just twice in his career—the last time was 2018. But in those two starts, he averaged just 4.98 yards per attempt, and Cousins’s teams failed to top 10 points in either game.”

Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News: Vikings 20, Patriots 14. “The Vikings’ 8-2 record has come under fire after the Cowboys ripped them 40-3 at home following their improbable road rally over the Bills in Week 10. Kirk Cousins got rattled into nothingness vs. Dallas’ defense. He doesn’t tend to play well in prime time and New England’s defense under Bill Belichick is also concerning. But between Dalvin Cook. Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson, the Vikings have the options to score enough points here as the Patriots’ offense is severely limited with a shaky Mac Jones.”

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Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Vikings 22, Patriots 19. “Kirk Cousins is in prime time, and the Vikings are looking to bounce back from a 40-3 blowout loss to the Cowboys. Cousins has started twice against the Patriots (once with Washington and once with Minnesota) and his teams averaged 10 points in those losses. The Patriots are winning with a defense that has allowed just 23 points over the last three weeks, and Matt Judon has 4.5 sacks in that stretch. Minnesota has to get off to a fast start, but Belichick will try to take away Justin Jefferson, but will it work? The Patriots have not been great on offense. Mac Jones has taken 16 sacks the last three weeks. It’s tempting to pick New England here, but Dalvin Cook gets Minnesota’s offense going – and Cousins does not make the big mistake.”

Neil Greenberg, The Washington Post: New England (+2.5).

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 17, Vikings 13. “The Patriots held the Colts to three points and got Frank Reich fired. The Patriots held the Jets to three points and got Zach Wilson benched. Who from the Vikings will be losing their job after Thursday night?”

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Vikings 13, Patriots 10. “The Vikings can’t possibly look as bad on Thanksgiving night as they did on Sunday against the Cowboys. They’ll bounce back with a hard-fought win.”

Carmen Vitali, Fox Sports: Vikings 34, Patriots 19. “I just have to believe the Vikings are going to get back on track. They are a good team, a complete team, no matter the mistrust the rest of the league has of them. Jefferson criticized the lack of adjustments the team made on Monday, both in-game and leading up to it. Though it’s a short week, I can’t imagine O’Connell’s coaching staff is going to stand by and not tweak some things. Should they do it, Thanksgiving at home will be a breeze.”

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FiveThirtyEight: Vikings, 61 percent (-3).

NFL Pickwatch: Eighty percent Vikings (-140).

It says here: Vikings 24, Patriots 15. If the Patriots can’t fix their offensive woes over a bye week, don’t expect much following only three days’ rest.

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