Vikings-Packers best bets: Can Mannion save Minnesota's season?

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The Minnesota Vikings' path to the playoffs got a lot more difficult when Kirk Cousins tested positive for COVID-19, while the Green Bay Packers' path to the NFC's top seed suddenly looks a lot easier.

Here's how we're betting Vikings-Packers:

C Jackson Cowart: Vikings under 14.5 points

I'd love to fade conventional wisdom here and play the over for an offense that has bested this total in 14 of 15 games this season. But I'm running out of reasons for optimism ahead of Sunday.

The Vikings scored 17 points in their last game without star wideout Adam Thielen, who suffered a season-ending injury in last week's loss to the Rams. They'll also be without Cousins, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week and won't suit up Sunday.

That leaves this game in the hands of journeyman Sean Mannion, whose career passer rating (57.5) and adjusted net yards per attempt (2.97) would rank dead last among 32 qualified starters if stretched across this season. He'll be making his first start in two years in frigid conditions at Lambeau Field, without his top receiver, and with star rusher Dalvin Cook still battling an illness. Good luck, Sean!

Alex Moretto: Packers -13

Often times we see line overreactions when teams are missing their starting quarterbacks, with many of the league's signal-callers overrated by the market. That's not the case here whatsoever. Cousins isn't without his deficiencies, and he's faced heavy criticism, but, truthfully, he's had an excellent season and is easily the hardest player for the Vikings to replace given the drop-off on the depth chart.

Mannion is not the answer for Minnesota. The Oregon State product hasn't appeared in an NFL game since 2019, starting a meaningless Week 17 contest for the Vikings in which he completed just 57% of his passes for 126 yards and two interceptions. He's never thrown a touchdown in 74 career attempts while tossing three interceptions. Even with Cook and Justin Jefferson's help, it's hard to see Minnesota finding any sustained success here on offense. The Packers can stack the box to stop the run, inviting Mannion to beat them - which he won't.

Meanwhile, Green Bay will find plenty of success through the air against a Vikings secondary that continues to struggle. This will be a very one-sided affair, and I'm not too worried about the backdoor, either. Sunday night's game is a revenge spot for the Packers, and with the NFC's No. 1 seed in their grasp, don't expect them to let up at Lambeau.

Matt Russell: Vikings +13

Before the inevitable struck - a positive COVID-19 test by Cousins - I wrote about the Vikings' chances to stay close and potentially beat the Packers again at Lambeau in the upset of the week. While an outright win seems considerably less likely, nothing about my handicap of the game hinged on Cousins.

Since I think Mannion can turn around and hand the ball off to Cook and occasionally throw to Jefferson in single coverage, I'm content with taking the Vikings. I think this line is an over-adjustment stemming from the absence of a quarterback who most don't like all that much anyway.

Vikings-Packers best bets: Can Mannion save Minnesota's season?
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