Patriots vs Vikings Thursday Night Football Picks and Predictions: Hockenson Holds His Own

The Vikings fell apart in Sunday's blowout loss to the Cowboys. Now, on the short week, they look to rebound against the defense-first Patriots. TE T.J. Hockenson is fitting in well for Minnesota, and he's the player to watch in our Thanksgiving picks.

Last Updated: Nov 24, 2022 4:56 PM ET Read Time: 4 min

If NFL Thanksgiving betting was a three-course dinner, then the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff between the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings would serve as a sumptuous dessert. 

The final of three Turkey Day tilts sees the host Vikings licking their wounds after a 40-3 dismantling from Dallas on Sunday, snapping Minnesota’s seven-game winning streak. The 37-point margin was the worst loss any team has taken so far in 2022.

The Patriots, on the other hand, are coming off arguably the worst win we’ve seen this season. New England needed a last-second punt return touchdown to snap a defensive stalemate with the Jets, squeaking out a 10-3 victory to extend its winning ways to three games.

I carve up the point spread and Over/Under total for this final Thanksgiving Day showcase and give my best NFL picks and predictions for Patriots at Vikings on November 24.

Patriots vs Vikings best odds

Patriots vs Vikings picks and predictions

If the Vikings are going to ride their regular season success to playoff victories, the addition of tight end T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline will be one of the turning points for this team.

Hockenson, who was acquired from the Lions before the trade deadline, has fit like a glove in Kevin O’Connell’s offense. In his three games in purple and gold, the 6-foot-5 TE has been targeted 28 times for 21 receptions and a total of 149 yards through the air.

Even last week, when the Cowboys controlled the football for more than 37 minutes and the Vikings attempted just 30 passes, Hockenson was targeted on nine of those throws for five catches and 34 yards. He could have added another catch for a touchdown to his boxscore but let a perfect pass from Kirk Cousins escape his grasp in the end zone early in the first quarter.

He was on the field for 44 of the team’s 54 offensive snaps Sunday and has been a part of 180 of the last 198 offensive plays (91%), despite admitting he’s still learning the ins and outs of the playbook. Hockenson has quickly grown on Cousins and he and O’Connell told the media they’ll continue to find ways to get him involved in the offense.

“In this offense and on this team we'll always be incorporating our Y, our tight ends, in the pass game, and there will always be production there to be had,” Cousins told The Iowa Gazette.

A quick turnaround to play the Patriots is the next step in Hockenson’s integration and will be his second time facing this defense after losing 29-0 to New England while with Detroit in Week 5. Hockenson was targeted four times for one grab in that game, mustering only six yards receiving.

Following that win over the Lions, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick admitted that stopping Hockenson was a top priority for his defense, especially with Detroit missing RB D’Andre Swift and WR D.J. Chark while top WR Amon-Ra St. Brown was battling an ankle injury. 

Hockenson told the media the Pats’ outside linebackers threw him off with their physical play at the line of scrimmage, something he’ll be reviewing and passing along to coach O’Connell in preparation for the Thanksgiving Day game. The Vikes do bring plenty more threats to the table for Belichick to worry about.

Overall, the New England defense has done well to cover tight ends this season, ranked out No. 5 in DVOA versus the position. The Pats have given up only 41 receptions to tight ends for an average of 10.23 yards per catch, but they have allowed seven touchdowns to TEs and were burned by talented tight ends like Mark Andrews and David Njoku.

This Vikings pass game is also a massive step up in competition for this Patriots pass defense, which has taken down Zach Wilson twice and Colts' benched backup Sam Ehlinger in the last three games.

Hockenson’s Week 12 total can be had as low as 40.5 yards and sits as high as 45.5. We’ll side on the short side and expect T.J. to have better luck in his second shot against New England’s defense.

My best bet: T.J. Hockenson Over 40.5 receiving yards (-125)

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Patriots vs Vikings spread analysis

The look-ahead line for this non-conference clash was sitting at Vikings -3.5 last week before Minnesota’s blowout loss at home to Dallas and New England’s ugly win over New York. 

The official Week 12 opener hit the board at Vikings -3 on Sunday night and, as of Tuesday morning, that line is as low as -2.5 at some respected online shops while other bookies are dealing a cheap field-goal spread on the favorite (-3 EVEN).

The one-sided loss to Dallas isn’t sitting well with bettors, especially after watching the Cowboys’ pass rush constantly hound Cousins. The Vikings have allowed Cousins to feel the heat at the sixth-highest rate on the year (26.2% per dropback) while giving up 27 total sacks — seven of those to Dallas.

And of course, with this game pegged for the primetime slot, we will have a gaggle of gamblers going against the Minnesota QB. Cousins seems cursed under the primetime lights, entering Week 12 with his teams owning a 10-18 SU record in those standalone games, including a 4-4 SU count on Thursday Night Football. 

The Patriots are the No. 1 defense in EPA allowed per play and much of that success hinges on their ability to get to the quarterback to cause chaos. New England holds the highest pressure rate per dropback (29.7%) and has collected the heads of 32 QBs — second only to the Cowboys in sacks.

A bet on the Pats is a bet on Bill Belichick’s stop unit following the blueprint laid out by Dallas last week. New England’s offense would be a reason not to side with the road underdog on Thursday. This Mac Jones-led attack is 25th in EPA per play and while the team has scored 58 total points during this three-game run, only 44 came on offense and 30 of those points have come from field goals.

According to Covers Consensus, 75% of early picks are on the host Vikings but the market movement shows action at respected online shops moving away from Minnesota, indicating sharper and pro bettors are grabbing points with the Patriots early in the week.

Patriots vs Vikings Over/Under analysis

This Over/Under total opened at 42.5 points on Sunday night in the wake of the Vikings’ listless offensive effort and yet another display of defensive dominance from the Patriots.

This is the second-lowest total Minnesota has seen all season, behind only a 41.5-point number for its neutral-site matchup with New Orleans in London in Week 4 — and a final score of 28-25 that blew the total out of the water. 

While the Vikes struggled to put up points against the Cowboys last Sunday, this offense still has plenty of ways to move the chains and averaged 28 points per game during its previous seven-game winning streak. Minnesota was 13th in EPA per play during that span, including a passing attack ranked out No. 11 in EPA per dropback.

New England does own top billing in the advanced defensive metrics, sitting No. 1 in EPA allowed and DVOA at Football Outsiders. And while those measurements account for strength of opponent, the Patriots haven’t faced an attack like this in some time and have also given up plenty of points to quality opposition along the way.

Minnesota’s defense is not on that same level of stinginess but does have a danger element to it. The Vikings have 26 sacks and don’t bring extra pass rushers often, blitzing less than 17% of the time. That has allowed them to drop into zone coverage and ball-hawk wayward passes for 10 interceptions and force eight fumble takeaways — owning a turnover margin of plus-seven on the season (third best).

Minnesota is 5-5 Over/Under entering Thanksgiving Day, including a 3-2 O/U mark at home. New England is not surprisingly one of the better Under plays in the NFL, owning a 4-5 O/U count with a 2-3 O/U record as a visitor.

Patriots vs Vikings betting trend to know

During Tom Brady’s reign in New England, the Patriots were 67-22 SU (75%) and 51-37-1 ATS (58%) against NFC competition. However, since Brady bailed, New England has gone 4-8 SU and 6-6 ATS in non-conference play. That includes a 4-8 Over/Under record against the NFC in that three-season span. Find more NFL betting trends for Patriots vs. Vikings.

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Patriots vs Vikings game info

Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Date: Thursday, November 24, 2022
Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Opening odds: Vikings -3, 42.5 O/U

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