Chicago Bears (5-10 SU, 7-7-1 ATS) vs. Minnesota Vikings (12-3 SU, 11-4 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday, December 31 at 1PM EST
Where: U.S. Bank Stadium
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CHI +12.5/MIN -12.5
Over/Under Total: 39.5
There are just a few details left to iron out before we enter the NFL Playoffs and one such detail will be addressed in Minnesota this weekend when the Bears tangle with the Vikings. Minnesota will secure the #2 seed in the NFC with a win and they can only be bumped from that spot with a loss against Chicago and a Carolina win. This game kicks at Noon CT so the only thing that Minnesota will be focused on is getting that W and a first round bye as a result. Given the Eagles are without Carson Wentz, the Vikings may be at home throughout the playoffs, including the Super Bowl if they run through the NFC draw.
The online betting sites sense that motivation in Minnesota and have listed the Vikings as 12.5 point favorites. That is a huge number considering this is a division game and the fact that Chicago is a top-10 defense that held Minnesota to 20 points during the Week 5 meeting. Minnesota clocks in as the best defense in terms of points allowed (16.1 per game) so it is no surprise to see the diminutive 39.5 point over/under total. The Vikings have won five of the last six games straight up in this series but are just one game above .500 against the spread in the last ten against the Bears. Chicago has put together a 2-6 ATS record in their last eight road games and have gone 1-4 ATS in the last five in Minnesota. The Vikings have 11 ATS wins in their last 14 games against a sub-.500 opponent. The under has hit in nine of the last twelve between these teams. The Sagarin metrics are calling for a 20-9 Minnesota win.
The Week 5 meeting wound up as a 20-17 Minnesota win and that happened to be the game that Case Keenum took over for the injured Sam Bradford. Keenum performed like he has for most of this season, completing a high percentage of passes (17/21) and finding the endzone once while playing the game manager role to perfection. Chicago used a fake field goal touchdown and a Mitch Trubisky rushing score to tie the game up at 17-17 in the fourth quarter but Minnesota secured the W on a field goal with twelve seconds left. Jerick McKinnon was the major offensive force for the Vikings as he notched 146 scrimmage yards and scored once. Not a whole lot has changed for either team since then. Trubisky is throwing the ball more as he has absorbed more of the offense but Chicago is still a running team. The Bears are 11th in the league on the ground but they will have to face the 2nd best rush defense. Minnesota is similar in that they are 8th in rush offense but they bring a little more balance and sneak into the top-10 in points scored at 23.9 per game. Chicago is 9th in rush defense and 10th in points allowed so this one has all the makings of an old school NFC Central match. The three yards and a cloud of dust kind although that dust is now rubberized pellets, I guess.
The biggest problem for Chicago is the lack of true playmakers. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are about it for the Bears and while their 1,470 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns are solid, they cant really stretch the defense. Eventually the opposition finds a way to limit them at some point in the game and that puts the offense in Trubiskys hands. For the most part, that has been an advantage for Chicagos opponent, especially since the Bears are essentially without talent on the outside. Kendall Wright leads the team with 585 receiving yards but no Chicago wide receiver has caught more than one touchdown on the year. Cohen is a capable pass catcher, but again, he does little to stretch the defense and Minnesota is simply too good to let Trubisky burn them with Wright, Cohen and very little else. The Vikings are 2nd against the pass and tops in the league with only 280 total yards allowed per game. To make matters a little worse, Chicago may be without G Josh Sitton and that offensive line has already battled injuries through the season. An ineffective running game for the Bears will eliminate any chance of them keeping this one close.
The Minnesota defense is sterling when you take a look at the overall stats but it actually gets better when you drill down a bit deeper. The Vikings are not especially efficient in sacking the quarterback but they only allow a 71 QBR on average to the opponent. That is tremendous, especially when you consider Chicago is 8th against the pass (Minnesota is 2nd) and the Bears allow an 87 rating on average. Minnesota is allowing a 26.3% conversion rate on third down. That is the best stoppage rate in the league by a significant margin. This defense isnt just statistically good, it is head-and-shoulders ahead of the next defense on the list in many categories.
Offensively, Minnesota is unexciting but very efficient. They wind up 10th in total yards and 10th in points and the driver of much of that efficiency has been Case Keenum. He has completed 67% of his passes and thrown for 21 touchdowns against seven interceptions for a 98 overall rating. There is very little else you could as of a back-up QB over a long sample set. The question will be what can Keenum do if the Vikings are ever two scores down in the second half but that isnt likely to be answered because Chicago put them in that situation. Latavius Murray is a grinder of a back but he and McKinnon has combined for 1,257 rushing yards, another 520 receiving yards and 11 total touchdowns. Add in Dalvin Cooks numbers from the first four games and Minnesota has an impressive 2,100+ yards out of its primary backfield. Chicago is 9th against the run but Minnesota does not stray from that run-first philosophy and can wear teams down in the second half. Adam Thielen has broken out in a big way with 85 catches and over 1,200 yards. Stefon Diggs leads the wide receivers with seven touchdowns and TE Kyle Rudolph leads the team with eight receiving scores. Where Chicago struggles to find playmakers, Minnesota has a guy for just about every role.
Chicago is a team that has a lot going right despite a 5-10 record but this game is beyond their ability to impact if it is played straight up. The Bears needed a trick-play TD to stay close in the first meeting and Minnesota has really only gotten better since then. That Minnesota defense is relentless and has one of the best secondaries in the league. If Chicago falls behind, Trubisky will be throwing into nothing but trouble with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes at corner and Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties going right now, fresh off a Defensive Player of the Week honor. This is a lot of points to swallow but Minnesota is at home, is motivated and really has their sights set on big things over the next month. They will not be prone to slip up now that they have been playing such good football for nearly three months. Chicago can keep it close, perhaps all the way through three quarters but Minnesota stretches them out eventually and gets a 24-10 win.
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Minnesota - Where are you betting this game? Does your bookie give you the the option to bet on games at -105 odds? NO! He’s charging you -110 (or more!) Sports betting is a game of edges. Don’t let the house get the edge on you! Start betting at discounted odds TODAY at 5Dimes Sportsbook!