Minnesota Vikings (3-3) +3 at Chicago Bears (3-3) -3
Sunday, October 19, 2008 1pm ET
Soldier Field, Chicago IL , FOX
by Matt of Predictem.com
The Minnesota Vikings take to the road this weekend to face the Chicago Bears in a matchup of NFC North Division leaders. Both teams enter Sundays game with identical 3-3 marks, with the winner here guaranteeing at least a tie atop the division for another week. This looks to be an old-school contest between ball control offenses and stout defensive units bent on dealing out punishment. The game from Soldier Field kicks at noon local time and will be carried by FOX.
The Bears opened as 3 point favorites and have remained there, although 3.5 point lines can be found depending on your NFL sportsbook of choice. The Bears are on the moneyline at -175 to -185 with the Vikings in the +155 to +160 range. The over/under total for the game is 37.5 or 38 at most offshore bookies.
After a 0-2 start and a quarterback switch, the Vikings are back to .500 under Gus Frerotte and back in the NFC playoff picture. Minnesota is riding a two game win streak, beating a good New Orleans squad, 30-27, two weeks ago and squeaking past Detroit , 12-10, in last weeks action. The Vikings are tied in the division with the Bears and Packers, but currently sit behind Green Bay in tiebreakers after a week one loss at Lambeau Field.
Chicago came in to ’08 with modest expectations after an offseason that saw the departure of many offensive starters and question marks on the defense as well. Kyle Orton has played well in winning the starting quarterback job from Rex Grossman and rookie Matt Forte has developed into a everydown back giving the Bears an offensive identity. The defense has stayed strong as in years past and Chicago comes in as winners of two of the last three. The Bears outlasted Philly, 24-20, before drubbing the Lions, 34-7, in Detroit. A third win in a row was 11 seconds away against the Falcons last week, but a coverage lapse gave Atlanta a last second win with a field goal.
The Vikings are 1-2 straight up on the road this year and have a 2-4 overall against the spread mark. Minnesota has struggled of late in the division, going 1-4 ATS in the last five NFC North games. The Vikes took both meetings last year between these teams, a 34-31 decision on October and a 20-13 victory in December, but are just 1-4 ATS in the last five games in Chicago.
The Bears are 1-1 at Soldier Field this year straight up, and 3-2-1 against the spread. Chicago ison a bit of a hot streak against the spread, going 6-2-1 in their last nine, and the home team is 8-3 ATS in the last 11 in this series.
The injury report forMinnesota has wideouts Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice as questionable with knee issues withChicago listing WR Brandon Lloyd andCB Nathan Vasher as questionablewith knee and wrist injuries, respectively.The weather in the Chicago forgametimearea should be mild with highs in the low 60’s with some scattered showers through the afternoon.
As a team, Minnesota is a middle of the pack offense as whole, with the strength lying in the 9th ranked rush offense. The Vikings average 124 yards on the ground with 201 yards through the air on average in the way to 18.8 points per game. The defense for Minnesota is one of the best in the league, ranking in the top-10 in total and rushing yards allowed while giving up a stingy 19.8 points.
Adrian Peterson is the show pony for the Vikes, rushing for 563 yards, a 4.4 yard average, and three touchdowns. Gus Frerotte has been a better game manager than Tarvaris Jackson, putting up 988 yards on 55.7% completions, while throwing three TD’s and three INT’s. The key for Minnesota will be finding a consistent receiving threat as many of the wideouts are banged up while still gaining timing with a new QB. Bernard Berrian leads the way with 436 yards on 22 grabs and Bobby Wade serves as the possesion option, adding 287 yards on 25 receptions. Jared Allen will look to disrupt the Chicago offense and add to his three sacks while Antoine Winfield has two INT’s so far, typically matched up against the best wideout on the opposing team.
The Bears offense is exceeding expectations, ranking in the top-13 in relevant statistical categories, including total yards (337) and points per game (24.7). Chicago is balanced, rushing for 118 yards per game and throwing for an average of 218 yards, both totals rank 12th in the NFL.The defense is 5th in rush yards allowed, giving up only 74 yards per contest, but the Bears have been had through the air, allowing 236 yards on average to opposing quarterbacks. The pass D has been bent, but hasn’t broken often as the Bears give up a 7th best, 18.2 points per game.
Kyle Orton has been so much steadier than Rex Grossman in years past, completing 61.6 percent of passes on the way to 1,386 yards and eight touchdowns to four interceptions. Matt Forte has been a pleasant surprise for the Bears, leading the team in rush yards (459) and receptions (27) on the way to five total touchdowns. Like the Vikings, the Bears are searching for consistent wide receiver play. Marty Booker and Rashied Davis occupy the X and Y routes, with speedster Devin Hester becoming a factor out of the slot. The defense for Chicago is led by linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, with the secondary still among the best in the league in terms of turnover potential.
There will be a lot of three yards and a cloud of dust in this one as each team will look to run against a sound run defense. The edge between quarterbacks goes to Orton, but both signal callers could be facing many third and long situations. The Vikings should know to kick away from Hester after getting burned by Reggie Bush a few weeks back and Adrian Peterson’s straight ahead style could limit the range tackling of the Bear linebackers.
Matt’s Pick: The Bears are giving up too much through the air to keep Peterson off the field in the end, look forthe Vikings to take this one outright, 23-19.