For being an NFC North showdown, with big ramifications for the top spot in the division on the line, it feels like we haven’t seen the best of the Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings yet this season. That’s not a total negative since we’ve seen plenty of teams in recent memory get hot late in the season only to ride the wave to the Super Bowl. But if it’s going to happen for either of these teams, it’s going to have to happen soon. And what better way for a team to announce they’ve arrived in the upper echelon of the NFL by beating a division rival in prime time? Let’s predict some things in this Bears-Vikings preview, but also keep in mind the big-picture things that are on the line here.
Featured Pick #1: Who will score the Vikings first touchdown? (Any other player)
GameOn lists Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Stefon Diggs as the individual player choices here. Thielen would net you 350 points if he reached the end zone first while Cook and Diggs would get 420, while the “Any other player” pick gets 500 points if correct.
By picking the “Any other player” choice here, you’re really keying on one player here: Latavius Murray. Getting the rest of the Vikings roster is a nice bonus, though.
Murray has reached the end zone five times this season. Only Thielen has more non-throwing scores with seven TD catches. Cook has yet to score this season. And that’s largely for two reasons: 1) Cook has missed some time due to injury, and; 2) Murray is the bigger and more physical runner (by a big margin). If Minnesota gets close, they’ll opt for Murray to pound it in rather than Cook. The closer to the end zone they are, the less space for Cook to operate in. It’s worth trying to pick up more points here by choosing the field.
Featured Pick #2: Who will score the Bears first touchdown? (Trey Burton)
Chicago’s tight end is a big, athletic target. If the Bears get inside the red zone, Burton’s the guy they’ll be looking for. His catch rate has always been among the highest. And this year is no different: he’s caught 73.3% of passes thrown his way. That adds up to 33 receptions for 411 yards and five scores.
Burton’s five touchdowns are tied for most on the team (excluding Mitch Trubisky’s 22 combined passing and throwing scores). Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen each have five apiece as well. But Howard has slightly fallen out of favor the past few weeks as Cohen has taken more and more snaps. Cohen is a threat out of the backfield and in the passing game (he’s got two rushing TDs and three catching scores).
But Cohen is employed as the team’s game-breaker. They usually run plays early on to set up potentially explosive plays for Cohen later on. At the same point value on GameOn, Burton is the safer bet to see a scoring opportunity early on.
Featured Pick #3: Who will win the game? (Bears by 7-12)
It’s easy to underrate the Bears. Their schedule has been ridiculously easy. The only team they’ve played this year that currently sits above .500 is the New England Patriots. But they played the Pats tough. The 31-38 result could’ve pretty easily gone in favor of Chicago. We’ve seen teams compensate for questionable quarterback play with defense and ball control. The Bears have both.
In terms of scoring, the Bears are fifth-best in the NFL at 29.9 points/game. They rank even higher in (fewest) points allowed at fourth with 19.4 points/game. And it’s not as if Mitchell Trubisky has been all that bad. It’s just that we live in the golden age of quarterback play, so even average sticks out like a sore thumb. But Trubisky overall has been adequate. It’s just that his highs and lows vary more than the typical NFL QB.
On the Minnesota side, average pretty much sums up the offense, defense … just the season in general. If you’re looking for a reason to take the Vikings, the main reason would be that they’re coming off a bye week and that generally works in favor of the team with the time off. But Minnesota’s schedule hasn’t been all that much tougher than Chicago’s. They’ve only played two teams that are currently over .500, the Rams and Saints. And Minnesota goes into Sunday night ranked 15th in points scored at 24.6 points/game and 11th in points given up at 22.7 points/game.
The Bears will have the ability to negate some of the Vikings offensive explosiveness. Chicago’s run game and short passes will move the ball down the field deliberately but consistently.
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