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Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: Preview and Pick
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings: Preview and Pick
The Minnesota Vikings have been out of the NFL playoff picture for a long time, however they are still playing hard on the field each and every Sunday. That is not good news for the Chicago Bears who come limping into Minnesota to take on the Vikings. The Bears were trounced in their last outing by the Rams and still have problems with injuries as well as on defense, which is usually the staple of the Bears teams from the past.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Odds
The opening NFL point spread for this game actually has the Vikings listed as (-1) point favorites. This line shows just how tough the Vikings are to beat late in the season. The public is not believing in the Vikings however, as over 73 percent of the early wagering is on the road team. This point spread has not changed but it easily could move before this game kick off so make sure to check the latest odds at the top rated online sportsbook.
The Vikings are doing well on the football field because they are running the ball. Toby Gerhart gained 10 yards on five of his eight rushes Sunday, all of which were between the tackles. Since the start of 2006, no player had ever gained 10 yards five times on fewer than nine rushes. Gerhart had big holes to run, gaining 68 of his 91 yards before initial contact. Adrian Peterson had to grind out his yards, gaining 77 of 146 rush yards after initial contact. Peterson has averaged 76.4 rush yards after contact against the Packers the last two seasons (including playoffs). They are more than just Adrian Peterson and that could be big trouble for a Bears team that cannot stop anyone at the moment.
The latest football betting trends for this game favor the Vikings as the home team is 16-6 against the spread (ATS) in their last 22 meetings. The Vikings are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games in December, 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games after accumulating more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game and 7-3-2 ATS in their last 12 games after allowing more than 150 yards rushing in their previous game.
The Bears are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games following a loss of more than 14 points, 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games in Week 13 and 0-4 ATS when they go up against a team with a losing record.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Pick
With plenty of time to go before the start of is big game, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.
It's time to change the fight song. Well, at least the version of "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" that everybody has grown used to — the one that blasts out in Soldier Field after every score for the home team. Keep the song, but maybe try a Muzak version.
Elevator music is appropriate for the 2013 Bears.
Sadly, there is little monster left in this bunch. Once a franchise of ferocity, the Bears have undergone a complete transformation into, well, teddy Bears. This team comes up woefully short in virtually every area that measures team toughness.
The Bears can't stop the run, ranking dead last in the NFL. They struggle for an inch, let alone a yard in goal-line and short yardage situations. They seemingly have lost the ability to play smash-mouth special teams.
The only tough-guy element that hasn't faded is the ability to block downfield. Too bad none of the skill position guys can line up at defensive tackle or linebacker.
Heck, even the fan base seems to have fallen under some oblivious spell. Such is the awesome power of the forward pass, or the lure of a championship in the hapless NFC North, that nobody in town seems sufficiently indignant about the way this defense has obliterated the proud defensive tradition of the franchise.
Injuries have been devastating, no doubt about it. But players get hurt in the NFL. The simple fact is your backups have to be able to beat an opponent's backups. It would be great if everyone can fill in as well as quarterback Josh McCown, but that certainly hasn't been the case. Not on defense, for sure.
The Bears haven't been gashed by the run, they have been trampled. So far they have allowed a league-high 1,597 yards rushing through 11 games, an average of 145.2 that projects to 2,323 for the season. The most rushing yards any Bears team ever has given up in a year is 2,509 in 1973. At least that record is not in danger. Or is it?
The loss of Henry Melton after three games and backup Nate Collins after five started a domino effect that robbed the team of consistency up the middle. Then starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams was lost for the year against the Giants in Game 6 and star linebacker Lance Briggs went down the next week against the Redskins. In their last five games, the Bears have allowed 985 rushing yards, 197 per game.
At that pace, the Bears would allow 2,582 yards on the season, a franchise record for futility. Briggs should be back in a couple of weeks. Ditto Stephen Paea and perhaps even Cowboys castoff Jeremiah Ratliff. That combination should help.
Nevertheless, the Bears have no business giving up these kinds of rushing yards. Not to the Rams, and certainly not against the host Vikings on Sunday. Stopping the run is about toughness and attitude. It takes individual players beating a guy in front of them and making a play. It takes commitment from coaches.
If you can't stop the run, put an eighth guy in the box. If you still can't stop it, make it nine. At some point, the quarterback is going to line up, do his head count and opt to throw the ball. When you are playing against guys like the Rams' Kellen Clemens or the Vikings' Christian Ponder, you make them beat you as opposed to Zac Stacy or even Adrian Peterson.
There is nothing so demoralizing, so disheartening to a defense than to be manhandled, steamrolled and embarrassed in the running game. Are the Bears so wrapped up in the idea of preventing big plays that they will allow Peterson to go off instead of risking the exposure of a frail secondary and lackluster pass rush?
The Bears must be aware that getting Peterson a rushing title is one of the few things the Vikings still have to play for at 2-8-1. He is just 12 yards behind the Eagles LeSean McCoy for the league lead with just three yards to go for 1,000. McCoy will get his turn against the Bears defense in Philadelphia in a few weeks. And another top-10 rusher, Packers rookie Eddie Lacy, will get a second shot at the Bears in the season finale.
The toughness issue in short yardage and goal-line stuff is more difficult to quantify. The Bears are 4-of-6 on fourth-and-1 attempts. But they have failed when it comes to the mano-a-mano smash-mouth stuff, relying instead on tactical finesse in those situations.
Maybe the sequence that best illustrates the point is the failed two-point conversions against the Lions. First came a pass out of the heavy package, followed by a run from a more conventional spread look. Why the need for trickery? Because it appears the Bears have no faith in their ability to line up over the rear end of a tough guy offensive guard like Kyle Long or Matt Slauson and drive the ball into the end zone.
That's not their game. Nope, they're a West Coast finesse team with a hypnotic ability to throw the ball and score some points. But they aren't going to win on defense or special teams. Those units are as bad as they have been in more than a decade.
Throw in the lack of mental toughness a rash of penalties demonstrated the last two weeks and the picture is clear. If this team doesn't toughen up in a hurry, the season will be lost.
Three days after their frustrating loss to the Rams in St. Louis, the Bears return to the practice field Wednesday to prepare for Sunday's road game against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears (6-5) enter Week 13 tied atop the NFC North with the Lions (6-5), a half-game ahead of the Packers (5-5-1). Detroit will host Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field.
Tim Jennings returned an interception 44 yards for a TD in the Bears' Week 2 win over the Vikings at Soldier Field.
With Jay Cutler still hampered by a high ankle sprain, quarterback Josh McCown will make his third straight start and fourth in five games. Cutler hopes to return for the Bears' next game on Monday night Dec. 9 when they host the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field.
McCown has excelled in place of Cutler, completing 97 of 148 passes for 1,106 yards with seven touchdowns, one interception and a 100.8 passer rating, all in the last five games.
In last Sunday's loss to the Rams, McCown connected on 36 of 47 passes for 352 yards with two TDs, one interception and a 102.4 rating. The 36 completions set a Bears record, eclipsing the mark of 34 that was established by Jim Miller in 1999 and matched by Brian Griese in 2007.
The Bears boast the NFL's top receiving tandem in Brandon Marshall (74 receptions for 945 yards and nine TDs) and Alshon Jeffery (58-860-3), who have combined for 1,805 yards, the most by any duo in the league. They're also the only two teammates who both have over 800 yards.
Since joining the Bears prior to last season, Marshall leads the NFL with 192 catches, is tied for first with 20 TD receptions, ranks second with 12 100-yard games and is third with 2,453 yards.
The Vikings (2-8-1) are in last place in the NFC North. Like the Bears, their defense has struggled this season. Minnesota has allowed a league-worst 31.5 points per game, ranks 24th with 24 sacks and has generated only 14 takeaways in 11 games.
On the other side of the ball, Sunday's game at the Metrodome will feature a colossal mismatch on paper. The Bears run defense, which ranks last in the NFL, will face reigning league MVP Adrian Peterson, who is second in the NFL in rushing with 997 yards and 10 TDs on 226 carries.
In 11 career games against the Bears, Peterson has rushed for an average of 108 yards and 14 total touchdowns. After being held to 85, 94, 51 and 39 yards in four meetings from 2009-11, he has gained 108, 154 and 100 yards in his last three games against the Bears. Last Dec. 9 in Minnesota, Peterson ran for a team-record 104 yards in the first quarter, including a 51-yarder on the first play.
After allowing an average of 102 yards in the first six games this season, the Bears run defense has yielded an average of 197 yards in the last five contests. The unit has been decimated by injuries, losing cornerback Charles Tillman, linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams, and defensive tackles Henry Melton, Nate Collins and Stephen Paea.
The Bears trail the all-time series between the teams 53-50-2 but have won seven of the last eight meetings. However, the home team has won 19 of the last 23 games.
The Bears won the last meeting 31-30 on Sept. 15 as Cutler threw a 16-yard TD pass to Martellus Bennett with :10 remaining. The Vikings scored touchdowns on Cordarelle Patterson's 105-yard return on the game's opening kickoff and defensive end Brian Robison's 61-yard fumble return.
Tim Jennings returned a Christian Ponder interception 44 yards for a TD, and Devin Hester set a Bears record with 249 yards on five kickoff returns, including returns of 80, 76, 42 and 31 yards.
In total yards, the Bears offense ranks 8th in the NFL (21st rushing and 7th passing), while the Vikings defense ranks 30th (25th against the run and 29th versus the pass). The Bears defense is 25th overall (32nd against the run and 13th versus the pass, while the Vikings offense is 20th (11th rushing and 25th passing).
The Minnesota Vikings are coming off an "exhilarating" tie against the Green Bay Packers, stirring up debate whether the practice should even still exist in the NFL.
Either way, the 26-26 finish for the Vikings will need to be in the rear view mirror, as they prepare to host another division rival this week in the Chicago Bears.
Minnesota's offense in last week's contest played relatively well, outpacing its season average of 329.5 total yards with a showing of 447 yards.
An extra quarter of football never hurts to pad a team's stats.
But even in terms of efficiency, several players stepped up, including embattled quarterback Christian Ponder, who had one of his best outings of the season.
The Vikings signal-caller completed 21-of-30 passes for 233 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Ponder's quarterback rating broke into triple digits at 103.9
One of the biggest surprises of the game was the breakout performance by Cordarrelle Patterson at wide receiver. The rookie hauled in a season-high eight receptions for 54 yards on 11 targets.
Patterson's previous season high for grabs was three.
In order for the Vikings to remain competitive against the Bears this week at Mall of America Field, they will need to continue drawing up plays that get Patterson the ball in open space, as well as take some shots down the field.
The improved passing game also helped open up the running attack when facing the Packers, as both Adrian Peterson and backup Toby Gerhart had solid showings.
The reigning MVP recorded 146 yards on 32 carries, while tacking on a touchdown. The rushing total was also a season high for Peterson, as he ran for 140 yards both in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and in Week 9 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Gerhart helped to spell his starting teammate on eight carries, totaling an impressive 91 yards for an average of 11.4 yards per carry.
So how does this stack up against the Bears defense?
Most fans remember the dreadful outcome in Week 2 versus Chicago at Soldier Field, which began the trend of fourth quarter collapses by the Vikings in 2013.
However, it was a second-quarter interception by Tim Jennings that helped set the tone of the game. The eight-year veteran stepped in front of a poorly thrown ball by Ponder and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown with 2:51 remaining before halftime.
The Bears are tied for sixth in the NFL with 14 interceptions, and the matchup against Jennings will be especially important, as starting cornerback Charles Tillman is out for the season with a torn triceps.
Ponder will need to choose his throws wisely in the direction of Jennings, with the ball-hawking cornerback most frequently lined up against the Vikings own Greg Jennings.
That equals another good matchup for Patterson against backup corner Zack Bowman, who hasn't started for the Bears since 2009 when the team finished 7-9.
Jerome Simpson should also benefit from the Bears secondary fill-in, as he leads Minnesota with 546 receiving yards and is tied with Jennings in receptions at 36.
This should all help to spell success for the Vikings running game, facing a Bears defense that ranks last in the NFL with 145.2 yards per game, nearly identical to the total Peterson just rolled up on the Packers.
Considering the injury to Tillman in the secondary and a weak rushing defense for the Bears, the Vikings offense is in prime position to improve upon the performance from last week.
And with Jay Cutler likely out for Chicago, this week's contest for the Vikings may be the best opportunity for a win left on the team's schedule.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson failed a breath test during a traffic stop last week, according to court records they obtained. Henderson is suing the Department of Public Safety for revoking his driver's license. Eden Prairie police did not immediately return a call for comment.
This news comes on the heels of two recent Vikings arrests. Minnesota released cornerback A.J. Jefferson after he was arrested for domestic violence. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson was arrested for probable cause DWI on November 9, and remains on the team.
"The fact that we have had three recent off field situations is unacceptable and disappointing," the team said in a statement Wednesday. "Our organization looks at each situation and the circumstances involved to determine our actions with those players and how to best move forward.
"The Vikings have a comprehensive approach with our player development program and excellent resources that are a part of this organization, but certainly we will take a methodical look at how we can improve upon our current programs to prevent these situations in the future."
The solid play of quarterback Josh McCown has helped alleviate any concern about the Chicago Bears having to rush Jay Cutler back from injury.
It's the other side of the ball that's presenting a much larger set of issues.
Chicago's NFL-worst rush defense faces another tough challenge Sunday as the Bears visit Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings.
Cutler suffered a groin tear in a 45-41 loss at Washington on Oct. 20, then attempted to return three weeks later before leaving with a high left ankle sprain in a 21-19 defeat to Detroit on Nov. 10.
McCown, who had not thrown a pass in the league since his first stint with Chicago during the 2011 season, has been more than serviceable in five games and three starts, completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,106 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception while posting a 100.8 rating.
The 34-year-old veteran will get his third straight start Sunday, though coach Marc Trestman is hopeful Cutler can return when the Bears host Dallas on Dec. 9.
"I'm confident. I think Jay is confident. You have to leave yourself an opening, but there is no underlying information here," Trestman said. "It's week to week with the understanding that at some point in time he'll be back."
The defense is trying to remain confident as well despite allowing a league-worst 145.2 yards per game on the ground. The Bears (6-5), who have allowed at least 40 points on three occasions for the first time since 1964, gave up 258 rushing yards in last week's 42-21 loss at St. Louis.
It marked the most they've given up since Peterson ran for 224 of Minnesota's 311 yards as a rookie in the Vikings' 34-31 victory Oct. 14, 2007.
"We're going to continue to work at it," Trestman said. "There are a lot of teams working in the same environment in the league. We're not going to give up on it. We're going to continue to press the issue. We're going to work harder on it this week and try to get better. We certainly have to. We know what we're up against this week."
Chicago's 14 rushing touchdowns allowed are the second-most in the league.
''We're never going to say we can't get the problem fixed, because it is fixable,'' defensive end Julius Peppers said. ''We're going to simplify it even more than it has been and we're going to keep continuing to work on it until it is fixed.''
Peterson ranks first in the NFL with 10 rushing touchdowns and second with 997 yards. He's averaged 120.6 yards in his last three against the Bears, including 100 on 26 carries in Chicago's 31-30 victory Sept. 15.
He ran for a season-best 146 yards while adding a touchdown in last week's 26-26 tie against Green Bay. Peterson may be in for another big performance with Chicago missing linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive back Charles Tillman.
"When you get hit with injuries, it tends to have an effect depending on the depth of your team," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "They're going through what a lot of teams go through."
The Vikings (2-8-1) rushed for a season-best 232 yards last week, though they've struggled in plenty of other areas. They're giving up a league-worst 31.5 points per game and have forced only 14 turnovers.
Peterson took no consolation in last week's tie.
"It definitely wasn't celebration,'' Peterson said. ''It is what it is.''
Christian Ponder had one of his better performances of the season, though, finishing 21 of 30 for 233 yards and a touchdown. Frazier said Ponder, who threw for 227 yards with a TD and one interception in the first meeting with the Bears, will be back under center Sunday.
"The consistent play is what we're always looking for," Frazier said. "He had a good game, (now) put together another good game. There's no second-guessing about playing him. He earned it the way he played."
Minnesota will be getting its first look at McCown this season after Cutler hit tight end Martellus Bennett with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining to give the Bears the win in the first matchup.
McCown has benefited from the strong play of receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, whose combined 1,805 yards are the most of any tandem in the league.
Marshall caught a season-high 10 passes for 117 yards and his ninth touchdown last week, going over 100 yards for the third time in four games.
Frazier said linebacker Erin Henderson will play Sunday despite his Nov. 19 arrest for drunken driving. He will not start against the Bears, who have won seven of eight against Minnesota.
The last time the Minnesota Vikings played the Chicago Bears, they were well on their way to an important division victory on the road.
Until, that is, Jay Cutler, ruined their day. The Vikings led by six points with 3:15 to play at Soldier Field on Sept. 15. Then Cutler drove the Bears 66 yards, finishing the drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds to win it.
Cutler will not play in the rematch Sunday at the Metrodome because of a high left ankle sprain. A reason for the Vikings to celebrate? Well, they don't exactly have fond memories of facing backup quarterback Josh McCown, either.
Back in 2003, McCown was making his third career start for the lowly Arizona Cardinals in the season finale. The 9-6 Vikings need a win over the 3-12 Cards to clinch the NFC North.
The Vikings led 17-12 as the final seconds ticked down and the Cardinals facing a fourth-and-24 from the Minnesota 28. McCown threw the final pass of the game — of Arizona's season — into the corner of the end zone, and Nate Poole was there to haul it in for an 18-17 victory.
"No! Noooo!" Vikings radio play-by-play man Paul Allen yelled into the microphone in a call that still holds a prominent place in this tortured franchise's lore. "The Cardinals have knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs!"
So forgive the Vikings (2-8-1) if they aren't doing cartwheels knowing that Cutler will sit. But McCown doesn't think the Minnesota defense will be too focused on him.
"I don't think they adjust to me as much as they adjust to our receivers," McCown said.
McCown has been solid for the Bears (6-5) in Cutler's place, and they're going to need him again against Minnesota's struggling defense to stay near the top of the muddled North.
There has been plenty of noise made already this week about how doomed the Chicago Bears are when they face off against Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings’ potent rushing offense on Sunday, but there hasn’t been nearly enough made of just how bad the Vikings’ defense itself has been this season.
A quick look at the numbers suggests that this game could quickly devolve into an offensive shootout. The Vikings have already given up nearly 3,100 yards through the air this season, which puts them firmly as a bottom-five pass defense. Making matters worse, the Vikings are also giving up nearly 120 rushing yards per game, so it isn’t as though they are able to slow down the run either. Finally, the Vikings have only sacked quarterbacks 24 times this season, 26th in the NFL.
For the Bears, those numbers are good news for an offense that has to score a lot to make up for the shortcomings of its defense. Giving up 40 points has become a regular occurrence for the Monsters of the Midway this season, and having the ability to try to give their defense some extra rest by grinding out long sustained drives could be a key factor for the Bears as they try to keep pace with the Detroit Lions in the NFC North.
The question then for the Bears is this: which of their offensive weapons is going to be the biggest key to taking advantage of the Vikings’ weak defense on Sunday? Judging by the first game between the two teams, the answer may not be as simple as the question. After all, Jay Cutler threw for nearly 300 yards against the Vikings in the Bears’ 31-30 Week 2 victory over Minnesota, but several of his receivers had dynamic days. Matt Forte had 10 catches that afternoon for 73 yards, and both Brandon Marshall (who led Bears’ receivers with 113 yards that day) and Martellus Bennett both had seven catches apiece, with Bennett’s touchdown in the game’s closing seconds proving to be the difference.
Really, the only player that struggled for the Bears in that game was Alshon Jeffery, who was targeted five times but could only come up with one catch for 11 yards. Even Earl Bennett caught both of the passes that Cutler threw his way, picking up 19 yards on the receptions.
Complicating matters a bit for the Bears is that they will not only have their back-up quarterback still under center in Josh McCown (although McCown has proven time and again recently that he is very capable of running the Bears’ offense efficiently and successfully), but they will also be dealing with a hobbled Forte, who suffered a hyper-extended knee against the St. Louis Rams in Week 12.
With that in mind, the real key player for the Bears’ offense will be Jeffery. The Vikings are catching a big break by facing a running back that isn’t going to be at 100%, and so the Bears’ receiving corps is going to have to provide McCown with open guys to throw to in order to be successful. The Vikings will likely try to get some double coverage looks on Marshall knowing that they don’t have to commit as many resources to stopping Forte on the ground, and that means that Jeffery is going to be the one getting the majority of the 1-on-1 matchups outside of the numbers.
If he can take advantage of the extra attention paid to Marshall, then Jeffery should be able to have a really strong game for the Bears, and they could right the ship after what was a truly putrid effort last week.