Monday Night Football Picks: Vikings at Bears
by Matt Severance - 12/28/2009
Another 1-1 outing last week in our Monday Night Football picks as we hit on the Giants giving three points to the Redskins (at a four-star rating) but missed on the under total because the Skins totally rolled over and quit. In fact, Washington coach Jim Zorn probably cost himself any future job in the NFL -- I'm talking even as a coordinator, because clearly he will never be a head coach again -- with that ridiculous fake field goal debacle, but that's a column for another day. I am now 5-5 with the Monday picks so far this season.
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On the face of it, tonight's game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears shouldn't be close. The Vikes, who are seven-point favorites at Bodog, completely dominated the Bears back in Week 12, a 36-10 rout. Brett Favre completed 32-of-48 passes for a season-high 392 yards and three touchdowns in that one as Minnesota outgained Chicago by a whopping 537-169 total. In the second half of that game the Bears ran 12 plays and netted two yards. Minnesota had 31 first downs and the Bears had eight.
And it's not like Chicago has gotten much better since then, losing two of three games (the lone win came over inept St. Louis). QB Jay Cutler seems to be regressing, having completed just 41-of-80 passes in the past three weeks for an average of around 148 yards. He threw three picks in last week's blowout loss at Baltimore, giving Cutler a league-leading 25 (second in Bears history). Another blowout on Monday could spell the end for Bears coach Lovie Smith.
However, all is not exactly well with the Vikings right now either. They have lost two of three since the Bears game, including last week's 26-7 disappointment at Carolina. Of course the story out of that game and all this week has been the reportedly fractured relationship between coach Brad Childress and Favre, with Childress upset that Favre constantly changes the plays at the line of scrimmage. Childress tried to yank Favre from the Panthers game, but Favre basically said no. There's an obvious power struggle going on with this team - look for those Monday night TV cameras to show Childress a ton, especially when Favre audibles. Favre has three touchdowns and four interceptions this month after throwing 24 TDs and just three picks in the first 11 games.
Something also is amiss with Vikings star RB Adrian Peterson. He had just 35 yards on 12 attempts against Carolina and hasn't topped 100 yards since Week 10, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry since then.
Arguably the key matchup Monday will be Vikings stud pass rusher Jared Allen against Chicago left tackle Chris Williams. It's only Williams' fourth career start at the position, and Allen ate future Hall of Famer Orlando Pace's lunch in the last meeting with two sacks and an interception. Allen is second in the NFL with 13 1/2 sacks and has 6 1/2 in his last three games against the Bears.
Meanwhile, the Bears will be without their best pass rusher as Adewale Ogunleye was lost for the season with a fractured fibula. He leads the team with 6 1/2 sacks. Chicago's pass rush has been lousy, with the defensive line averaging just one sack in the past 10 games and going without one in four of those. The Panthers were all over Favre last week, with left tackle Bryant McKinnie getting benched during the game for the first time in his career. He will start Monday and vows to be better this week.
Minnesota, which has won four of the past five vs. Chicago overall, would earn the NFC's No. 2 seed with a win and Philadelphia loss or tie.
Monday Night Football Picks: Jump on this line while it's still at seven and take Minnesota. It has moved back to 7.5 at some books. Peterson averages better than 127 yards per game in his career against the Bears, and I believe this Favre-Childress dust up will actually cause the coach to turn to Peterson more and re-establish the Vikings' identity as a running team, which they have gotten away from. Allen should also have his way with Williams, who was decent last week but quite bad the week before that. Plus the Bears are 0-4 in prime-time games this year, with Cutler looking awful in them. So take the Vikes -7 at a four-star rating (out of five). As for the total of 41, go with the under at three stars. It will be about 16 degrees on Monday night so it should be a low-scoring game.
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