Monday Night Football Picks: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Odds & Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/27/2016
The Chicago Bears are one of the flagship and most popular franchises in the NFL and they probably always will be. But I really wish the NFL would somehow allow ESPN's Monday Night Football to have flex scheduling like NBC's Sunday night does. I say this once a year and it probably won't happen.
At 1-6, the Bears don't belong in the national spotlight this week. It's the team's fourth prime-time game already but thankfully the last in 2016. Unfortunately for Chicago sports fans, this will be the last week they can be distracted by the Cubs. The Bears might not win as many games this season as the Cubs do simply in the Fall Classic. At this point, it really is better for the franchise to lose out and get a Top-3 draft pick -- Chicago figures to battle Cleveland and San Francisco for the No. 1 pick -- and finally land a quarterback. The Bears are on their bye next week and then I give them only two realistic chances to win the rest of the way, both at home: Week 12 vs. the Titans and Week 13 vs. the 49ers.
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Minnesota (5-1) obviously has much bigger plans and that's the top seed in the NFC. Seattle's tie last week in Arizona actually could help the Vikings down the line, although a Seahawks loss would have been obviously better. The Vikings and Cowboys are the only 5-1 teams in the conference. Minnesota hosts Dallas in what could be a crucial game on Thursday, Dec. 1. I'm sure the Dec. 24 trip to Green Bay (4-2) also will be important. Every other game on the schedule is very winnable for the Vikings.
The Vikings are -200 favorites at BetOnline to win the NFC North for a second straight season and +850 to win Super Bowl LI.
Vikings at Bears Betting Story Lines
Usually teams look better out of their bye week, but perhaps it came too early in the season for the Vikings. They were playing great football and the NFL's lone unbeaten entering Week 7 but laid a major egg in a 21-10 loss in Philadelphia. Every team has an off day, but there were a few warning signs. For one, the Minnesota offensive line has lost a couple of guys to injury and that group was overwhelmed by the Eagles. Sam Bradford was sacked a season-high six times and hit 12 more. Bradford had been great in his first four starts but looked like he did in most of his pre-Vikings days in the loss. He completed a season-low 58.5 percent and threw his first pick of the year. No quarterback likes to throw under pressure, but Bradford really has a problem with it. The Eagles were blitzing all game, so expect to see more of that vs. Minnesota.
The other offensive worry is the running game. It wasn't good before Adrian Peterson went down and hasn't been much better since. The Vikings had 93 yards on 27 carries against Philly and are last in the league in rushing yards (446) and yards per carry (ghastly 2.6). Pretty rare for a team with that little of a running game, even in this pass-happy era, to make the playoffs. The Vikings have no problems on defense. They allow 14.0 points and 279.5 yards per game, both first in the NFL. The Vikings have forced a league-best 16 turnovers this year and lead the NFL with a +11 turnover differential.
Thus, I don't expect much from a Chicago offense that ranks last in the league in scoring (15.9 ppg). And I never thought I would say this, but the Bears are worse off now that Jay Cutler is going to return from his thumb injury and that former backup Brian Hoyer might miss the rest of the season with a broken left forearm. Hoyer was injured in last Thursday's 26-10 loss in Green Bay. It's too bad as Hoyer had been playing great statistically, although it wasn't leading to a ton of points. The Bears scored exactly 14 points in each of Cutler's first two starts this season before he went down, losses in Houston and vs. Philadelphia. We will see Matt Barkley if Cutler leaves his game injured.
There is absolutely zero question in my mind this is the homestretch of Cutler's career in Chicago. The Bears owe him no guaranteed money after this season and cutting Cutler would cost just $2 million against the salary cap. Coach John Fox has said some things publicly that show he clearly isn't a huge fan of the guy. As good as that Vikings defense is, make sure to play Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in your fantasy league Monday. He has at least 95 receiving yards or a touchdown catch in his past six MNF games. Jeffery hasn't caught a TD yet this year.
Vikings at Bears Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Minnesota is a 5.5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 40.5. On the moneyline, the Vikings are -245 and the Bears +205. On the alternate lines, the Vikes are -6 (-102) and -5 (-115). Minnesota is 5-1 against the spread (2-1 on road) and 2-4 "over/under" (1-2 on road). Chicago is 1-6 ATS (1-2 at home) and 3-4 O/U (1-2 at home).
The Vikings are 6-0 ATS in the past six vs. teams with a losing record. They are 6-1 ATS in their past seven vs. the NFC North. But Minnesota is 1-7 ATS in its past eight on Monday. The Bears are 4-9 ATS in their past 13 vs. teams with a winning record. They are 1-7 ATS in their past eight following a loss of at least 18 points. The under is 10-2 in the Vikes' past 12 vs. the NFC North. The under is 5-1 in the Bears' past six in the division. Minnesota is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The under is 4-1 in the previous five.
Vikings at Bears Betting Prediction
The Bears had a five-game winning streak at home against Minnesota snapped last year when the Vikings swept the season series for the first time since 2007. The Week 15 game in Minneapolis was a blowout, while the Week 8 game in Chicago the Bears should have really won but blew it late and lost 23-20 on Blair Walsh's 36-yard field goal as time expired. Minnesota's three-game winning streak in the series is its longest since also taking three in a row from November 1999 to October 2000.
Chicago won't miss the injured Peterson at all as that guy has blistered the Bears in his career. But it won't matter this time. The talent gap between these teams is massive. Give the points, maybe go down to 5 just in case, and go under the total.
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