NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
There are only two games in Week 17 that have playoff ramifications for both clubs. One is Colts at Titans, which has been flexed into the Sunday night slot and which I will preview later this week here at Doc's.
The other is Bears at Vikings … although one could argue the Bears have motivation to not play their starters. It's just a matter of potentially whom the Bears might prefer to face on Wild-Card Weekend at Soldier Field.
Chicago (11-4), the NFC North champion for the first time since 2010, will not be worse than the No. 3 seed. As things stand now, the Bears would host these Vikings on Wild-Card Weekend. There's a slight chance Chicago could catch the Rams (12-3) for the No. 2 seed, but it seems pretty darn unlikely that L.A. loses at home on Sunday to the 49ers. Were that to happen and the Bears win, they would be the No. 2 - it's why the NFL moved this game into the late-afternoon window to start opposite 49ers-Rams.
The Vikings will be a Wild-Card team with a victory. They would be the No. 5 and head to Dallas on Wild-Card Weekend with a victory here and Seahawks loss in Week 17 at home vs. Arizona - which probably ain't happening. The Vikings would still be a Wild-Card team with a loss, but only if Philadelphia loses at Washington, which has nothing to play for.
So, you are Bears coach Matt Nagy. What do you do here? Rest some key guys to avoid injury and keep them as fresh as possible? Go for the No. 2 seed even though it's very unlikely? Try to knock out a hated division rival?
Bears at Vikings Betting Story Lines
This type of scenario is similar to 2010. Chicago had the division title wrapped up when it visited Green Bay in Week 17. Had the Bears won, they could have kept the hated Packers from the playoffs. However, Coach Lovie Smith opted to rest his guys even though the Bears already had a bye into the Divisional Round. Green Bay won 10-3 and would eventually win in Chicago in the NFC title game and then win Aaron Rodgers' lone Super Bowl. That's the argument for playing all-out this week to dump a rival who knows you well.
As of now, Nagy says: "We're not in that position (to rest starters). So we have to play to win." I'm not buying this. You can't risk injury, at a minimum, to Mitchell Trubisky or Khalil Mack. Maybe you play hard for a half and then check the Niners-Rams score. If L.A. is well ahead, then you sit everyone. For sure, any key guys who the least bit banged up should sit out. That should include Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson, who missed the Week 16 win in San Francisco with a sprained ankle.
Kirk Cousins, he of the record-breaking guaranteed contract this offseason, is really going to be roasted if he has another bad game here and the Vikings don't make the playoffs. Cousins has had his moments this season, but you'd have to say it's been a disappointment overall. Cousins does come off one of his better efforts, throwing 253 yards, three TDs and no picks in Sunday's 27-9 win in Detroit. That game completely shifted when Cousins hit Kyle Rudolph on a Hail Mary TD to close the first half. It was Minnesota's second straight blowout win since offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired and replaced by Cousins' quarterbacks coach, Kevin Stefanski.
Cousins has a history of coming up short in big games. In 2016, Washington would have been a wild-card team with a win at the nothing-to-play for Giants in Week 17. Washington lost 19-10 in large part because Cousins threw two second-half interceptions. The second came with the Skins down 13-10 and on first-and-10 at the Giants 43 with 1:27 left.
Not clear if Minnesota will have starting linebacker Eric Kendricks this week. His streak of 40 straight starts ended vs. Detroit due to a hamstring injury. If Kendricks can walk, he'll be in there.
Bears at Vikings Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Minnesota is a 5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 41. On the moneyline, the Vikings are -235 and Bears +195. On the alternate lines, Minnesota is -5.5 (-105), -4.5 (-115) and -4 (-123). Chicago is 11-4 against the spread (4-3 on road) and 8-7 "over/under" (4-3 on road). The Vikes are 8-6-1 ATS (4-2-1 at home) and 6-9 O/U (2-5 at home).
The Bears have covered six straight division games. The Vikings are 11-2 ATS in their past 13 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The under is 8-1 in Chicago's previous nine December games. It's 21-7 in Minnesota's past 28 division games. Chicago is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 10-4 in the past 14.
Bears at Vikings Betting Prediction
In Week 11, the Bears beat the Vikings 25-20 in a game that wasn't as close as the score. Cousins was terrible for three quarters, throwing two picks - including one returned for a score by Jackson. Cousins' overall stats didn't look so bad thanks to a pair of fourth-quarter TDs against a Chicago prevent defense. Trubisky wasn't any better, throwing for just 165 yards with two picks.
Minnesota has won six straight at home in the series. The Vikings make it seven. Give the 4 points and go under.
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