The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears are playing the finale of what is a somewhat unsatisfying season on both sides of the field. More so for the Bears who were expected to be a contender for the NFC crown this year but instead suffered through injuries and poor offensive play that derailed their postseason aspirations completely. Now Chicago’s ‘best case scenario’ is a .500 season at 8-8 if they can beat the Minnesota Vikings on their home field.
Minnesota is at least going to the playoffs and could finish 11-5 with a victory over the Bears here. The problem is that teams don’t get many accolades for regular season success. The Vikings were great at home this year going 6-1 SU. Of course the significance of that is debatable when they came up empty on their home field in what was likely their biggest game of the season. Minnesota held a 10-9 lead over the Green Bay Packers at halftime last Monday night but did absolutely nothing in the second half. The Packers scored two unanswered touchdowns to clinch the NFC North.
The concern now is that the Vikings have a rigid ceiling to their upside potential. They didn’t do a good job when stepping up in class this year going 1-2 SU/ATS as an underdog with losses at Green Bay early in the year and at Seattle on 12/2. Their only SU/ATS win as a dog came against the Cowboys in Dallas and that doesn’t look particularly impressive in retrospect. They never really established themselves as a dominant home team–despite their glossy SU record at the US Bank Stadium they’re 3-4 ATS. Their only winning ATS situation? 3-1 as a road favorite meaning games against the weakest level of opposition.
So where does Chicago fall on the qualitative continuum? Good question. To date they’ve been the worst team in the NFL against the spread going 4-11 versus the number. On the other hand, they shut the Vikings down defensively earlier this year in a 16-6 win at Soldier Field. Moreover, they’ve given the Vikings fits in recent years as have the Packers. Minnesota is 1-5-1 SU with Cousins at quarterback against Chicago and Green Bay. The offense has sputtered in those games putting up an average of 16.4 PPG. They’ve actually had more trouble with Chicago than Green Bay during that stretch–against the Bears they’ve gone 0-3 turning the ball over 5 times, giving up 12 sacks and allowing an average of 12 PPG.
Minnesota’s coaches and players have sounded all the right notes about this game suggesting they’ll use it to ‘work some things out’ before the playoffs. That’s doubtful. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible since they’ve already ruled out starting QB Cousins. Starting running back Dalvin Cook is also ‘OUT’ due to a shoulder injury that limited him in practice all week. Cook’s backup is Alexander Mattison and he could also miss. He’s listed as ‘Questionable’ but he was limited in practice all week and missed the last two games. This all means that Oregon State product Sean Mannion will start at quarterback with Mike Boone in his second year out of Cincinnati handling the work at running back if Mattison can’t go.
The line movement on this game has gone like you think it would given the situational factors. Minnesota opened as a -7 favorite but the line is currently showing Chicago as a -2.5 chalk. With Minnesota’s offensive struggles against Chicago can’t really make a case for the Vikings at less than 3. Then again, don’t really want to lay points with the Bears on the road. The ‘Under’ looks like the way to go. Bears have gone ‘Under’ in 17 of Trubisky’s last 22 starts. Both teams have gone ‘Under’ in 4 of 5 divisional games this year and the ‘Under’ has cashed in four of the last 5 head to head. Vikings ‘Under’ in 14 of their last 17 against NFC North rivals.