Chicago Bears (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1)
The Vikings are favored here for the 3rd time this season. The first two times didn’t go well. They lost straight up at home as touchdown plus favorites over the Browns week 3 and then they got blown out as small home favorites over the Panthers 35-10 during week 6. The Vikings are nowhere near the team they were last year. Adrian Peterson has been much more human this season, exposing their lack of a passing game, while their aging defense has suffered significantly more injuries and is missing the retired Antoine Winfield. They never should have been favored against Carolina and they never should have been favored by over a touchdown over the Browns.
The Vikings are favored here once again. Everyone knows they aren’t good, so we’re not getting the kind of line value with the underdog as we were in those first 2 games, but I still think we’re getting line value. The Vikings are currently 2-8-1. Teams who finish 2-14 or worse are 2-17 ATS as favorites since 2002. The Vikings might not necessarily finish that poorly, but all of their remaining games come against opponents who are currently .500 or better, including the Bears here, so they could. In terms of rate of moving the chains, they are moving the chains at a 73% rate, as opposed to 80% for their opponents, which is a differential that is 31st in the NFL, so they’re certainly bad enough to finish with just 2 wins. Either way, I don’t think they deserve to be favored anyone, with the exception of a few. I don’t think the Bears are one of those exceptions.
The Bears have had injuries all over their team, especially on defense. Henry Melton and Charles Tillman are both out for the season, while Lance Briggs remains out indefinitely. Those aren’t their only problems defensively, as age and the departure of defensive coaches Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli have reduced their once proud defense to one of the worst in the NFL. If they can’t force a takeaway, they generally can’t keep their opponents from scoring, as they have forced a league worst 40 punts. It’s tough to rely on takeaways. They are allowing opponents to move the chains at a 78% rate, a rate that is increasing as injuries derail them more and more.
Fortunately, their offense is doing enough to make up for it, also moving the chains at a 78% rate. This is in spite of the injury to Jay Cutler. Josh McCown is playing out of his mind right now, completing 65.5% of his passes for an average of 7.47 YPA, 7 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He has a 100.8 QB rating, leads the NFL in QBR, and is ProFootballFocus’ 7th ranked quarterback, despite just 3 starts and 2 relief appearances. The Bears don’t deserve to be underdogs here.
The Vikings could also be exhausted off of last week’s tie. They essentially played 5 quarters of football last week. You saw how bad the Packers looked this week against the Lions off of that tie last week. The Vikings aren’t on a short week here, which helps, but teams are now 4-9 ATS off of a tie since 1989. It’s not a huge sample size, but it makes sense and it’s worth noting.
There are reasons this isn’t a bigger play, however. I don’t know how much I trust Josh McCown. All of this is coming from a guy who is 34 years old, has a career QB rating of 73.6, and hasn’t posted a QB rating higher than 70 since 2005. He didn’t suddenly become a starting caliber quarterback. I have no doubt that Marc Trestman is a fantastic offensive coach who is making him look better than he is, but I don’t have a ton of faith he can keep this up continually. If he can’t, that would expose their defense.
Also, this kind of feels like a trap line. The public is all over the underdog because they know the Vikings suck. I normally like to stay away from public underdogs. What if this is the week Josh McCown shits the bed? What if Adrian Peterson rushes for 200+ yards on Chicago’s skeleton crew run defense? I still think the Bears are the right side, but I’m not that confident.
Chicago Bears 27 Minnesota Vikings 23 Upset Pick +100
Pick against spread: Minnesota +1