Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (6-9)
The Bears made a curious move last week, benching big money quarterback Jay Cutler for journeyman backup Jimmy Clausen. Cutler wasn’t necessarily living up to his contract, but the offense wasn’t the issue with the team, as they were moving the chains at a 74.43% rate in Cutler’s 14 starts, which was 11th in the NFL over that period of time (the defense was way worse). Clausen, meanwhile, was horrible in his only NFL action in Carolina in 2010 and did not seem to be a viable long-term solution or any sort of short-term upgrade. It was likely just a last dish effort for head coach Marc Trestman and his coaching staff to save their jobs.
It didn’t work at all. Not only did Clausen struggle in a 20-14 home loss to the Lions, completing 23 of 39 for 181 yards for 2 touchdowns and an interception, leading the Bears’ offense to a 67.86% rate of moving the chains. On top of that, Clausen suffered a serious concussion, spending the night in the hospital and forcing Trestman to go back to Cutler this week. It’s not going to help Trestman save his job because he’s probably gone regardless of the result of this game, but Cutler probably gives them the best chance to win this game.
It’s possible that Cutler would have struggled just as much as Clausen did last week as the Lions have one of the league’s best defenses, but the Bears’ offense was pretty solid through the first 14 games and even if you take last week’s game into account, we’re still getting a significant amount of line value with the Bears here. The Bears rank 23rd in rate of moving the chains differential on the season, moving the chains at a 74.04% rate, as opposed to 76.02% for their opponents, a differential of -1.97%. Meanwhile, the Vikings rank 28th, moving the chains at a 69.68% rate, as opposed to 74.19% for their opponents, a differential of -4.52%.
Despite the fact that the Bears rank significantly better in that aspect, the Vikings are 6.5 point favorites here. We’re getting significant line value with the Bears. There aren’t a ton of good situational trends in play in games this week as most of them rely on upcoming distractions on the schedule, which obviously aren’t a factor week 17, but the Vikings are in a bad spot. Teams with losing records are 41-63 ATS as favorites off of 3 straight covers. It’s a weird one, but it does make some sense.
Losing teams obviously aren’t good teams, but they can be overrated by the odds makers off of 3 straight covers, especially if they’re favorites. In the Vikings past 3 weeks, they’ve kept it close with Miami and Detroit and beat the Jets by 6. It’s not unimpressive, but it’s not enough for them to deserve to be 6.5 point favorites here. They were only 5 point favorites against the Jets and they still needed a pick six and an 86 yard touchdown in overtime to even cover by 1 point. I have a decent amount of confidence in the Bears.
Minnesota Vikings 24 Chicago Bears 23
Pick against the spread: Chicago +6.5