It’s off to Soldier Field for this week’s Monday Night Football matchup as the (1-3) Chicago Bears host the (2-2) Minnesota Vikings in an NFC North showdown (8:30pm ET on ESPN).
Struggling to produce consistently on offense has been the story for both of these teams this year especially Minnesota. The Vikings have scored bigtime in wins, with 29 and 34 point outputs against the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers respectively, but only 16 total points in their losses against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions.
It’s not even that the Saints or Buccaneers are terrible teams either. Both are 2-2 on the season, just like Minnesota. But in both of their losses, the Vikings have been without their starting quarterback as Sam Bradford injured his knee in the team’s week one victory. Bradford was near perfect in that game, completing all but five of his 32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. His completion percentage of just a few ticks below 85 was the best of any quarterback on the day.
Bradford’s replacement over the last three games, Case Keenum, has been hit-or-miss. He exceled against Tampa Bay with similar stats to Bradford’s New Orleans line: 369 yards, three touchdowns, 75.8 completion percentage. In his other two starts however, Keenum has been little more than average with no touchdowns and just under 400 total yards.
With the extra day of rest as a result of this being a Monday night game, Bradford is optimistic that he’ll be able to take the field for the Vikings against the Bears. If he does, it will be a boost that Minnesota’s offense could really use. Especially because the team lost their other best weapon, rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who had two touchdowns and two 90+ yard rushing games on the year, to the Injured Reserve list earlier this week.
Losing Cook is going to be hard enough particularly given the task that faces the Bears run defense this week. Chicago ranks eighth in the NFL in yards per carry allowed at just 3.6, and fifth in total yards allowed with 342. This is from a defense that faced and held Le’Veon Bell, who is ranked fifth in the NFL in total rushing yards, to just 61 yards on 15 carries, and Devonta Freeman, who is seventh, to just 37 yards on 12 carries. This is already a run defense that has been among the best in the league against the best in the league so it’s going to be an uphill battle for Minnesota without Cook.
The eighth ranked passing offense in the league, with or without Bradford, Minnesota will definitely be looking to their aerial attack against Chicago’s stout ground defense.
Beginner’s Luck for Trubisky?
In late April, during the first day of the NFL draft, the Bears made one of the most head-scratching moves of any team in this year’s draft, when they traded up to the second overall spot to grab Mitch Trubisky. Overall, trading up to grab a potential franchise quarterback isn’t strange at all but the fact that the Bears moved up one spot (swapped from three with the San Francisco 49ers) and gave up three additional picks to do so, had people calling it the dumbest move of the draft.
Well, on Monday night, the Bears will have a chance to prove that their draft day deal wasn’t a dumb move as Trubisky will be under center for his first NFL start this week. Not much is known right now about the young signal caller out of North Carolina and his ability to handle the pressure of an NFL game. In the preseason, Trubisky showed great ability but there is nothing like playing under the lights for the first time and how Trubisky handles that will definitely be of major importance for Chicago both now and for his future development.
Fortunately for the young quarterback, he’ll be in a position to succeed with a very favorable defensive matchup. The Vikings have the NFL’s eighth worst passing defense, allowing opponents 987 total yards. However, they are ranked tied for 10th best as far as total passing touchdowns allowed at just five over the first four games.
Where the Vikings excel however is in their running defense, which is ranked fourth best in the NFL in total yards allowed at just 285 and tied for second best in touchdowns allowed having given up just the one. Minnesota is also third in rushing yards allowed per game at just 71.3.
They’ll be taking on a Bears team that ranks 13th in the league in rushing and is considered to have the fourth best backfield tandem with Jordan Howard (252 yards, 4 touchdowns) and Tarik Cohen (181 yards rushing, 150 yards receiving). Against the Steelers, Cohen and Howard combined for their best game this season, totaling almost 220 yards on the ground. The pair are both young and talented backs and with Trubisky under center, it’s expected that Chicago will be able to get even more production out of the duo.
Howard, the lead back, should see more carries and more opportunities if Trubisky can just manage the run and pass the way he did in preseason and in his collegiate career. With Mike Glennon failing to get the ball downfield during his four weeks as the quarterback, Howard and Cohen have been limited. Opposing defenses knew they didn’t have to guard against the pass and were able to load the box as a result. Against Trubisky, who is a strong mobile quarterback, the expectation is that this will be different.
It goes vice-versa too. If the Bears can open up their running game and have success on the ground, Trubisky will have every opportunity to show he can impress through the air. The balance in the play calling will definitely be key.
Our Preview’s Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears Picks & Predictions
Last year the Bears beat the Vikings at home, on a Monday night, thanks to a 153-yard rushing performance from Howard. They lost to the Vikings on the road in the second of the head-to-heads, but Howard still rushed for 135 yards. Both of that was as the lone back as well. With Cohen, the Bears boast a great rushing attack. Add Trubisky and you have a Bears team that could look to make some noise over the rest of the season.
The Vikings have been the slightly better team but without Cook and possibly without Bradford too, this preview’s money and pick is on the Bears. You have to respect Soldier Field as it is one of the toughest places to play and with the enthusiasm that will come with Trubisky’s debut, expect the crowd to play into the outcome.
- Our betting prediction is to take the Bears to best the Vikings, who are three point favorites according to the sportsbooks. The best option is Chicago +3pts @ odds of -110 with Bovada.
- As for the total points, take the under on 40. It may seem low but Soldier Field is a low-scoring arena and often produces defensive showdowns. Again it is Bovada offering the best option @ -110 for below 40pts. The others are under 39.5pts at best.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.