Kicking off at 8:15 p.m. ET tonight, the Bears (5-3) host the Vikings (3-5) at Soldier Field for an NFC clash on Monday Night Football. The Vikings are -3 road favorites (-185 ML), and the over/under (which opened at 45.5) has settled at 43.5.
This will be the 119th matchup between the division rivals and their first meeting in 2020. The Vikings lead this historic series 60-56-2 and could very well push their all-time head-to-head record to five games above .500 this evening. Despite having two fewer wins than Chicago, the Vikings have been moving up while the Bears move down. Minnesota has won two games in a row and three of its past five, while Chicago has dropped its past three games after starting 5-1.
BetQL has expert analysis, top trends, up-to-the-minute line movements, and full game previews for this and every game of the NFL season. Our NFL Best Bet Model runs simulations for each game, arriving at detailed outcome projections and listing its best bets. We can tell you that the Model likes the final score to equal OVER 43.5 points, projecting the total at closer to 45 points. Continue reading for our comprehensive betting preview, and to find out our full array of picks for this crucial NFC clash.
Vikings-Bears Betting Preview
The Vikings started the season on a very rocky road, losing their first three games and five of their first six. But they have looked great the past two weeks, winning key divisional matchups against Green Bay and Detroit. A win tonight would vault Minnesota out of the basement of the NFC North, leapfrogging the Lions and pushing to within three games of the division-leading Packers.
The main catalyst of the Vikings’ recent success has been their running back, Dalvin Cook. Despite missing one game to a groin injury and Minnesota already having its bye week, Cook was the leading rusher in the league going into this week with 858 yards.
Cook leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (12) and overall touchdowns (13), and his 84 points scored leads the league (the 21 players following him are kickers). There are eight teams that have played either eight or nine games and still have fewer rushing yards than Cook, who has played six-and-a-half games. All but three NFL teams have fewer rushing touchdowns than him.
Long story short, this offense runs through Cook. That’s not to say the Vikings don’t have other weapons, and Cook helps create space for them by forcing defenses to focus on him. Veteran wideout Adam Thielen has had an impressive bounce-back season with 480 yards and seven touchdowns. Rookie Justin Jefferson has been arguably the best receiver from the 2020 NFL Draft, tallying 627 yards and three scores and catching 77.3 percent of his targets.
Inevitably, Kirk Cousins has to be the one to tie it all together. In the Vikings’ three wins, the veteran QB has five total TDs, zero interceptions, a 135.63 average QB rating, and an average of 11.41 yards per pass attempt. In their five losses, he has 10 TDs, 10 interceptions, an 82.8 QB rating, and an average of 7.9 yards per pass attempt.
During Minnesota’s two-game winning streak, Cousins has enjoyed his best two games of the season rating-wise, as well as his highest average adjusted yards gained per pass attempt. It’s also the first time all season he has avoided throwing an INT two games in a row, and his offensive line has allowed him to get sacked only once in each of the past three contests. Of course, Cousins’ Monday Night Football struggles are well documented. He’s 0-9 on Monday night, and he’s also 8-32 against winning teams throughout his career. He’s also lost all three of his starts against the Bears while with Minnesota.
Minnesota’s defense remains a big question mark, too. The Vikings’ defense has given up 412.9 total yards per game this season, the fourth most in the NFL. Only Atlanta and Seattle have surrendered more air yards per game than Minnesota’s 287.9, and the Vikings’ 2.4 passing touchdowns allowed per game ties Atlanta and New Orleans for dead last. Also of note is that the Vikings have allowed 290 or more passing yards in six of their eight games this season
The Vikings’ run defense has been a little better, at least in the red zone. They do allow 125 rushing yards per game, which ranks 20th in the league, but they surrender just 0.6 rushing scores per game, which is tied for best in the league. Top linebackers Eric Kendricks and Eric Wilson have been the heart of this defense, with Wilson stepping up big time since Anthony Barr went down with a season-ending torn pectoral muscle early on.
The Bears started the season scorching hot, with their stifling defense leading the way to a 5-1 record despite a Week 3 quarterback change. The move from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles, Foles’ subsequent comeback rally over the Falcons, and the Bears’ time atop the division all seem like distant memories to Chicago fans. The Bears have dropped their past three games, getting outscored 74-50 in the process.
Foles has enjoyed good chemistry with stud wideout Allen Robinson, who accumulated 712 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of the season. But A-Rob hasn’t had much help in the production department. Anthony Miller and rookie Darnell Mooney have had moments here and there, but nothing consistent. Veteran dual-threat back Tarik Cohen suffered a season-ending torn ACL in late September, and middling lead-back David Montgomery will miss tonight’s game due to a concussion sustained last week.
Translation: Things keep going from bad to worse for this offense. Chicago ranks 31st in both third-down conversion percentage (32.3) and red-zone touchdown percentage (50). Fortunately for Chicago, its defense ranks first in both of those categories. However, regression was imminent for the Bears as they began playing better teams. Besides the Buccaneers, who the Bears beat by one point in October, all of the teams Chicago has defeated have had losing records (13-25 combined).
The Rams, Saints, and Titans recently exposed Chicago’s offensive struggles and managed to move the ball enough on the Bears’ tough defense to prevail. It’s unfortunate to see a defense work so hard for the entirety of each game just to be let down by its inconsistent offense again and again. All too often, Foles drives all the way down the field, just to turn the ball over or force coach Matt Nagy to settle for a field goal.
Chicago ranks 29th in both points and total yards and 27th in first downs. The Bears have the fifth-most offensive interceptions (10) and the fourth-lowest net yards per pass attempt average (5.4). They rank dead last in both rushing yards (741) and rushing TDs (2). Their running back opponent this week, the aforementioned Cook, has 117 more rushing yards and 10 more rushing TDs than the entire Chicago roster.
The woeful inadequacies of the Bears offense shine an even brighter spotlight on just how dominant Chicago’s defense has been this season. They have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the league (10), and the sixth-fewest rushing scores (six). They allow the third-shortest average drive length, and the fourth-fewest points per drive. And despite Chicago’s offense scoring the fourth-fewest points in the league (178 in eight games), its defense has only allowed 12 total points more on the season (190, seventh-best).
As dynamic as it is, Nagy and his offense are still asking this defensive unit to do far too much. With a horrendous running game and Foles constantly under pressure — he has been sacked 12 times and hit 25 times over the past three games — the offense either turns the ball over or goes three-and-out far too often, resulting in the defense seeing way too much field time. Nagy, often criticized for his erratic and inefficient play-calling, could be on the hot seat if this downward spiral continues.
Injuries and COVID-19 make matters even worse for the Bears. The absence of both Cohen and Montgomery will lead to some variation of RB/WR hybrid Cordarrelle Patterson, relatively-unknown back Ryan Nall, and veteran Lamar Miller splitting playing time in the backfield. Starting center Cody Whitehair will continue to miss time due to COVID-19, further complicating the offensive line issues ravaging this depth chart all season. Robinson (knee), starting safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. (foot), and stud linebacker Roquan Smith (back) are all questionable tonight but expected to play.
Minnesota is a brutal 3-14 against the spread in its past 17 games at Soldier Field, and the Bears are 5-1 ATS in their past six meetings with the Vikings. Chicago has also won the past four head-to-head contests straight up. However, Minnesota is 5-1 ATS in its past six games, and Cousins has seemed to benefit enormously from the heroics displayed by Cook. With Chicago looking abysmal on offense, it’s hard to bet against the Vikings, who may finally buck Cousins’ negative Monday Night Football trends and move up the NFC North rankings.
The BetQL Best Bet Model puts a three-star rating on the Bears covering the plus-3 spread, but it lists the Vikings as the odds-on favorite to win the moneyline. It likes the Bears to cover at the half plus-2.5, but it doesn’t seem overly confident with any of the first-half lines. This could easily be a close game all the way through, and the projected totals and the over/under seem a bit too tight to advise taking a stab one way or the other. Go with the red-hot Vikings to continue streaking through their division, prevailing over the dominant defense of Chicago in a 24-23 nail-biter.
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