Sunday Night Football gives us an old-school NFC North rivalry between the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. In a game that will have serious playoff implications, the Bears are 2.5-point favorites at home with an over/under of 44.5 points.
At the moment, the Bears are clinging to first place in the NFC North at 6-3. After a couple hiccups, Chicago has won three games in a row. Along the way, the Bears have become a top-5 team in both points scored and points allowed. With a win on Sunday, they can give themselves a little bit of a cushion at the top of the division, which could be key with a manageable schedule down the stretch.
Of course, the Vikings are hot on Chicago’s tail at 5-3-1. The Vikings have also come on strong lately, winning four of their last five games. During that span, their only loss was against the Saints in a game Minnesota dominated statistically. With a win on Sunday, the Vikings would pass the Bears for the top spot in the division, although their schedule late in the season has some potential stumbling blocks.
Trio in Tact
For one of the first times all season, the Vikings will have their full complement of skill players available. Dalvin Cook is finally back to full health to give Minnesota a game-changing running back. The Vikings already have one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Cook and Latavius Murray split carries in their last game, but coming off a bye week, Cook should be ready for full-time duty, giving the Bears a lot to think about defensively.
Of course, the Bears have a top-5 defense that’s stout against the run and great at getting after the quarterback. Khalil Mack returned from injury last week and made an immediate impact with two sacks. Knowing that he could be under pressure a lot, Kirk Cousins will have to value ball security. He’s been better at limiting his turnovers this season than in the past, but the Chicago defense is one of the best in football at creating takeaways.
Shockingly, the Bears are top-5 in the NFL in scoring, in large part because of the steady progress of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. It’s helped that the Bears have a functional running game and a defense that often sets them up with good field positioning. However, the Bears may have to lean on Trubisky a little more than usual in this game.
Minnesota’s defense is slowly working their way back to the level they were at last season. If you take away their loss to the Saints when they somehow held New Orleans under 300 total yards, the Vikings are giving up just 16 points per game in their last four games. They’ve been stout against the run all season, which could force Trubisky to make plays against a solid defense.
This game is more or less a tossup, and in that case, it rarely hurts to go with the home team. With Mack back, the Chicago defense should be able to force Cousins into a mistake or two that sways the game toward the Bears. Bet on the Bears to beat the Vikings and cover the 2.5-point spread on Sunday night.