On paper, this looks like a Monday night mismatch. The Minnesota Vikings and the NFL’s best defense invade Soldier Field tied for the best record in the NFC. The host Chicago Bears are tied for the NFC’s worst record and are already on their second three-game losing streak of the season.
The good news for Chicago is that the Vikings are coming off their worst performance of the season, as Philadelphia handed them their first loss, 21–10. The bad news is that the Bears are also coming off their worst game of the season in a loss to Green Bay — and they lost quarterback Brian Hoyer to a broken arm in the process. While that means Jay Cutler, recovered from a thumb injury, regains his starting job, Hoyer had actually sparked the Chicago offense.
If there is any concern on Minnesota’s side, it lies in the possibility that the Eagles gave future opponents a blueprint for beating the Vikings: Make them play from behind, pressure Sam Bradford and force turnovers. But are the Bears equipped to do those things?
Minnesota at Chicago
Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 31 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Vikings -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Jay Cutler vs. the Vikings defense
Historically, Cutler has fared well against Minnesota. He has eight career wins against the Vikings (in 13 starts) and has thrown 26 touchdown passes, both numbers being his most against any opponent. And while he has lost three straight to them, he has thrown just one interception in those games. But Cutler’s task is a tall one. He hasn’t played since Week 2, and he’s facing a defense that has been dominant, even in defeat last week. The Vikings have forced more turnovers than any team in the NFL and are in the top five against both the run and pass.
2. Can the Bears defense make like the Eagles?
Getting a lead would help, but let’s assume that points will be hard to come by against the Minnesota defense. But can the Bears pressure Sam Bradford and force the Vikings into turnovers? The Vikings’ offensive line is probably their weakest link, but Chicago has more than two sacks in just one game this season (five vs. Indianapolis). They also don’t force many turnovers, ranking 23rd with just seven takeaways. That’s a long way of saying no, it’s unlikely the Bears can push the Vikings out of their comfort zone on offense.
3. The Bears must not beat themselves
Despite their 1-6 record, the have been a middle-of-the-pack team statistically, ranking 16th in total offense and 12th in total defense. So why have they scored the fewest points in the NFL? For one thing they can’t finish drives, ranking 26th in red zone touchdown percentage. They have also been an undisciplined bunch over the last month, having been penalized 10 times in each of the three games during their three-game losing streak. And they don’t force turnovers (seven takeaways in seven games), rarely giving their offense a short field.
While the Vikings looked ordinary last week against the Eagles, Philadelphia has given a lot of opposing offenses problems this season, and Minnesota’s body of work suggests that it is unlikely to turn the ball over four times in a game again. Meanwhile, despite his recent history against them, it seems very likely that the Vikings will force a rusty Jay Cutler into some mistakes and get back in the win column.