The NFL's "Black and Blue" division takes center stage to wrap up Week 10 of the 2020 season. The Chicago Bears (5-4) will host the Minnesota Vikings (3-5) under the bright lights of "Monday Night Football" at Soldier Field. Both teams are in major need of a win to keep pace in the NFC North. The Bears have lost three straight after a 5-1 start, while the Vikings have picked up two major division wins in the last two weeks. The winner of this game will gain some major ground on the Green Bay Packers in the standings.
Monday Night Football: Minnesota at Chicago
Kickoff: Monday, Nov. 16 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Vikings -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The Bears' woes continue
After falling to the Titans last Sunday, the Bears' losing streak stands at three. The team has been ravaged by injuries and COVID-19, but they could get some players back this week. Two players that won't be back, however, are center Cody Whitehair (COVID-19), and defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, who was just put on injured reserve. Defensive back Deon Bush was cleared to return from the reserve/COVID-19 list, but 14 players have either missed or were limited at practice this week, including running back David Montgomery (concussion), wide receiver Allen Robinson II (knee), safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. (foot), and linebacker Roquan Smith (back). Montgomery remained in the concussion protocol as of Saturday and has been ruled out while Robinson is listed as questionable but expected to play.
The Bears are being outscored 74-50 during this stretch. And in the process, Nick Foles has taken 12 sacks, been hit 25 times, and thrown three interceptions, all while only averaging 6.5 yards per pass attempt. The Bears are also averaging under three yards per rushing attempt, and they've been held scoreless in seven of their last 13 quarters. Matt Nagy's play-calling continues to be questionable, the Bears' inability to adjust in-game has him on the hot seat, and Friday the team announced that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will assume play-calling duties.
The offense's shortcomings have wasted strong efforts from the Bears' defense. A unit that's posted five sacks, 14 quarterback hits, 23 tackles for loss, 10 pass deflections, and one takeaway during this losing streak. A defense that's also limited their last three opponents to just 17 fourth-quarter points. The defense isn't paid to score points. The only way that the Bears are going to get out of this funk is if the offense gets its act together.
2. The Vikings are on a hot streak
While the Bears have struggled, the Vikings have thrived with their first winning streak of the season. And both of those wins were key divisional battles. Those games were a complete effort; the Vikings outscored the Packers and Lions 62-42, Kirk Cousins threw for 380 yards with four touchdowns (no interceptions), the offensive live has stood its ground (only 2 sacks allowed), and the defense has held its own (3 sacks, 9 QB hits, 5.5 TFL's, 6 pass deflections, 4 takeaways).
One of the biggest reasons for their success is Dalvin Cook, who has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for each of the last two weeks after racking up a combined 369 rushing yards, 109 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. The Bears' run defense is a relative strength, as they rank 11th in the NFL at 4.1 yards allowed per rush, but they've had mixed results in recent weeks against other top backs. Derrick Henry only picked up 68 yards on 21 carries, while Alvin Kamara tore them up for 67 yards on 12 carries plus 97 receiving yards on nine catches.
3. This game is crucial to the NFC North standings
The Bears trail the first-place Packers by two games, and the Vikings are 1.5 games behind the Bears. But they're also tied with the Lions at the bottom of the standings. The Bears need a win to try and keep pace with Green Bay, while the Vikings need a win to get out of the division basement. Minnesota has won two of the last five division championships ('15, '17), while the Bears last took the division crown back in '18.
The Vikings are finally starting to look like the team that was favored by many to win the NFC North. And if they can defeat the Bears, combined with a Jaguars win over the Packers on Sunday, the Vikings will be just a half-game behind the Bears and two games in back of Green Bay. A loss keeps them at the bottom of the division, and if Washington beats Detroit, that would give them sole possession of last place.
The Bears have swept the season series with the Vikings in the two previous seasons. In fact, they have won five of the last eight meetings, including three of the last four at Soldier Field. But things are much different heading into this year's meeting. The Vikings are clicking at the right time, while the Bears are in disarray. Chicago gets another strong effort from their defense, but the Vikings manage to pull out a close win.
Prediction: Vikings 21, Bears 17
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's also an anchor and producer for WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.