With their spot in the playoffs secured, the Minnesota Vikings will wrap up the 2019 regular season against the Chicago Bears in an NFC North rivalry game. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 29 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Fans in select markets will be able to watch the game on Fox.
According to the Week 17 NFL odds, the Vikings are 1-point favorites at home. The game also has an over/under of 37 points.
Even before they took the field against the Packers on Monday night, the Vikings had clinched a playoff spot thanks to the Rams losing on Sunday. That could explain why the Vikings had such a poor performance against Green Bay. Minnesota was gifted 10 points off turnovers, but they were otherwise atrocious in a 23-10 loss. The Vikings still had a chance to win the NFC North if they could have won on Monday, so the loss tied them to a Wild Card spot. Win or lose in Week 17, the Vikings will be the no. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs, meaning they will need to win three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl.
As for the Bears, one year after winning the NFC North, they are just hoping to avoid a losing season in 2019. Even after a three-game winning streak to get to 7-6, Chicago was a long shot to reach the playoffs. Back-to-back losses to the Packers and Chiefs the last two weeks ended any hope of the Bears returning to the postseason. All things considered, t’s hard to view the 2019 season as anything other than a step backward for the Bears. However, Matt Nagy’s job should be safe, especially if a win in Week 17 makes them a respectable 8-8 on the season rather than 7-9.
In addition to avoiding a losing record, the Bears would love to keep up their three-game winning streak against the Vikings. Chicago swept the season series from Minnesota last year and held serve 16-6 at Soldier Field in Week 4. Of course, before winning at U.S. Bank Stadium last season, the Bears had lost six straight road games against the Vikings, so success in Minnesota has been hard to come by this decade.
Even though the Vikings have the option of sitting some starters this week, I think most players who aren’t battling an injury will play. Minnesota needs to cleanse themselves and wipe away the memory of Monday’s loss before the playoffs begin. A few key players will sit, but I think Mike Zimmer does everything possible to win this game and give his team a confidence boost heading into the playoffs. In a virtual tossup, I’ll take the home team to win by a comfortable margin.
To be frank, the Chicago offense is a big reason why I think the Vikings will win this game. Fifteen games into the season, the Bears are 26th in passing, 29th in rushing, and 30th in points scored. Things aren’t getting any better with Chicago managing just 16 total points over their last two games. The running game that carried the Bears last season isn’t there, and at this point, it’s safe to say that Mitchell Trubisky isn’t good enough to win games with his arm. Against a quality defense, I don’t have much faith in him to carry the Chicago offense.
Meanwhile, there’s no doubt that the Vikings have a quality defense. On the season, Minnesota is conceding less than 19 points per game, and they’ve been even better in recent weeks. Even in last week’s loss, the Minnesota defense can hardly be blamed. They forced three turnovers and held the Packers to three field goals in the first half. With the offense only holding the ball for 22 minutes, the Vikings should be praised for only allowing 23 points. They kept Aaron Rodgers under wraps but struggled against the run in the second half, which is something that’s less of a concern against Chicago.
Of course, the Minnesota offense is a little bit of a concern after last week’s performance. The biggest potential problem is the health of Dalvin Cook and backup Alexander Mattison. Neither played on Monday and the Vikings won’t risk playing either if they’re not fully healthy. That is undoubtedly worrisome against a strong Chicago defense after Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah failed to produce much against the Packers.
However, Kirk Cousins has somehow earned the benefit of the doubt this season. He was terrible on Monday, but poor performances have been a rarity during the second half of the season. The key for Cousins is getting Adam Thielen back on track. He’s been a non-factor in his two games since returning from injury. If he and Stefon Diggs can get back to posing a threat simultaneously, Cousins and the passing attack should be able to make up for Minnesota’s injured backfield.
Admittedly, this should be a close, low-scoring game. But with the line at 1-point, this is essentially a straight-up PK. Despite some concerns about Cook, Mattison, and others sitting, the Vikings still have the better quarterback and are a strong defensive team playing at home. That’s enough to make me lean toward Minnesota rather than a Chicago team that’s quite limited offensively.