Both teams will have something on the line in Week 17 as the Chicago Bears close out the season against the Minnesota Vikings. The two NFC North rivals get started at 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 30, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Fans in local markets can watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers list the Vikings as 5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 41 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 17 betting odds.
For the Vikings, the entire season boils down to this one game. After back-to-back wins over the Dolphins and Lions, the 8-6-1 Vikings are still in control of their own destiny. If they win on Sunday, Minnesota will clinch a playoff spot and could end up facing the Bears again next week. They can also back into the playoffs if the Eagles lose to Washington. However, if Minnesota loses and the Eagles win, the Vikings will be left out of the playoffs.
The Bears, meanwhile, have already locked up the NFC North crown and have won three in a row since their puzzling loss to the Giants a few weeks ago. That stretch also includes their impressive win over the Rams, a win that still gives them a chance to earn the no. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye. Chicago will need the Rams to lose to the 49ers this week, but if that happens, a win over Minnesota would give the Bears next week off. Thus, Matt Nagy has no intention of resting his starters as the Bears try to chase that bye week.
Chicago also has a chance to sweep the season series with the Vikings for the first time since the 2011 season. When these two teams met in Week 11, the Bears held on for a 25-20 win at home. Both teams had three turnovers, including a defensive touchdown by the Bears that ended up being the difference in the game. The Vikings will surely feel like they can play a lot better than they did in that game, giving them a lot to prove against their division rivals.
I know the Vikings are at home and desperate for a win, but I’m not sure that’s enough to justify making them 5-point favorites in this game. While I’ll admit that Minnesota has a legitimate chance to win this game, I’m not comfortable eating this many points. To me, the Bears being a 5-point underdog against nearly any team in this league is a gift. I will happily take Chicago and the points.
Obviously, it’s worth mentioning that the Vikings have scored 68 points in the two games since making a chance at offensive coordinator. Dalvin Cook and the running game have suddenly come alive. Kirk Cousins has also had two of his better games of the season. However, that sudden offensive outburst needs to be taken with a grain of salt. First of all, it’s only been two games. Second, the Vikings have done it against the Dolphins and Lions, two teams with questionable defenses.
The new-look Minnesota offense will get a serious challenge against the Bears. The biggest difference for the Vikings the last two games has been Cook and the running game. However, the Bears are one of the best in the NFL at stopping the run. They are giving up just 3.8 yards per carry and just over 81 yards per game on the ground. They completely shut down the Minnesota rushing attack in Week 11, and they did the same to Todd Gurley a few weeks ago, so Chicago’s run defense is the real deal.
If the Vikings don’t get their running game going, all the pressure shifts back to Cousins. When it’s all on him, Cousins tends to be turnover-prone, which is particularly concerning against a Chicago defense that’s one of the best in the NFL at creating takeaways. During the Week 11 meeting between these teams, the Chicago defense intercepted Cousins twice, including a pick-six. They also didn’t give up a pass play longer than 25 yards, taking the big-play out of Minnesota’s repertoire.
To be fair, I still have a few concerns about Chicago’s offense. Mitchell Trubisky has been efficient as ever the past two weeks, but scoring just 14 points last week against the 49ers was a little puzzling. The Chicago running game is steady but not always explosive, which can make them a little limited. The Minnesota defense is also playing at a high level, giving up just 17 points per game over their last seven games. Keep in mind that they’ve faced three playoff teams during that stretch, including the Bears so that stat isn’t all that inflated by facing bad teams.
Honestly, if the line were reversed, I would gladly take the Vikings as 5-point underdogs in this game. But I can’t buy them as a 5-point favorite over a division champion. The Vikings may very well end up winning this game, but it’s far from a guarantee with the way the Bears play defense. Even if Minnesota wins, the Bears will at least beat the spread.