Prior to the season, “View from the Moon” project that the Bears would defeat the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field Sunday and improve their record to 3-4. Now that becomes a difficult call.
The problem is that the Bears are weaker on defense with the loss of starting lineman Jeremiah Ratliff the very week that Adrian Peterson and an emerging quarterback Teddy Bridgewater appear in Chicago.
On the plus side, the teams of John Fox have been among the NFL’s most successful following the bye (10-3) and the Denver Broncos were 4-0 after a bye. Three of those did come with Peyton Manning as Fox’s quarterback, but one was with Tim Tebow under center.
More immediately relevant, opponents are out-gaining but not outscoring the Vikings, who are consistent if not spectacular on defense: Every Minnesota opponent has gained between 320-399 yards. By comparison, the Bears held both Oakland and Kansas City to fewer than 290 total yards, but Detroit rang up 546; the Vikings allowed the Lions 323 and 333 yards in the two wins over Detroit.
But where it matters, the Vikings are winning on points. The Bears and Vikings are both averaging 20 points per game (Minnesota 20.7). But the Bears are 31st in scoring, giving up nearly 30 points per game, while Minnesota is tied for second in scoring defense at 17 per game, a common standard for a good defense, which the Vikings have. Four of Minnesota’s last five opponents have fallen short of scoring 20.
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But the Vikings have lost 13 of their last 14 road meetings with the Bears. Fox has traditionally made very, very good use of the recovery week, now with Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator which further points to a defense picking itself up after the Ratliff chaos. The Bears are getting healthier, particularly on offense with receivers Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal giving quarterback Jay Cutler and coordinator Adam Gase truly dangerous support.
Not a comfortable pick, but the Vikings need to show me they can beat the Bears outside of Minnesota:
Prediction: Bears 21, Vikings 20