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The Comprehensive Guide to Bears vs. Vikings

Take a dive into the stats, betting lines, and matchup analysis before the Bears vs. Vikings Week 15 Monday Night Football meeting.
Bears vs. Vikings Monday Night Football

Bears vs. Vikings kicks off Monday night. The Bears are currently 3.5-point home underdogs. Monday night's weather predictions show temperatures in the mid-30s with a 1% chance of rain and winds at 10 MPH. The Vikings are coming off a Week 14 Thursday night victory over the Steelers, while the Bears are coming off a Sunday night road loss to the Packers. That was the Bears' seventh loss in the last eight games.

Bears vs. Vikings Betting Lines

Bears vs. Vikings Spread and Handicaps.

Bears vs. Vikings Spread and Handicaps.

In the above graphic, I have noted the spread and the projected spreads according to my two models, PFF, and 538’s two models for Bears vs. Vikings. Why use two models from one source? I like to use multiple models to crosscheck each other. The more models that say something is a good bet, the more assurances you get. That’s what all of us gamblers want, assurances.

Bears vs. Vikings Cover History

The Bears have failed to cover as a home dog in their last five attempts.

The Bears cover history as a home dog since 2018.

In the graph, the blue line represents the expected point differential based on the spread. For example, if the spread is CHI +7, the blue line will have a data point at -7, since the Bears are expected to lose by seven. The orange line represents the actual result. Therefore, any data point above the blue line means that the Bears covered the spread and any data point below the blue line means the Bears did not cover.

In Matt Nagy’s tenure as head coach of the Bears, he has compiled a record against the spread (ATS) of 28-35. As an underdog, Nagy’s teams are 14-20 ATS (41%; NFL average is 54%). At home, his teams are 15-16 ATS (48%; NFL Average is 47%). Combining those two factors, Nagy’s teams have a record of 6-9 ATS as a home dog. This represents a cover rate of 40%, versus the league average cover rate of 51%. 

“Good coaches win. Great coaches cover the spread.”

The Vikings have failed to cover as a road favorite in three of their last four attempts.

The Vikings cover history as a road favorite since 2018.

Since 2018, Mike Zimmer and the Vikings have compiled a record against the spread (ATS) of 31-31-1. As a favorite, they are 17-19-1 ATS (47%; NFL average is 46%). On the road, they are 17-16 ATS (52%; NFL average is 54%). Combining those two factors, the Vikings have a record of 7-6 ATS as a road favorite since 2018. This represents a cover rate of 54%, versus the league average cover rate of 49%.

Bears vs. Vikings Team Stats

Bears vs. Vikings NFL Ranks

Bears vs. Vikings NFL Ranks

The final ranking for each unit is the average of DVOAEPA per Play (10% win probability filter), and success rate.

DVOA is a metric developed by Football Outsiders that measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to the league average based on situation and opponent.

Meanwhile, EPA per Play is a stat that aims to measure the value of individual plays in terms of points using historical data for down, distance, and field position.

Finally, success rate measures the percentage of plays that generate positive EPA on offense or a negative EPA on defense. 

Vikings Offensive Overview

Play-Caller: Klint Kubiak

Personnel Groupings: RB-TE [WR]

  • 1-1 [3WR]: 45% (Pass Rate = 73%)
  • 2-1 [2WR]: 19% (Pass Rate = 40%)
  • 1-2 [2WR]: 14% (Pass Rate = 47%)

Play Action %: 26.3% (16th)

Kirk Cousins is at his best when working off of play-action.

Kirk Cousins is at his best when working off of play-action.

Screen %: 10.4% (19th)

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 38.5% (19th)

Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 65.1% (6th)

Explosive Play / Pass / Run Rate: 11% (4th) / 10% (6th) / 13% (6th)

Score %: 42% (11th)

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Turnover %: 7.3% (3rd Lowest)

On offense, the Vikings are very well-balanced. Despite their conservative and old-school tendencies, they have produced explosive plays in both the pass and run game. On the ground, Dalvin Cook is one of the more explosive running backs in the NFL. The Vikings like to use a lead blocker in the form of a fullback and will sometimes get an additional offensive lineman into the mix. Of course, Klint Kubiak (son of Gary Kubiak) is well versed in his dad’s wide zone running scheme, and the play-action branches off those zone concepts.

In the passing game, the unit is led by quarterback Kirk Cousins. He generally takes good care of the football, and on paper, he typically looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, Cousins has been polarizing over the years with a poor reputation under the bright lights. The Vikings get Cousins out of the pocket on boot actions off the wide zone run looks. They like to pair the play-action boot dropbacks with wheel routes that can burn defenders if they bite on the run fakes.

Justin Jefferson is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and will be a key matchup with Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson. The passing game typically runs through Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Expect both players to be moved around the line of scrimmage to create mismatches throughout the game. One concept the Vikings like to throw at defenses with these two is the “77” route. In this concept, they will run two corner routes at one cornerback. One route will go high, while the other goes low, and the Vikings want to force the defender to choose high or low while stressing the safety vertically.

Positional Breakdown

The Vikings offensive starters positional ranks

The Vikings offensive starters positional ranks

The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position-specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Justin Jefferson Ranks second out of 96 qualifying wide receivers. This results in a percentile of 98% (MATH = 1 - (2/96)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.

Offensive Line stats represent the entire unit, rather than any individual player. I believe that it is just too subjective of a stat to place statistical blame on individuals without knowing their assignments.

Vikings Defensive Overview

Play-Caller: Mike Zimmer (HC)

DC: Andre Patterson / Adam Zimmer

Base: 4-3

Blitz %: 25.6% (13th)

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 35.6% (5th)

Red Zone TD Conversion Rate: 67.5% (25th)

Explosive Pass / Run Rate: 10% (27th) / 10% (8th)

Score %: 40% (21st)

Turnover %: 10.7% (20th Highest)

The Vikings have struggled to bottle up the run game this season, as they have allowed the eighth highest rate of explosive runs. Despite having talent in the middle (defensive tackles Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson), the Vikings have struggled to stop opponents from gaining 5-9 on the ground. They have struggled more with runs to the perimeter, as they are down multiple EDGE players this season. Minnesota has started playing Sheldon Richardson (typically a 3T) on the EDGE some to help with deficiencies at the position.

Through the air, the Vikings have been much better at limiting explosive plays, where they rank eighth in the NFL. However, they have shown a penchant to give up plenty of catches in the intermediate. Their third-down defense ranks fifth in the NFL, but they have struggled with red-zone stops. Despite the injuries at the EDGE position, the Vikings still rank first in the NFL with 41 sacks. This is a unit that likes to bring the heat, ranking 13th in blitz rate. They rely on veteran safeties Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods to keep a cap on the defense.

Zimmer loves to blitz and bluff his linebackers in the A gaps. Both might be coming for the quarterback, maybe only one will come, or both might drop into coverage. This stresses the protections, making line calls and pass protection assignment soundness of utmost importance. Because of the variations, running backs NEED to be present and aware of pass protection responsibilities. The coverage is zone heavy, relying most heavily on Cover 3 and Cover 3 match, which is a mix of Cover 1 and Cover 3. 

Positional Breakdown

The Vikings defensive starters positional ranks.

The Vikings defensive starters positional ranks.

The “Pos. Rank” uses multiple position-specific stats to generate a relative ranking for each player at their position. The percentile is simply a representation of their rank. For example, Eric Kendricks Ranks fourth out of 79 qualifying linebackers. This results in a percentile of 95% (MATH = 1 - (4/79)). In the right-most column, you can see the stats used to generate the ranking.

Bears vs. Vikings Injury Report

COVID is throwing another wrench into the NFL’s plans. And unfortunately, the Bears are not an exception, but maybe the Vikings are.

Bears vs. Vikings Summary

On Monday night, Bears vs. Vikings will have the eyes of the NFL world. I could do without any more Bears primetime games this season. I expect Minnesota to be able to move the ball effectively throughout this game, and the Bears will need Justin Fields to match the Vikings production. Minnesota's defense is susceptible, and with a decent game plan, Chicago should be capable of finding some success.

Prediction: 

MIN: 28
CHI: 24

Extra Points

The Bears offensive starters positional ranks.

The Bears offensive starters positional ranks.

Chicago's defensive starters positional ranks.

Chicago's defensive starters positional ranks.