The Chicago Bears go on the road to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives. Here are some predictions for the game.
The Chicago Bears‘ offense has experienced a resurgence. In the three weeks since their bye week, the Bears average 30 points per game. Before the bye, they averaged a paltry 19 points per game. Yes, some of that came against some weak defenses, but they played a number of weak defenses and not score a lot of points. In fact, the Bears scored 30 points or more just once in their first 11 games. They’ve now done it the last two weeks in a row.
Last week, the Bears finally snapped their losing streak at six. In that time, they went from being atop of the NFC to outside the playoff picture. With the Minnesota Vikings losing, somehow Chicago’s playoff hopes are still alive. A win in Minnesota and an Arizona Cardinals loss and the Bears are back in as the seventh seed. Considering how bad the offense looked, the playoffs were an afterthought. Throw in the defense beginning to break down and all hope was lost. Of course, just when you think you got away from thinking playoffs, the Chicago Bears bring you back in.
Here are some predictions for the Bears’ matchup against the Vikings.
The offensive line continues to play well
One of the big reasons for the offensive resurgence is the play of the offensive line. In the first three games of the season, the offense averaged 25 points per game. Also, the Bears averaged 368 total yards of offense. Then the offensive line broke down with injuries and the coaches had to use a number of different lineups.
Over the next seven games, the Bears averaged just 17 points per game. They also averaged 272 yards of offense (only 52 of them on the ground). The offense ground to a halt.
Suddenly, however, the coaches found a good offensive line. They moved Cody Whitehair from center to left guard and moved Germain Ifedi from right guard to right tackle. Sam Mustipher took over at center and Alex Bars took over at right guard. This lineup helped jumpstart the offense. Besides the 30 points per game, the offense also averages 383 total yards of offense.
The success should continue against Minnesota. The Vikings defense ranks 24th in points allowed and 22nd in total yards allowed. In their first matchup in Week 10, the Bears had a number of opportunities at scoring but missed out because of pressure put on the quarterback. WIth this new-look offensive line, quarterback Mitch Trubisky should have a clean pocket and David Montgomery should have open running lanes to go through.
Prediction: The Bears offense produces 347 total yards of offense and allows one sack with the new-look offensive line.
Montgomery and Trubisky take advantage of the improved offensive line
With the improved offensive line, watch Mongtomery and Trubisky each take advantage. In his first nine games of this season, Montgomery ran for 472 yards and a touchdown, averaging 3.6 yards per rush. He added 212 yards and a touchdown receiving. In the past three weeks, however, he has 288 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also added 121 yards and a touchdown receiving.
The Vikings rank 19th in rushing yards allowed. One of their weaknesses is missed tackles. This isn’t the same defense we’re used to seeing from them. Montgomery is among the league leaders in broken tackles. He is a shifty runner with excellent balance so if he has some room to run he’ll hit the hole quickly and shed would-be tacklers. If the Vikings defenders don’t wrap up well, Montgomery will end up with some big runs.
One of the best things that happened with Trubisky back is the coaching staff’s flexibility. When head coach Matt Nagy was calling plays, he didn’t always run plays that took advantage of Trubisky’s skillset. He does better with a moving pocket (it also helps the offensive line). He also does well when the offense runs quick plays. When Trubisky holds onto the ball too long he starts making mistakes. He’ll stare down a receiver or he’ll panic and throw the ball where it shouldn’t go.
Trubisky is now playing more instinctually. He isn’t overthinking things anymore, since he doesn’t have the time to do it. He’ll take advantage of his opportunities against the Vikings.
Prediction: Montgomery runs for 106 yards and a touchdown. He adds 32 yards receiving. Trubisky throws for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns and adds 23 yards rushing.
The defense builds on what it did last week
In the midst of the losing streak, the most disheartening thing that happened was the Chicago Bears defense taking a step back. Against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12, the unit allowed touchdowns on five of the Packers’ seven drives. Against the Detroit Lions the next week, they allowed 460 total yards of offense. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 402 yards and 3 touchdowns.
In their matchup against the Houston Texans in Week 14, the defense bounced back. The Bears harassed quarterback Deshaun Watson all day, sacking him six times. They also sacked backup A.J. McCarron once when he subbed for an injured Watson on one play. The seven sacks were the most by the Bears since Week 11 of the 2005 season.
Khalil Mack led the way for the defense. He recorded a sack, a forced fumble, a pass deflection, and a fumble recovery. The sack he had resulted in a safety. He was very active and the rest of the defense fed off that.
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Robert Quinn didn’t show up on the boxscore but he pressured Watson on a number of occasions as well. Hopefully, he’ll start getting to the quarterback to make a bigger impact down the stretch of the season. For now, though, he attracts attention away from Mack to allow him to make his plays. When Quinn and Mack start hitting the quarterbacks together, this will be an incredible defense.
The Vikings’ offense ranks 24th in interceptions thrown. That means if the Bears put a lot of pressure on quarterback Kirk Cousins, he’ll give the secondary opportunities at getting turnovers.
Mack and the rest of the defense hear the talk about the Chicago Bears defense not being elite anymore. They want to show that this unit is still dominant and elite. They’ll try to overwhelm the Vikings’ offensive line and continue to do well against superstar running back Dalvin Cook in the process.
Prediction: The Bears defense holds the Vikings to 276 total yards of offense, sack Cousins three times with two interceptions, and hold Cook to 89 yards rushing.