Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears

This NFC North battle to rule the Black & Blue division happens between the hungry Minnesota Vikings and the first place Chicago Bears in the frigid nighttime conditions of Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, on Sunday, November 18 at 8:20 pm, broadcasted on ESPN.

The 5-3-1 Minnesota Vikings:

Talk about being on a roll, the 5-3-1 Minnesota Vikings are coming off a Week 10 bye after winning four of their previous five games.

The Vikings are well rested and confident in their ability to close the deal, especially after the 24-9 spanking they gave to their divisional rival, the Detroit Lions, in Week 9, when Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins went 18-for-22 in the air for 164 yards, a touchdown, an interception and the win.

Minnesota will travel to Chicago after going 2-1-1 on the road this season, with a record against divisional opponents of 1-0-1, the tie happening against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin.

The 6-3 Chicago Bears:

The 6-3 Chicago Bears are looking to win their fourth game in a row and their fifth at home this season when they take on the Vikings team that continues to nip at their NFC North heels this season.

In this ‘meat’ portion of the Bears’ scheduled NFC North sandwich – Lions Week 10, Vikings Week 11, Lions Week 12 – Chicago will look to improve on their 1-1 divisional record against a well-rested Minnesota team.

The football world will see just how tough the Bears really are this week with Chicago playing a Sunday night game followed quickly by their traditional Thanksgiving game on Thursday.

What’s at stake:

These two teams have met 114 times, including 1 postseason game, with Chicago winning 52 games and Minnesota winning 60 games. They have also tied twice. The Vikings have won their last three meetings in a row, all of which took place in 2017.

If the Vikings win this matchup, they’ll move to 6-3-1 and because that will mean a Bears’ loss, Minnesota will move into first place of the NFC North.

But if the Bears come out on top, they’ll be 7-3 and remain firmly atop the NFC North by at least 2 ½ wins.

Questions to answer…

Who’s favored to win this Week 11 Vikings-Bears matchup?

Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?

Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?

We’re going to compare the Vikings and the Bears and attempt to answer those questions and more.

The 2018 Vikings offense unbalanced

The Vikings offense is a whole lot better attacking through the air than from on the ground, with their passing game ranked 8th in the league and their run offense ranked 28th.

Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins is gradually earning his keep this season, not to mention his $84 million fully guaranteed three-year contract, the highest paying contract in NFL history, by throwing for the seventh most yards in the NFL, 2,685 and 17 touchdowns with 5 interceptions.

The Vikings offensive line has to keep Cousins safer, having allowed him to be sacked 24 times this season, 9th most in the league.

Thielen questionable

Cousins’ biggest target, wide receiver Adam Thielen, has already caught 78 balls for 947 yards and 7 touchdowns and had an eight-game streak with at least 100 receiving yards to start the season.

But scary for the Vikings’ offense is the fact that Thielen is listed as questionable in Week 11 due to a pair of injuries (lower back, calf).

Cook is rested apparently healed

It was exciting to watch running back Dalvin Cook, the ‘White Tiger’ break loose for a seventy-yard run against the Lions, especially given Cook had missed some prior games due to a hamstring injury.

Cook benefited greatly from the bye rest he’s received, his skills necessary against a Bears defense ranked second in the league against the run.

Minnesota offensive Injuries

Offensive guard Mike Remmers (back) is listed as questionable.

Second-team All-Pro wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back, calf) is listed as questionable.

The 2018 Bears offense improving with Trubisky

Second-year Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is finding his NFL legs finally, throwing 2,304 total yards for 19 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, and more importantly for six wins with a solid chance for a seventh at home, his team currently atop the NFC North.

Helping the Bears average 243.3 passing yards per game are a receiving corps acquired in the offseason: Allen Robinson (JAX), Taylor Gabriel (ATL), rookie Anthony Miller (2nd round) and Trey Burton (PHI).

Trubisky’s Bears now put up an average of 29.9 points per game, good enough to be top five in the league.

Cohen legitimate dual threat

While starting running back Jordan Howard handles most of the run business out of the  backfield, Tarik Cohen gives him some rest now and again, but then also serves as receiving target for Trubisky.

Cohen has run the ball 56 times for 244 yards and 2 touchdowns this season while catching 37-for-50 balls for 435 yards and 3 more touchdowns while simultaneously acting as the Bears’ punt returner. (see stats below)

Chicago offensive Injuries

Backup tight end Dion Simms (concussion) is listed as questionable for Week 11

Vikings Defense ranks 5th in the league

The Vikings only allow opponents to score 22.7 points per game this season and are ranked 12th against the pass and third against the run.

Minnesota D is aggressive, tied for first in number of sacks with 31 of them, and they’re tied for 13th in interceptions having snagged a total of eight so far in 2018.

Vikings Defensive Players to watch:

Defensive end Danielle Hunter is a quarterback-hunting monster who already has 11.5 sacks to himself, second most in the league, along with 43 combined tackles (13 for loss), 15 quarterback hits and a returned fumble recovery for a touchdown.

All-Pro free safety Harrison Smith is having a standout year – not only does he have 3.0 sacks, he’s also got the same number of interceptions (T-5th most), on top of 5 passes defended, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 47 combined tackles and 4 quarterback hits. 

All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes (foot) is listed as questionable for Week 11.

Bears Defense is 4th overall

It’s hard to move the ball against the Bears, who allow only 319.6 total yards against them per game, but you’re better off passing against them (ranked 13th)  than you are running (ranked 2nd), since Chicago only allows opponents to move the ball 84.0 yards per game on the ground.

Bears defense is helped by highly touted rookie linebacker Roquan Smith, who has 3.0 sacks, 64 tackles, 2 passed defended, 3 QB hits.

Chicago’s shutdown defense has a total of 30 sacks (ranked 5th) and the most interceptions in the league right now with 16.

Other Bears Defensive Players to watch:

Outside linebacker Khalil Mack has wreaked havoc ever since the Bears acquired him, so far with 7.0 sacks, 25 combined tackles (5 for loss), 6 quarterback hits, 4 forced fumbles, a fumble return, 2 passes defended and a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Cornerback Kyle Fuller has four interceptions himself this season (ranked 2nd) while defending 11 passes and combining for 27 tackles.

Defensive end Akiem Hicks has 29 combined tackles, 3.0 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.

Special Teams Stats Comparison

Punters:

Minnesota’s punter, Matt Wile, in his third year and picked up in September on waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers, has punted 40 times for a net average of 40.7 yards per punt, ranked T-11th in the NFL.

Chicago’s punter, Pat O’Donnell, is a fifth year pro who has punted 33 times for a net average of 39.0 yards per punt, ranked 20th in the NFL.

Placekickers:

Minnesota’s veteran placekicker, Dan Bailey, a former Dallas Cowboy who is considered one of the most accurate place kickers in the history of the NFL, has gone 12-for-15, his longest was a 52-yarder. He has  missed one extra point attempt (16/17).

Chicago’s placekicker, Cody Parkey, was a free agent pickup this offseason and has gone 13-for-18, his longest was a 50-yarder. He has missed two extra point attempts (30/32). Last week against the Lions, Parkey missed two field goal attempts and two extra point attempts.

Punt Returners:

Minnesota’s punt returner, cornerback Marcus Sherels, is ranked 26th in the league. He’s returned 14 punts for 126 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 9.0 yards per return, his longest for 24 yards.

Chicago’s punt returner, running back Tarik Cohen, is ranked 8th in the league. He’s returned 21 punts for 265 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 12.6 yards per return, his longest for 42 yards.

Vikings–Bears prediction and odds

The oddsmakers have the Bears favored over the Vikings by 2.5 with an over/under of 45.0.

CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:

Pete Prisco goes with the under and has it Vikings 21, Bears 17

John Breech takes the over and predicts it Bears 30, Vikings 20

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