The Chicago Bears will hit the road to face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday in a battle of 6-7 squads.
Chicago is fresh off its best performance of the season, beating the Houston Texans 36-7 on Sunday. The Vikings, meanwhile, lost in uninspiring fashion to the Buccaneers.
In Week 10, the Vikings handed the Bears a 19-13 loss in primetime at Soldier Field. But as crazy as it sounds, the Chicago offense appears to have a new life with Mitchell Trubisky back under center.
Be that as it may, Minnesota is still favored going into Sunday. Here are the best NFL lines at Illinois online sportsbooks.
Bears @ Vikings odds, preview
The Bears and Vikings both still have an outside chance to make the playoffs, according to Steve Kornacki.
Kornacki has the #Bears playoff chances at 14%, up from 8% at the start of the day. pic.twitter.com/tSczHpDLbQ
— Adam Hoge (@AdamHoge) December 14, 2020
These next three games are critical for Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and Trubisky. Was Sunday a random positive blip or a sign that the Bears have made real offensive progress?
Since returning to the lineup against the Packers, Trubisky has seven touchdown passes, two interceptions and a 103.2 passer rating.
The Bears have averaged 30.3 points per game during this three-game stretch.
It should be noted that the Texans and Lions, the Bears’ Week 13 opponent, are awful defensively. But to be fair, Chicago couldn’t puncture bad defenses with Nick Foles.
One of those bad defenses belongs to the Vikings, who rank 25th in scoring defense and 22nd in total defense.
The Bears averaged a measly three yards per play in Week 10 against Minnesota and had Trubisky not been injured at the time, perhaps Foles would have gotten the hook then.
It’s likely safe to say that the Bears’ offense will be better in Week 15 than it was then, but to what extent?
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has proven to be a better play-caller than Nagy. The interior of the Bears’ offensive line is much improved with the additions of former Notre Dame teammates Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars.
One of the NFL’s greatest niche mysteries is why Rashaad Coward had started most of the season over Bars. At any rate, the Bears’ run game has also been much better with Trubisky under center than Foles.
Case in point, David Montgomery: The Bears running back is averaging 5.8 yards per carry with Trubisky in the game.
Trubisky has his flaws, but his mobility helps this patch-work offensive line.
The Bears have a chance to keep this offensive momentum going against the Vikings. However, we’ll see how much of this recent success can be attributed to the random ebbs and flows of the NFL.
Chicago defense also looked better Sunday
The Bears held Deshaun Watson and the Texans to seven points. Khalil Mack looked like Khalil Mack once again, recording a sack and a forced fumble.
With that said, the Texans were without Will Fuller, David Johnson and Brandin Cooks. And, outside of Watson, the Texans weren’t exactly loaded on that side of the ball to begin with.
The Bears sacked Watson six times on Sunday.
Chicago fared pretty well defensively in its last outing against Kirk Cousins and the Vikings, holding them to 19 points.
Dalvin Cook, who’s having a ridiculously good season, averaged just 3.2 yards per carry against the Bears. He’s averaging 4.6 yards per tote on the year.
The pass rush was the biggest difference for Chicago between its dominance of the Texans and its brutal efforts against the Lions and Packers.
When Mack plays to his contract, everything else seems to fall into place. Akiem Hicks also looked healthier on Sunday, and there’s an argument to be made that he’s just as important to the Bears as Mack.
Given that this matchup opened at a key betting number, any movement in either direction will be crucial.
For as low as the last several weeks have been for Bears bettors and fans, somehow, the stakes for the final three games feel quite high.