The hits keep coming for the 1-4 Minnesota Vikings, as they had to place Justin Jefferson on IR at the start of the week. Headed into their first NFC North division game, Minnesota will be on the road to play a Bears team fresh off their first win of the year. After previewing the matchup between the two last-place teams, I’ll go over which side I’ll be backing.
When the Bears last played at home, they were blowing a 28-14 lead to the Broncos on the way to their fourth loss. While their offense did perform well in that loss, Justin Fields and DJ Moore would perform even better in their 40-20 win on Thursday Night Football against the Commanders. Chicago went from a (13.11) EPA on offense against the Broncos to a (19.81) EPA against the Commanders, largely thanks to DJ Moore picking 230 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The former Panthers wideout has been the beneficiary of Justin Fields stepping up his play over the past two weeks and putting up an 8:1 touchdown to interception ratio in that span. Fields might need to step up his play even more this weekend due to an injury problem at the running back position. As it stands, Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, and Travis Homer could be out or limited come Sunday.
Having a depleted backfield is undoubtedly not something the Bears would want after trending in the right direction over the past two weeks. Still, at the very least, they can take solace in playing a struggling Vikings defense this weekend. After their 27-20 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, Minnesota has now put up a negative defensive EPA in four straight weeks.
Even with the Vikings offense ranked 2nd in passing yards and 1st in passing touchdowns, the defense has made it difficult for Kirk Cousins and the offense to stay in the game. That’s partially what makes the Justin Jefferson injury that much more devastating. With Jefferson out, rookie Jordan Addison could see a lot more action moving forward, which shouldn’t be a problem since he was already third on the team in receiving yards and tied with Jefferson with three touchdowns.
Even with the injuries and rough start to the season, the Vikings seem adamant about working their way back up the divisional standings, and as (-2.5) point road favorites this weekend, I’ll be backing them for my play. For starters, the Vikings still have TJ Hockenson to rely on, and he’ll be going up against a Bears defense that has allowed the 4th most tight end receptions this season.
Hockenson may lead the team in targets this weekend, but Addison should still play a significant role. The Bears defense, which ranks 31st in yards passing yards allowed per game and passing yards per pass, is a zone-heavy team despite being 28th in zone coverage grade on PFF. This sets up a huge matchup for Addison since he is second on the team in air-yard share and receptions against zone coverage.
Defensively, the Vikings could struggle to contain DJ Moore, but they are getting a break with the Bears being depleted at running back. If Minnesota can limit Fields from creating with his legs, which they’ve done a good job of, as they’ve allowed just 67 rushing yards to quarterbacks, then I think the Vikings offense can do enough to put them over the top with a win and cover.
Minnesota Vikings (-2.5)