Chicago @ Minnesota
Power rankings: Chicago 21, Minnesota 17
Line update: You're too late! The line has moved significantly toward the model since we posted our recommendations last Tuesday. Minnesota is now a 5.5 point favorite. We have yet another example of #getyourdamnbetsinearly.
Motivation: Both teams are dust and playing for bragging rights.
When Chicago has the ball:
The Bears on offense are 24th in DVOA and 26th in EPA/play. There's been some confusion on who the starting QB is going to be -- we heard last Wednesday that rookie Justin Fields was healthy enough to return, but since he's still on the COVID-19 list, Andy Dalton has been named the starter. The line hasn't budged since the change in QB -- the market correctly believes that there isn't a major difference between the two in terms of efficiency. Among 39 qualifiers, Dalton is 26th in PFF grades (64.8), completes 61.7% of his passes (5.8% below expectation), and gains 6.3 yards per attempt. Both QBs are polar opposites in terms of how they approach the passing game -- Fields has preferred to hold onto the ball longer and chuck it deep, where Dalton averages 2.57 seconds to throw (7th fastest) and has an aDOT of 7.6 (6th shortest). They have a solid offensive line, ranking 5th in ESPN's pass block win rate metric and 10th in run block win rate. It's a classic example of a line that doesn't necessarily have any stars, but has very few weak points, and as a unit are able to protect at a high rate. 39 year old LT Jason Peters, who has delt with knee and foot issues in that last few years, is still a force. There are certainly worse receiving duos than Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson, but the Bears lack options behind the two. TE Cole Kmet, speedster Damiere Byrd, and RB David Montgomery are the next group of receivers by projected target. Montgomery will handle essentially all RB carries. The offense has been terrible both passing the ball (27th in DVOA) and throwing (22nd). They are a run first team, ranking 28th in the NFL is early-down situational neutral pass frequency. The Vikings on defense are 17th in both DVOA and EPA/play. They are left with one of the worst defensive lines in football since losing edge rushing beats Danielle Hunter (pectoral) and Evereson Griffen (personal). As a unit, they rank 29th in pass rush win rate and dead last in run stop win rate. They could also be without Michael Pierce, a run stopping specialist defensive tackle, who missed last week with an illness. They also have a horrific group of corners, a washed Patrick Peterson who ranks 63/118 amongst all corners in PFF grades being the best of the bunch. The secondary is saved by Harrison Smith, who is routinely one of the better safeties in football, and Xavier Woods. LB Anthony Barr is also solid in coverage. As a result, they're much better at covering tight ends and running backs (11th and 3rd in DVOA) than wide receivers (25th against #1 wide receivers, 21st against #2 receivers, and 27th against other receivers by DVOA). On a more general sense, they are far better against the pass (16th in DVOA) than the run (25th).
When the Vikings have the ball:
The Vikings on offense are both 17th in DVOA and EPA/play -- yes, the exact same rating in both categories as their defense. Kirk Cousins is enjoying an excellent season, ranking 5th in PFF passing grades (85.2), completing 66.4% of his passes (2.4% above expectation), and gaining 7.4 yards per attempt. He plays behind a gut-wrenching offensive line that has zero good players outside of RT Brian O'Neil. They rank 26th in pass block win rate and 14th in run block win rate. With Adam Thielen out, they're left with Justin Jefferson handling the ranks at receiver. Jefferson has cemented himself as a top 5 receiver in the game (if not better), ranking 3rd in targets (157), 2nd in yards (1,509), 7th in touchdowns (9), and 3rd in PFF grade (89.8). KJ Osborn, TE Tyler Conklin, and Dalvin Cook will see work in the passing game behind Jefferson, with Cook handling the majority of RB carries. They are far better throwing the ball (11th in DVOA) than running (27th), but HC Mike Zimmer lives in a stone age establish the run land and prefers a balanced approach -- they rank 17th in situation neutral early-down pass frequency. Dalvin Cook is having a down year by his impossibly high standards, but a freight train would have issues finding space behind this line. Throw the damn ball. On defense, the Bears are 13th in DVOA and 20th in EPA/play. The defensive line ranks 17th in pass rush win rate and 30th in run stop win rate. To make matters worse, they'll be without DT Akeim Hicks (ankle). Robert Quinn and Trevis Gipson have both played well at the edge, but the rest of the front 7 is horrid. The secondary is full of holes as well, there simply isn't anybody on the roster who could dream of running with Justin Jefferson. They have an impressive ranking of 10th in DVOA against the pass given their personnel, but are 23rd in DVOA against the run. As for Jefferson, the Bears have struggled covering #1 wide receivers (27th in DVOA), but have been very good against #2 wide receivers (6th in DVOA).