A weekly look at the Minnesota Vikings’ upcoming matchup featuring numbers that shouldn’t give the reader a headache or require an advanced mathematics degree to decipher.
Minnesota (5-1) at Chicago (1-6)
The Vikings played like they were still on their bye, as they were manhandled by the Eagles, 21-10; the uninspired Bears lost to Green Bay 26-10 on Thursday night.
Including one playoff game (won by the Bears), this will be the 110th meeting between the two franchises. The Vikings hold a 57-50-2 edge. The most recent matchup occurred last December in Minnesota when Teddy Bridgewater threw for four touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Vikings to a 38-17 win.
In two consecutive offensive snaps against the Eagles, the Vikings committed more turnovers (two) than they had through five games.
The Bears have 169 more yards rushing than the Vikings on 26 fewer attempts.
Minnesota has the best average starting field position in the NFL (its own 32.5-yard line). Despite working with a shorter field than every team, the Vikings rank 28th in the league in averaging 1.47 points per drive.
House of Horrors
Last season’s 23-20 win over the Bears in Chicago was the first victory for Minnesota at Soldier Field since 2007. In their last 16 games in Chicago, the Vikings are 3-13.
Against the Eagles, Minnesota averaged a paltry 2.55 yards on first down. The Vikings’ average third-down distance was 7.84 yards.
The Vikings accumulated 282 yards of offense versus Philadelphia; however 167 of those yards were gained when the game was effectively over.
Minnesota’s Matt Asiata averaged 4.58 yards a carry in rushing for 55 yards on Sunday, but 29 of those yards came on a fluky third-and-long play.
Despite four turnovers in Philadelphia, Minnesota still boasts an NFL-best 1.8 per-game turnover margin; the Bears are 19th at minus-0.3.
The Bears were flagged 10 times for 108 yards against the Packers. Chicago had more penalty yards than rushing yards (69).
Sam Bradford’s return to the City of Brotherly Love was anything but friendly. In by far his worst outing of his brief Vikings career, Bradford completed 24 of 41 passes for 224 yards with one touchdown and his first interception of the season. Coming into the game, Bradford boasted a passer rating under pressure of 108.6 (per Pro Football Focus), an overall rating of 109.7, and averaged 7.9 yards per attempt. In Philly, his under-pressure rating was 16.4, his overall rating was 71.6 and he averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt.
The drop in production was a direct result of poor pass protection, combined with play calling that emphasized more deep drops than the quick-passing attack successfully employed prior to the bye week. The Eagles sacked Bradford six times, hit him on 19 occasions and forced four fumbles, two of which they recovered.
Offensive Offensive Line
The Minnesota offensive line has struggled all season, but Sunday’s effort in South Philadelphia was a new low. Pro Football Focus singled out right tackle Jeremiah Sirles for one of the worst performances of the week, as he permitted two sacks, two hits and four hurries in 39 pass-blocking snaps. Newly signed left tackle Jake Long had an even rougher afternoon, allowing two strip-sacks and a hurry in just 10 pass-blocking snaps. Poor pass protection wasn’t limited to the offensive line. Pro Football Focus noted that Asiata failed to shield Bradford. In 10 pass-protection snaps, Asiata surrendered a sack and four hurries.
Grounded Ground Game
Many expected the Minnesota ground attack to come alive versus the Eagles, who were gashed for 230 yards by the Redskins the previous week. It didn’t happen. The Vikings managed 93 yards. For the year, the Vikings are 31st in the league in yards rushing (446), despite totaling the eighth-most rushing attempts in the NFL (171). Minnesota’s per-carry average is an anemic 2.6.
Red Zone Red Light
In their first three trips to the red zone against the Eagles, the Vikings turned the ball over twice and failed to convert on fourth-and-inches. For the season, Minnesota’s red zone scoring percentage is 47.06.
Breakout Versus The Bears?
Can the Vikings get back on track offensively on Monday night? The Bears’ mediocre defense will provide that opportunity. Chicago is 20th in points allowed (24.1 a game), 23rd in points allowed per drive (2.12) and 12th in yards given up (350 a game).
Opposing quarterbacks have compiled a 93.5 rating versus Chicago, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt. The Bears have intercepted four passes and recorded 15 sacks. Chicago is surrendering 3.9 yards a carry and 5.3 yards per play.
Minnesota averages 21.5 points (18th) and 299 yards (31st) a game. The Vikings are passing on 55 percent of their plays and have a decent third-down conversion rate of 41.57 percent.
This could be the week Minnesota’s wide receivers have a major impact. According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago is giving up 200-plus yards to wide receivers per game. Devante Bausby had a particularly rough outing against the Packers, allowing 10 receptions on 13 targets for 85 yards.
For the Vikings, Cordarrelle Patterson has the best catch percentage of the wide receivers. The former first-round pick has snagged 18 of 21 passes thrown his way (85.7 percent) for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, most of those are near the line of scrimmage.
Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler has only played seven quarters this season due to a right thumb injury, but he is expected to return against the Vikings on Monday night. Prior to his injury, Cutler completed 28 of 46 passes (60.9 percent) for 373 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 75.7 rating. He was sacked eight times.
Cutler is 8-5 in Minnesota matchups, completing 66 percent of his passes for 3,048 yards with 26 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 91.8 rating. However, the veteran quarterback is winless in his last three starts versus the Vikes.
Primary targets for Cutler will be tight end Zach Miller (33 catches for 305 yards and three touchdowns) and Alshon Jeffery (32 receptions for 520 yards). Last week, the Packers limited Jeffery to just three catches on nine targets for 33 yards.
The Bears are last in the league in both points per game (15.9) and per drive (1.29). They pass at a 65 percent clip and are converting 32.5 percent of third downs.
Purple People Eaters
Despite failing to sack Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and hitting him only seven times, Minnesota’s defense played well last week. The Vikings picked off Wentz twice and held him to a 52.4 rating. The defense gave up just 13 points and limited Philadelphia to 239 yards.
On paper, the Bears offense shouldn’t be much of a challenge for the Viking defense. Minnesota tops the league in allowing only 14 points a game and 1.12 points per drive. The Vikings are surrendering 4.4 yards per play, which also is best in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have a poor 63.7 rating versus Minnesota in completing 55.7 percent of their passes and averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. The Vikings have picked off nine passes and have 19 sacks.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Minnesota has a 75 percent chance of beating Chicago.
WhatIfSports.com‘s NFL simulation engine had the Vikings winning 79.7 percent of the 501 simulated matchups versus the Bears. The average score was 27-16.