Coming off their worst week of the 2016 season, the Minnesota Vikings could finish off what would be one of the best and most productive weeks of the season with a win over the Chicago Bears Monday night.
Thanks to what happened Sunday to the other two NFC North rivals, the Vikings have a chance to take control of the division and put some significant separation between themselves and the rest of the teams.
In the early games Sunday, Detroit lost at Houston, snapping the Lions’ three-game winning streak and dropping Detroit to 4-4.
Even more important, the Atlanta Falcons scored a late touchdown to knock off Green Bay, dropping the Packers record to 4-3.
With a win tonight, the Vikings could improve to 6-1, giving them a two-game lead over the Packers, which, given that Minnesota already has a win in hand over Green Bay, is effectively a three-game lead. Until the Packers can even up the head-to-head record, which would require a win at Lambeau Field on Christmas Eve, the Vikings will continue to hold the tie-breaker advantage.
A week ago at this time, the Vikings were reeling from their first loss of the season. A week later, they not only have a chance to get back on the winning track, but they will have the opportunity to make a statement and vault themselves an extra game ahead of the competition that they didn’t have one week ago.
VIKINGS-BEARS BY THE NUMBERS
(Note: The rankings of teams stats and players reflect those entering Week 8 of the season. Games played Sunday are not factored in).
- The Vikings have the 31st-ranked offense (31st rushing, 26th passing) and the No. 1-ranked defense (3rd rushing, 4th passing).
- The Bears have the 16th-ranked offense (25th rushing, 11th passing) and the 12th-ranked defense (17th rushing, 16th passing).
- Of the 17 statistical categories that the NFL uses to rank defenses from top to bottom, the Vikings are in the top 10 in 14 of them and in the top five in nine of them.
- The Vikings are averaging 299 yards of offense a game (225 passing, 74 rushing). The Bears are averaging 349 yards a game (261 passing, 88 rushing).
- Minnesota’s defense is allowing 280 yards a game (198 passing, 82 rushing). Chicago is allowing 350 yards a game (243 passing, 107 rushing).
- The Vikings are first in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-11 (16 takeaways, five giveaways). The Bears are tied for 19th at minus-2 (seven takeaways, nine giveaways).
- No team in the NFL entered play this week with more takeaways than the Vikings, despite two-thirds of the league having played one more game.
- Only one team (Buffalo with four) had fewer giveaways than Minnesota.
- Chicago is 26th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on nine of 19 possessions (47.4 percent). Minnesota is 27th at 47.1 percent (eight TDs on 17 possessions).
- The Bears are 13th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 13 of 25 possessions (52 percent). The Vikings are 19th at 57.1 percent (eight touchdowns on 14 possessions).
- Only Seattle (13) has allowed opponents to get into the red zone fewer times than the Vikings.
- Minnesota is 11th in third-down offense, converting on 37 of 89 opportunities (41.6 percent). Chicago is 30th at 32.5 percent ((26 of 80). The league average is 39.5 percent.
- The Vikings are sixth in third-down defense, allowing conversions on just 27 of 79 chances (34.2 percent). The Bears are 16th at 39.6 percent (38 of 96).
- Chicago is second in average yards gained on first down (6.72 yards) – well above the league average of 5.54 yards. Minnesota is last at 4.01 yards.
- The Vikings are first in first-down defense, allowing just 3.89 yards – more than a half-yard better than any other NFL team. The Bears are 12th, allowing 5.38 yards.
- The Vikings are second in average starting point after kickoffs with an average start point of the 26.9-yard line – more than 2 yards better than the league average of the 24.6-yard line. But, the Vikings are last in allowing opponents to start drives after kickoffs on the 27.6-yard line.
- The Bears have four 300-yard passing games – all from injured Brian Hoyer. The Vikings haven’t had a 300-yard passing game.
- Minnesota hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer. Chicago had allowed two 300-yard passing games.
- The Bears have had four 100-yard receiving games – two from Cameron Meredith and one each from Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal. The Vikings have three – two from Stefon Diggs and one from Adam Thielen.
- The Vikings haven’t allowed a 100-yard receiver. The Bears have allowed three.
- Chicago has two 100-yard rushing games, both from rookie Jordan Howard. The Vikings haven’t had a 100-yard rusher this season.
- The Vikings haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. Chicago has allowed two.
- Tonight’s starting quarterback for the Bears, Jay Cutler, has played in just two games and hasn’t thrown enough passes to qualify for the league lead in the comparative categories.
- Sam Bradford is 29th in pass attempts (166), 27th in completions (112), eighth in completion percentage (67.5), 28th in passing yards (1,214), tied for 22nd in touchdown passes (7), tied for third in interceptions (1) and eighth in passer rating (100.3).
- Bradford is second in fourth-quarter passer rating at 120.9.
- Bradford is seventh in third-down passer rating at 96.1.
- Howard in 22nd in the league in rushing with 352 yards. Jerick McKinnon leads the Vikings with 217 yards, which ranks him 34th.
- Zach Miller is tied for 24th in receptions with 33. Jeffery is tied for 29th with two receptions. Diggs leads the Vikings with 27 receptions, which ties him for 52nd.
- Jeffery leads the Bears with 520 receiving yards, which is good for 13th place in the league. Diggs leads the Vikings with 390 yards, which ties him for 31st.
- Blair Walsh is tied for 24th place in scoring among kickers with 41 points. Chicago’s Connor Barth is 29th with 39 points.
- Jeffery leads Chicago with 520 yards from scrimmage (all receiving), which ranks him 31st in the league. Diggs leads the Vikings with 388 yards from scrimmage (390 receiving, minus-2 rushing), which ties him for 59th place.
- Jeff Locke is 25th in the league in punting average at 43.8 yards. Chicago’s Pat O’Donnell is 28th at 43.1 yards.
- Locke is 15th in net punting average at 40.6 yards. O’Donnell is 30th with an average of 36.8 yards.
- Marcus Sherels is third in punt return average at 14.6 yards. Royal is seventh with an average of 11.8 yards.
- Entering Week 8, there had been only five punts returned for touchdowns. The Vikings and Bears have three of them – two from Sherels and one from Royal.
- Cordarrelle Patterson is averaging 29.9 yards per kick return, which would be enough to lead the league in return average, but he doesn’t have enough returns (7) to qualify for the league lead.
- Four players in tonight’s game were tied for seventh in the league in interceptions – Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes, Andrew Sendejo and Trae Waynes and Chicago’s Tracy Porter.
- Chicago’s Willie Young is tied for sixth place in sacks with six. Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter are all tied for 21st with four sacks each.