A weekly look at the Vikings’ upcoming matchup featuring numbers that shouldn’t give the reader a headache or require an advanced mathematics degree to decipher.
In yet another disheartening effort, the Vikings were dismantled by the Packers, 38-25. Two late touchdowns made the score more respectable for the Vikes. Five Matt Barkley interceptions doomed Chicago in a 41-21 loss to Washington. The Bears last won Dec. 4 against the hapless 49ers.
Counting one playoff game won by the Bears, this will be the 111th meeting between the two franchises. The Vikings hold a 57-51-2 advantage. The teams last met on Halloween night in Chicago, where the Bears spooked the favored Vikings, 20-10. Minnesota managed just 258 yards of offense in the lackluster performance.
Minnesota’s second drive against the Packers on Saturday resulted in eight plays, 65 yards and three points. In the entire first half the prior week versus the Colts, the Vikings produced 13 plays, 69 yards and no points.
In the first half of the Green Bay game, Minnesota passed for 226 yards. Entering the contest, the Vikings were averaging 230.9 yards passing per game.
Vikings wideout Adam Thielen caught five passes for 71 yards in the first quarter against the Packers. He had 20 catches for 74 yards in his first two seasons in purple.
The Vikings generated more turnovers (three) in the season opener versus Tennessee than they have in their last five games combined (two).
The Minnesota defense has allowed more points in the last two weeks (72) than in its first five games combined (63).
The Vikings have scored just 49 first-quarter points in 2016. They have been blanked in the first quarter seven times.
Minnesota is now the second franchise since 1970 to be a season’s last undefeated team and fail to qualify for the playoffs. The 1993 Saints, who began the season 5-0 before stumbling to an 8-8 finish, are the other members of that “exclusive” club.
On Saturday, Minnesota accumulated more first downs (22 to 19), yards rushing (93 to 40) and yards passing (382 to 347) than Green Bay, yet the Packers dominated the Vikings on the scoreboard.
The Vikings are sixth in the league at plus-7; the Bears are 30th at minus-16.
The stat sheet reveals a brilliant day for Sam Bradford against the Packers on Christmas Eve. The Vikings QB completed 34 of 50 passes for 382 yards (7.64 per attempt) and three touchdowns in compiling a sparkling 110.6 rating. However, two of the touchdowns and 156 of the yards came when the game was out of reach. When the Vikings badly needed touchdowns in their first two ventures into Green Bay territory, Bradford and the Minnesota offense couldn’t deliver. The Vikings had to settle for field goals and spend the rest of the afternoon chasing points.
The day really served as a microcosm of Bradford’s first season in Minnesota. Like on Saturday, Bradford’s statistics for 2016 are excellent. He’s completed an NFL-high 71.3 percent of his passes, thrown for 17 touchdowns and just four interceptions, and recorded a 98.3 rating. The true impact of those numbers is debatable. Bradford’s completion percentage is high because he often settles for check-downs rather than throw into tight windows to compete for first downs. His yards-per-attempt average (7.0) ranks 19th, but even that number is inflated, thanks to garbage-time yardage. Of course, it can be argued that Bradford would boast more impactful numbers if he had an effective offensive line in front of him. He was sacked four more times on Saturday, bringing his season total to 37. He’s been sacked 14 times in the fourth quarter alone this year.
Three receivers in particular have benefitted from Bradford’s accuracy to post solid campaigns: Thielen, Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Thielen enjoyed an amazing game last week against the Packers, catching a dozen passes for 202 yards and two TDs. Three of his four catches and 112 of his yards came on deep-right passes. For the year, Thielen has 68 receptions for 960 yards (14.1) and five TDs. He’s been targeted on third down a team-high 26 times and has produced 17 catches, 263 yards and 11 first downs. Diggs has been slowed by injuries but is still the team’s leading receiver with 84 catches for 903 yards (10.8) and three TDs. Rudolph has been excellent all season, posting career-highs in receptions (72) and yards (723).
The Vikings average 239.1 yards passing a game (18th).
Running on Empty
What more can be said about the Vikings’ historically poor running attack? They average a league-low 72.1 yards rushing a game and 3.1 yards per carry. To put Minnesota’s struggles in perspective, Chicago’s Jordan Howard has nearly three times the yardage of the Vikings’ leading rusher (Jerick McKinnon with 450 yards), and has more yards rushing than the Vikings’ entire team.
The 2016 Bears are not the Monsters of the Midway, especially when it comes to defending the run. Chicago is 27th in the league, surrendering 121.7 yards rushing a game. Last week, Washington steamrolled the Bears for 208 yards on the ground. More than half of those yards came against the right side of the Chicago defense.
Against the pass, the Bears rank sixth in terms of yards allowed (223.2), but there have been few big plays as the unit has only intercepted seven passes. Last week, they gave up 270 yards to Washington’s Kirk Cousins, who was rarely pressured. For the year, the Bears have 37 sacks.
Against Washington, third-stringer Barkley threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns. He led his team to 31 first downs. Yet the Bears lost by 20 points, mainly because Barkley threw five interceptions. When pressured, Barkley struggled, completing 4 of 10 for 35 yards with two TDs and three interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. Since replacing the injured Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer, Barkley has completed 119 of 202 (58.9 percent) for 1,486 yards (7.4 per attempt) with eight TDs, 12 interceptions and 70.3 rating.
As a team, the Bears are averaging 255.3 yards passing a game, which is 13th in the league. The primary receivers are Cameron Meredith (62-827) and Alshon Jeffrey (51-811).
The highlight of Chicago’s offense in 2016 is Howard. The rookie has rushed for 1,178 yards (5.1 yards per carry). Howard has been especially effective on first down, picking up 753 yards and averaging 5.9 a carry. Last week against Washington, Howard had his typically strong game, rushing for 119 yards on only 18 carries. According to PFF, Howard broke seven tackles and averaged 6.0 yards per carry when running through the A-gaps.
For the year, Chicago is averaging 103.5 yards rushing a game, which ranks 19th.
The once-vaunted Minnesota defense continued to struggle last week against Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers chewed up the Vikings, passing for 347 yards and four TDs. In the first half alone, Rodgers produced five pass plays of 20-plus yards on his way to becoming the first QB to top 300 yards versus the Purple in 2016. Rodgers’ main target was wideout Jordy Nelson, who snagged nine passes for 154 yards and two TDs.
The Vikings did manage to sack Rodgers four times, but he never flinched. Per PFF, Rodgers had a 139.2 rating when pressured (7 of 10 for 109 yards and a TD) and a 135.0 rating in a clean pocket (21 of 28 for 238 yards and three TDs).
Minnesota limited red-hot running back Ty Montgomery to 23 yards on nine carries. However, the ease in which the Packers threw the ball on the Vikes, especially in the first half, rendered the running game meaningless.
One bright spot for Minnesota on defense was linebacker Eric Kendricks, who had 2.5 sacks and six solo tackles. According to PFF, Kendricks held his coverage responsibilities to under two yards after the catch.
Per game, the Vikings allow 212.5 yards passing (fourth) and 101.9 yards rushing (15th). Paced by Danielle Hunter’s dozen, the Vikings have registered 39 sacks. Minnesota has 12 interceptions, but none since its encounter with Arizona on Nov. 20.
Best of the Rest
When the Vikings have the ball
- Vikings points per game: 19.3 (26th)
- Bears points allowed per game: 24.1 (19th)
- Vikings yards per game: 311 (30th)
- Bears yards allowed per game: 344.9 (13th)
- Vikings third-down conversion percentage: 37.31 (22nd)
- Bears opponent third-down conversion percentage: 39.90 (18th)
- Vikings red zone TD scoring percentage: 43.48 (30th)
- Bears opponent red zone TD scoring percentage: 50.91 (7th)
When the Bears have the ball
- Chicago points per game: 17.9 (28th)
- Vikings points allowed per game: 19.8 (9th)
- Chicago yards per game: 358.7 (13th)
- Vikings yards allowed per game: 314.3 (2nd)
- Chicago third-down conversion percentage: 38.64 (18th)
- Vikings opponent third-down conversion percentage: 39.59 (15th)
- Chicago red zone TD scoring percentage: 53.33 (20th)
- Vikings opponent red zone TD scoring percentage: 57.50 (23rd)
FiveThirtyEight calculates that the Vikings have a 77 percent chance of beating the Bears on Sunday.