Stats Favor Vikings, Oddmakers Don't

The Vikings may be pregame underdogs to the Chicago Bears, but the stats say they shouldn't be – both in a stats comparison between the two teams this season and a look at last year's matchup at Soldier Field. Plus, get notes and quotes from Winter Park on Thursday.

In NFL pregame analyses, one team usually has distinct advantages over another in certain areas of offense and defense, and vice versa, but a glance at the most telling statistics between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears gives a tale of two similar teams. Still, the edge in many of the categories goes to the visiting Vikings, who are 5½-point underdogs.

The Bears were rated one of the preseason favorites in the NFC after making it to the Super Bowl last season while the Vikings tripped their way to the 6-10 finish line. This season, things are strikingly similar in a number of important areas between the two teams.

Before Chicago's win over Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday, when the Vikings had a bye week, both teams were 1-3. A look at their statistical snapshots for 2007 so far backs their similar records.

  • The Vikings (1-3) are averaging 16.8 points per game while the Bears (2-3) have put up 17.4.

  • While Chicago has scored more points, Minnesota owns the advantage in yards per game, 313.3 to 253.6 – with a big advantage in rushing offense 135 yards per game to 82.6. It may be surprising to discover that the Vikings also own a slight advantage in the passing game as well, 178.3 yards per game to 171.0.

  • They are within one minute of each other in time of possession, with the Vikings holding a 47-second advantage at 28:31, but both teams have allowed their opponent to control the ball more.

  • Neither team has been particularly great at converting third downs, which obviously leads to their less-than-stellar time-of-possession statistic. The Vikings have converted 35.1 percent of their third downs while the Bears have managed only 30.9 percent.

  • The Vikings have also allowed their opponents fewer points per game with an average of 14.8 compared to the Bears' 23.0. The same holds true in yardage surrendered, with 328.8 given up on average by Minnesota, 16 yards fewer than the Bears.

  • Minnesota also has the advantage in rush defense, holding opponents to 62 yards on the ground per game while the Bears allow 98.8 yards on average.

  • Chicago does get the advantage when it comes to pass defense, allowing 246 yards per game compared to the Vikings' 266.8.

    The Vikings also held a decided advantage over the Bears in numerous statistics from last year's matchup at Soldier Field.

    In that 2006 matchup, the Vikings had 21 first downs to the Bears' 6, 190 yards rushing to the Bears' 83, 156 yards passing to Bears' 24, five defensive sacks to the Bears' one, one fumble lost to the Bears' two, and a time-of-possession advantage of 39:21 to the Bear's 20:39.

    The Bears did hold the advantage in a couple of key areas. They produced 70 yards on three punt returns vs. the Vikings' 10 yards on three returns and they intercepted four Brad Johnson passes compared to the Vikings intercepting three Rex Grossman passes.

    But when it was over, the Bears had a 23-13 win thanks to Devin Hester's 45-yard punt return for a touchdown and Danieal Manning's 54-yard interception return for a touchdown.

    While the Bears are favored and playing at home, the statistics say that the Vikings should have the advantage. But there is one more statistic that favors the Bears: recent history in the NFC North. Since 2005, the Bears have an 11-3 record vs. NFC North teams while the Vikings are 7-7.

    NOTES

  • Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was asked about the team's perceived struggles in the red zone, and he said the troubles seem to begin even before the Vikings hit the opponent's 20-yard line.

    "I don't even know if our troubles have been in the red zone. Our trouble has been once we hit the 35-yard line. I'm comfortable right now if we're on the minus-1 or the minus-10 that we're going to get on the other side of the 50. We'll move the ball, but it seems like when we get to the plus-35 – and I'm not telling you anything I didn't just tell the offense – it's nothing on the defense," Bevell said. "It hasn't been anything that the defense has done to us, it's been what we've done to ourselves, whether it's a missed assignment, a penalty, just little things that have happened that we've inflicted on ourselves. That's our main focus – to finish drives and continue to stay focused through our drives. I think our average drive is eight plays, our average drive is four minutes, which is very strong offensively. But we have to finish them."

  • Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier played for the Bears from 1981-86, including their Super Bowl XX win, as a starting cornerback before his career ended earlier with a knee injury. He also faced the Bears in Super Bowl XLI as a member of the Indianapolis Colts coaching staff last season. He said the Bears haven't changed their style of offense much since the Super Bowl, despite having Brian Griese as their starting quarterback now and being without running back Thomas Jones, now with the New York Jets.

    "They are still a tough, hard-nosed team, a very physical team. There is no drop-off in that area. They are obviously very opportunistic; you saw that on Monday night," Frazier said. "They really capitalize on your mistakes and try to create mistakes. And then on offense, just a grind-it-out style and looking for big plays. … They haven't changed a lot. They want to control the clock with the ground game and try to get big plays in the passing game. They are very similar to what I saw when we watched tape getting ready for the Super Bowl."

  • For the Vikings on Thursday, QB Jackson (groin), S Dwight Smith (hamstring) and LB Ben Leber (ribs) were all limited in participation, just like Wednesday. DE Erasmus James was added to the practice report as a limited participant with a shoulder injury.

    For the Bears, WR Bernard Berrian (toe), DT Tommie Harris (knee), T John Tait (ankle), CB Nathan Vasher (groin) and DT Darwin Walker (knee) did not participate in practice, just like Wednesday. Also not participating in Thursday's practice for the Bears were LB Brendon Ayanbadejo (foot) and LB Lance Briggs (hamstring). G Ruben Brown, who was limited on Wednesday with a shoulder injury, practiced fully, as did CB Charles Tillman (ankle), who did not participate on Wednesday.
  • Even without James' shoulder injury popping up on the injury report, it was looking like he would still be deactivated for Sunday's game. On Wednesday, he was still looking like he was practicing behind starter Kenechi Udeze and Ray Edwards and backups Brian Robison and Jayme Mitchell. The real beneficiary of Darrion Scott moving to the injured reserve with his fractured foot would seem to be defensive tackle Fred Evans, according to our best guess.

    Evans, an Aug. 12 signee with the Vikings, has been active for only one game so far, registering a quarterback hurry.

    "It is tough going from a two-gap system to a system where we are asking you to get up the field right now – let's go," Frazier said of Evans' slow progress toward the playing field. "So he is making that transition, and we feel like if there is a week, this is the week we want him to take that giant step. We need him this week and we are going to monitor his progress over the course of the week, but the way they want to run the football, we need him. So we think he is just about there."

  • Former Vikings cornerback Dovonte Edwards had a tryout earlier this week with the Detroit Lions.

  • Former Vikings guard Isaac Snell was signed by the Denver Broncos off of Tennessee's practice squad.

  • Linebacker Jordan Beck, who had a tryout with the Vikings last month, also had a tryout with the Broncos this week.

  • Former Vikings practice squad player Brandon Archer had a tryout with the Denver Broncos, while undrafted free agent offensive lineman Josh Day, who was with the Vikings this offseason, had a tryout with the Detroit Lions.


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