Preview and pick for Monday Night football
There is little doubt that the lack of offensive imagination has handicapped the Chicago Bears greatly. And head coach Matt Nagy is making a change in the approach as his team, reeling from a three-game losing streak, get set to play host to the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football, slated for an 8:15 PM ET kickoff at Soldier Field.
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The Bears are really bumbling when it comes to moving the football. They are 29th in the NFL with a pathetic 29.7 yards per drive. And they are 29th in scoring as well.
Nagy is not only the head honcho, he is also the guy who has been calling the plays, which is somewhat unusual in the NFL. But he has decided to hand that duty over to Bill Lazor, his offensive coordinator. Lazor, in his position, has to be considered someone at least partially responsible for this team’s poor production, but perhaps there are subtle ways in which his higher degree of involvement can make a difference.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are pretty much where they want to be offensively. They are leading the NFL in yards per rushing attempt (5.5), with the brilliant Dalvin Cook leading the way. He has 369 yards in his last two games, and that’s no joke. Neither is his backup, Alexander Mattison.
The jury has long been out on quarterback Kirk Cousins, who signed a huge free agent contract but has fallen short of expectations. Now he is getting the ball further down the field – evidence of such is that he leads the league in “Intended Air Yards” per completion. That means he is throwing it further past the line of scrimmage than anyone else when he is completing a pass. Along those lines, his partner in crime is rookie Justin Jefferson, who has averaged 14.3 yards per target and 18.4 yards per catch. Both of those figures are phenomenal.
So maybe it is no surprise that at BetOnline, the Vikings are the road favorites here:
Minnesota Vikings -3 (-122)
Chicago Bears +3 (+102)
Over 43.5 points -105
Under 43.5 points -115
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We’d like to be able to say that the Bears’ defense is rock-solid against the run, but it’s been merely pretty good. They have allowed 4.1 yards per carry, and that suggests the Vikes may be able to get something going with Cook. And they have not been one of the league’s best in rushing the passer either.
However, Chuck Pagano‘s coverage schemes have been pretty successful, and we all know about Cousins’ tendency to blow up from time to time. He has been intercepted on ten occasions already. And the Bears might be able to hold some ground in the red zone; they have allowed opponents a touchdown on just 41.9% of their trips inside the 20. Not only is that the best in the NFL, BY FAR, they are the only team that is under 50% in that statistical category.
Defensively, Minnesota has been sieve-like in the secondary, allowing 288 yards through the air per game. Their opponents have thrown the ball only 57% of the time from scrimmage.
We could reasonably expect a lot more than that from Chicago, because they have lost their top running back, David Montgomery, to a concussion, and they don’t have a ready backup like Minnesota does. In fact, no available running back on their roster has any carries for them this season. We’re certain that wideout Cordarelle Patterson (ex-Viking) will get some activity on jet sweeps and such, but Lazor actually got fired five years ago from his coordinator’s job in Miami (reportedly) because of his disdain for the run game.
We’re not sure how long this play-calling change will last for the Bears, or how it will work out. But there should be some value in the fact that the Vikings staff doesn’t know what’s coming. And there’s an interesting thing that the Bears’ Nick Foles – who’s averaging 2.8 fewer yards per attempt than Cousins – has been contending, which is that he doesn’t actually have time to execute the plays Nagy has been calling for him.
Presumably this is something Lazor is going to address. And that could make a difference in the way the Bears unfold with their plays. maybe it is worth mentioning that Lazor was Foles’ quarterback coach with the Eagles in 2013, when he had a record-setting 27-2 TD-INT ratio.
After three straight losses, one can’t imagine this Chicago defense playing any other way but super-focused. Let’s be honest – Minnesota has the fundamental advantages. But this could be an interesting Monday Night home dog money line play for the Bears. They are currently +158 to win outright, and you can get a price of +208 that they win by anywhere from one to 13 points, not to mention +375 for a margin of 1-to-6.
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