The Minnesota Vikings were humming along when they came to an unexpected bump in the road at Mile High. But they are still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot in the NFC.
What they most certainly have to do is win the "winnable" games.
One of them takes place on Monday night, when they take on the Chicago Bears in a game scheduled for 8:15 PM ET at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Vikings had a streak of five straight wins up until they blew a nine-point lead at Denver last week. The 21-20 loss was a bitter pill to swallow, but Minnesota is still very much in the playoff picture. At 6-5, they are two games behind the Detroit Lions, and they are tied with the Seattle Seahawks for one of the wild card spots.
Only one of their last six opponents have scored more than 21 points against hem.
Offensively, the Vikes have not yet felt the effect of losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to an Achilles injury. That's because Joshua Dobbs has stepped in and made some good things happen. And what's impressive is that he came into the huddle in extremely short notice. That he was an honors student in aerodynamics at Tennessee testifies as to his ability to absorb concepts.
Dobbs has thrown for 647 yards and run for 131 more, and he has thrown only one interception.
QB Justin Fields has recently gotten back into action for the Bears after a thumb injury, and he almost led them to a victory against the Lions last time out. Fields had 104 rushing yards, which brought him back to the kinds of levels he showed last year on the way to 1000-plus yards. He also threw for 189 yards, and had his team in real position for victory at Ford Field.
The Bears led by twelve points with three minutes left. But Detroit bounced back with two very late touchdowns and added a safety for good measure. So Chicago wound up a 31-26 loser.
In the Monday Night Football betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the Vikings are the favorites:
Minnesota Vikings -3 (-109)
Chicago Bears +3 (-111)
Over 43.5 points -107
Under 43.5 points -113
Dobbs will not have Justin Jefferson at his disposal. Jefferson has also missed six games in a row with a hamstring injury. That leaves the Vikings with offensive options that are more limited, but this is something we've said before. The win streak came during Jefferson's absence. And, well, Minnesota has one of the better tight ends around in TJ Hockenson (736 yards) as well as a rookie (Jordan Addison) who has averaged over 14 yards a catch and has scored seven touchdowns.
The running game, averaging less than 3.9 yards per carry, isn't necessarily something to be counted on. And they probably won't, and that will probably mitigate the fact that the Bears have surrendered only 3.4 yards per rush attempt,
Chicago isn't so stout defending air attacks. So it basically comes down to what Dobbs can do passing it and improvising with his feet versus what Chicago can accomplish with their formidable ground game, supplemented by Fields, who was confident enough to carry the ball eighteen times last week.
Maybe the "X" factor is Chicago's DJ Moore, averaging 15 yards a reception. Then again, maybe it's the fact that the Bears have been dreadful rushing the passer (15 sacks) and Minnesota's offensive line grades out as the league's best in pass blocking, according to the good folks at Pro Football Focus.
A team that can show out without Cousins and Jefferson in these past weeks has to get our vote in the end. Minnesota.
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