Neither of these teams has anything to play for in Week 17 — and with the Vikings locked into the 6 seed, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see some of their key players rested. This will be a spot to keep an eye on this week; but at the very least, we can assume the Vikings will hold out Dalvin Cook in preparation for the playoffs, and it won’t be a shock if a few others get a chance to heal up before Minnesota hits the road for what is now appearing likely to be a game at the Superdome in the first round of the playoffs.
The Matchup ::
- Only two games on the Main Slate carry a lower Over/Under than the opening line for Bears at Vikings of 41.5; both of these defenses rank top eight in opponent points per game; when these teams played earlier in the year, the Bears won 16-6
- The Vikings have only five games this year in which they have scored 20 or fewer points; they also have five games this year in which they have scored 30+
- The Bears have, incredibly, managed to score 20 or fewer points in 10 of 15 games, including back-to-back games following a two-game stretch in which they looked competent; the Bears have scored 16 or fewer points in more than half their games
- The Broncos are the only team that has allowed a lower red zone touchdown rate than the Vikings
- The Bears rank 22nd in red zone touchdown rate on offense
- Minnesota has allowed the eighth most catches and the sixth most touchdowns to wide receivers, though they rank middle of the pack in yards
- Allen Robinson has double-digit targets in four of his last five games, after seeing double-digits in only two of the first 10; only eight players have more targets in the red zone than Robinson, and only two have more targets inside the 10
- In his last eight games, Anthony Miller has target counts of 9 // 11 // 13 // 15, and also has target counts of 1 // 2 // 2 // 4
- In his last eight games, Mitchell Trubisky has yardage totals of 244 // 278 // 334 // 338, and also has yardage totals of 125 // 157 // 173 // 190
- Trubisky played only two pass defenses in that stretch that rank top 11 in DVOA against the pass, going for 190 (LAR :: 11) and 157 (KC :: 6) yards
- The Vikings rank eighth in DVOA against the pass
The Game ::
Since writing up the bullet points above, the Over/Under on this game has plunged to 37.0, with the Vikings having zero reason to risk the health of Dalvin Cook // Alexander Mattison in a meaningless game one week before they will have to lean on them in the playoffs (and with bettors assuming the obvious: that Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen will not play the entire game when a week of “getting healthy” would do a whole lot more for this team). On a 15-game slate, it’s unlikely any player from the Vikings provides the sort of score you will need for a winning Week 17 roster — with uncertain playing time on the Vikings’ stars (in what would be a matchup downgrade even if we knew we were getting a full complement of fully-engaged snaps), and with a backfield that looks messy after Mike Boone bombed on Monday night and ended up playing only 18 of 54 snaps before handing over the reins to long-since-failed second round pick Ameer Abdullah.
This game should have a “get it over with” feel on the Vikings’ side, with Cousins // Diggs // Thielen carrying risk and functioning as a bet you should only make if you believe you can capture slate-winning upside at rock-bottom ownership. (Note: the rock-bottom ownership component is highly likely to be in place, so it’s basically about chasing here only if you want to make a bet that the Vikings play this game to win and are able to break through a challenging matchup against the Bears.) The backfield requires a little more attention, as pricing was set before Abdullah ascended to what might be the lead role on this offense — though that pricing still has him up to “backup” status, instead of fourth-string (minimum-priced) status, as FanDuel/DraftKings were both out in front of this situation at the beginning of the week. Assuming Mattison misses and we get no further news here, Abdullah “could” be in line for 15 to 20 carries and three or four catches (Abdullah had six catches in comeback mode Monday night, but Cook himself has only five games north of four catches this year), against a Bears defense that appears likely to still be without Akiem Hicks, making this a middling running back matchup (albeit in a game with low scoring expectations). If we get news that Abdullah will remain in a dominant role, we can switch from pencil to pen in marking him down for those 15 to 20 carries and three to four catches — with his talent limitations and the game environment still giving him a moderate raw score projection, but making him a viable salary saver for role-driven production.
The Bears have been wildly ineffective running the ball over the last two months, which has led to them leaning more heavily on Mitchell Trubisky than they would probably prefer — with Mitch throwing the ball 38+ times in four of his last six games. It’s almost impossible to predict which version of this offense will show up on a given week, but Mitch has shown an ability to play “point guard” in this offense when faith is shown in him; and while higher-scoring contests are generally required for him to post a slate-winning score, it’s not outside the realm of reasonable possibilities that he could put together a nice effort against a Vikings team that may already have its attention turned toward the playoffs — perhaps even using this practice week to focus more on self-scouting (the way smart teams use a first-round bye in the playoffs) than on preparing specifically for a Week 17 opponent they already know decently well. If going here, you’ll capture low ownership, as the Over/Under should chase away the field — and you’ll have a clear stacking partner with Allen Robinson seeing double-digit looks in four of his last five games. Anthony Miller also has a shot at seeing his targets bounce back up in this spot if you wanted to go even further off the board.
JM’s Interpretation ::
I don’t like raw expectations on Abdullah (even Cook himself has posted only a middling raw score in five of his last six games), and I could see him turning into chalk this week if news emerges to support him as the lead back. With that said, I’ll be keeping him in consideration until I have a complete feel for how pricing shakes out on this slate, as a lead back at a low price is always a good way to make other pieces fit. Outside of Abdullah, of course, I’ll be planning to leave the Vikings alone.
I’ll probably end up leaving the Bears’ side alone as well — though this has less to do with the setup and more to do with the inexplicable pricing, with Robinson getting no discount for the offense he’s attached to, and with Miller priced up for his hot stretch of production. I do like Mitch’s chances of a strong game compared to what would be expected from this Over/Under, however, and I certainly wouldn’t be averse to the idea of chasing a few Bears stacks in large-field play — knowing that ownership here will be ultra-low, and that it’s not impossible for Mitch/A-Rob or Mitch/Miller to provide genuine upside to close out the year.