Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Justin Jefferson hit injured reserve this week with a hamstring injury – he’ll miss the next four weeks. Quick side note there – I don’t personally believe he would pull some “our team is out of it and Kirk Cousins got traded, I’ll prolong this absence” type antics.
- K.J. Osborn has run 194 routes this season (seventh most in the league), 121 of which have come from the slot. That means we’re likely to see both Jordan Addison and Brandon Powell involved from 11-personnel – the big question is whether it’s Addison or Powell from heavy sets (21- and 12-personnel).
- The Bears are likely to be in some deep water at running back this week – more on this below.
How minnesota will try to Win ::
The Vikings continue to play with extreme pace (third fastest overall pace at 25.8 seconds per play) and extreme pass rates (first in pass attempts per game at 40.8 and fourth in pass rate over expectation) on offense while Brian Flores does his best Wink Martindale impression on defense, leading the league in blitz rate by more than 10 percent (lolz) but changing course from Martindale’s man-heavy ways to run league-average rates of man and zone behind. While not necessarily successful in either defensive alignment, they have been far worse when in man, allowing 9.7 yards per target in that coverage compared to 7.1 when in zone. Considering teams typically play heavier rates of zone coverage against the Bears due to Fields’ mobility (and other rushing quarterbacks), expect that to be the percentage solution here.
Cam Akers has played exactly 29 percent of the team’s snaps in each week since being acquired prior to Week 4, but his opportunity share shot up in his second time out for the Vikings. That said, the negative game environment against the Chiefs could be the primary causal factor there as he saw exactly seven opportunities in each game. The negative game environment last week also led to reduced rates of 12-personnel and a larger emphasis on 11-personnel, which included higher utilization of fullback C.J. Ham in the backfield with no other back, reducing Alexander Mattison’s snap rate to just 51 percent. It doesn’t seem like a full takeover from Akers is imminent here, but we could see a continued emphasis on Ham in game environments where the Vikings find themselves behind. Contrary to popular belief, the Bears run defense is non-terrible, allowing just 1.17 yards before contact and 3.7 yards per carry this season. Consider the Bears a pass-funnel defense until further notice.
Continuing that discussion, Chicago has yielded 7.7 net yards per pass attempt this season, which ranks second worst in the league behind only the Broncos (who are a true “attack them however you want” and less “pass-funnel,” but that’s neither here nor there). The Bears are in man coverage at the fourth highest rate this season and allow a startling 9.0 yards per target against when in zone, second worst in the league. Gone are Jefferson’s 24 percent targets per route run rate against zone coverage this season, and it isn’t likely to be K.J. Osborn that soaks those looks up considering his paltry 0.22 fantasy points per route run against zone coverages this year. Addison has a 16.9 percent targets per route run rate and 0.39 fantasy points per route run against zone coverages this year and stands as the player likeliest to see the largest boost to his counting stats and utilization rate in the absence of Jefferson. Tight end T.J. Hockenson is a natural zone-beater in his current role and stands to see a slight uptick in targets per route run rate without Jefferson in the lineup, but a 6.6 aDOT with just one deep target on the season leaves a thin needle to thread against any opponent, largely dependent on his ability to rack up targets and find the end zone (potentially more than once). Finally, Brandon Powell should step into an increased role from 11-personnel for the Vikings this week, and his familiarity with head coach Kevin O’Connell should keep him on the field from three-wide sets.