Assuming Green Bay again wins the NFC North division, Sunday's divisional game between the Vikings and Bears in Chicago could have some wild card implications. This is a pick'em on Pinnacle's NFL odds with a total of just 42.
Vikings In Playoff Hunt
Minnesota (4-2) is two games behind Green Bay in the NFC North, but the Packers won the first meeting and thus hold the early head-to-head tiebreaker. There's just about no way the Pack don't win the North as long as Aaron Rodgers stays upright. The Vikings currently hold down the final wild-card spot in the NFC, one spot ahead of St. Louis (3-3).
The Vikings started 0-2 on the road but ended that skid with a 28-19 win at perhaps the NFL's worst team, the Detroit Lions, in Week 7. Teddy Bridgewater had his best game of the season in completing 25-for-35 for 316 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. He found rookie receiver Stefon Diggs six times for 108 yards and a touchdown. That 36-yard score in the third quarter gave Minnesota a 22-17 lead it wouldn't relinquish. Diggs, a fifth-rounder out of Maryland, wasn't even active the season's first three games but has 19 catches for 324 yards and that TD over the past three. Diggs and Anquan Boldin, who made his debut with the Cardinals in 2003, are the only NFL players since at least 1960 to have that many catches and yards receiving in their first three games.
Adrian Peterson rushed 19 times for 98 yards vs. the Lions. He's definitely a favorite for NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Peterson is fourth in the NFL with 530 rushing yards. Expect a big game here. He has rushed for 1,396 yards and 14 touchdowns against the Bears in 12 career meetings. Chicago hasn't seen Peterson since Dec. 1, 2013, when Peterson rushed for 211 yards on 35 attempts in the old Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Minnesota's head coach is Mike Zimmer, the former Bengals defensive coordinator. He has helped worked wonders on that Vikings unit, which is tied for second in the league with Denver at 17 points allowed per game, just behind No. 1 Green Bay's 16.8. The Vikings are seventh in yards allowed (333.8). Rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks has four sacks in the past three games.
The Vikings are 5-1 against the spread on NFL odds and 1-5 'over/under.'
Bears Healed Up During Bye
Chicago (2-4) realistically isn't a playoff team and comes off its bye week. It had a two-game winning streak snapped on Oct. 18 in Detroit, a 37-34 overtime loss that the Bears really should have won but for some questionable calls by the referees and a dumb penalty or two by Chicago.
The Bears are much-better coached this season under John Fox and his assistants. The offense still has some solid players in QB Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, receiver Alshon Jeffery (he has been hurt much of this season) and tight end Martellus Bennett. But Chicago is only 28th in scoring at 20.0 ppg.
The defense is tied for last in the NFL (with Tampa Bay) in allowing 29.8 points per game. The team cut one of its best players on that side of the ball during the bye week in tackle Jay Ratliff -- he had a heated argument with new GM Ryan Pace so Pace let the hot-head go. Chicago had to have a police officer at its facility when that happened because the team was worried about how unstable Ratliff was. Chicago is likely to get back two injured defenders this week in linebacker Shea McClellin and safety Antrel Rolle.
The Bears are 3-3 ATS on NFL picks and 3-3 O/U.
Chicago was not a good home team last year with only two wins, but one came in Week 10 against Minnesota, 21-13. Cutler had one of his best games of the season by completing 31-for-43 for 330 yards and three scores while not being sacked. He was picked off twice. Forte rushed 26 times for 117 yards and caught six passes for 58. Jeffery had 11 catches for 135 yards and a score, while Brandon Marshall (now with Jets) had two TD catches. Bridgewater was 18-for-28 for 158 yards with a TD and pick. The Vikings had only 10 first downs and 243 yards against one of the NFL's worst defenses. They haven't won in Chicago since 2007. The Vikings and Bears closed the 2014 season against one another in Minneapolis and Minnesota won 13-9 in a really ugly affair.
NFL Picks: Vikings and 'under' at Pinnacle. The Bears have covered only seven of their past 26 at home. Minnesota is 5-1 ATS in its past six vs. teams with a losing record. The 'under' is 6-1 in the Vikings' past seven vs. the NFC North. The 'under' is 6-1 in the past seven meetings.