Dusty’s 2018 NFL picks record: 7-4
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
Free NFL Pick: Vikings ATS
Best Line Offered: Bookmaker
A lot was expected of the Minnesota Vikings this year — specifically, to take one more important step after an NFC Championship Game loss last season. But now here we are in Week 17, and the Vikings have yet to secure a playoff berth.
Fortunately, a home win in the regular-season finale is all they need.
Sounds simple enough, except when you consider they are playing the Chicago Bears, who beat the Vikings 25-20 in Week 11 en route to dethroning the Vikings as NFC North champions. Factor in that the Bears have something to play for — a possible first-round bye — and Sunday’s task isn’t so simple after all.
The Vikings, with much more at stake than the Bears in this spot, opened as -7 home chalk. At press time, the number on the NFL odds board was bet down to Minnesota -3.5 at some sportsbooks. Even better if you’re leaning on the home team.
The Vikings have stayed in the playoff hunt by winning their past two games straight-up and against the spread, hammering Miami 41-17 and Detroit 27-9. Dalvin Cook accrued two touchdowns and more than 200 yards rushing in the two wins.
Both defenses are stellar. In total D, Minnesota is No. 3 and Chicago No. 4, with a total of 8 yards all season separating the units. In scoring D, Chicago (18.2 points per game allowed) is ranked third, Minnesota seventh (21.1).
Chicago’s defense has been one of the top stories of the season. In their last three games combined, including a 14-9 win over the 49ers in Week 16, the Bears allowed one touchdown. They lead the league with 36 takeaways; the Vikings have 20. The Vikings have a league-best 50 sacks, led by Danielle Hunter’s 14.5; the Bears have 46 sacks, including 12.5 by Khalil Mack.
More bullish factors to ponder:
- Bears are 6-0 ATS in their last six games vs. NFC North opponents.
- Bears are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games following a straight-up win.
- Vikings are 11-2 ATS in their last 13 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- Vikings are 36-15-1 ATS in their last 52 home games.
Cook is a dangerous runner when healthy, but he was held to 12 yards on nine carries in Week 11 in Chicago. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has thrown only one interception in his last three games combined, was picked off twice by the Bears in that first encounter, including a pick-6 by Eddie Jackson.
Despite being ranked ninth in scoring (26.5 points per game), Chicago is in the bottom third in total offense (344.7 ypg). Second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky was as accurate as ever the last two games, going 45-of-57 (79 percent) for three TDs and no interceptions, but the offense’s explosiveness from earlier in the season has been missing.
More bearish factors to ponder:
- The visiting team is 9-23 ATS in the last 32 games in this series (Bears are visitors in this spot).
- Vikings are 2-8 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
- Vikings are 1-4 ATS in their last five games after allowing less than 15 points in their previous game.
Both teams will be peeking at the scoreboard. The Vikings know they are in the postseason with a win — or if the Eagles lose to the Redskins (PHI -7 road fave). The Bears know they claim the NFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win — and a Rams loss to the 49ers (LA -10 home chalk). The way those other two games progress could determine the starters’ playing time in the Bears-Vikings game, especially in Chicago’s case because its playoff berth is secure. The bottom line is, Minnesota is at home and much more desperate. In your NFL picks, take the Vikings and lay the points.