MINNESOTA VIKINGS (0-1)
at CHICAGO BEARS (1-0)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Chicago -6, Total: 41.5
The Vikings look for a rare win at Soldier Field when they visit the Bears on Sunday.
Minnesota is 1-11 SU (2- 9-1 ATS) in its past dozen trips to Chicago, including five straight losses (SU and ATS) in the Windy City by an average score of 36 to 21. Although Vikings RB Adrian Peterson started 2013 with a bang (111 total yards, 3 TD), his defense allowed 469 yards in a 34-24 loss in Detroit. The Bears came back from 11 points down in the second half to top the Bengals 24-21, as QB Jay Cutler threw for 242 yards and two scores while taking zero sacks. Both teams are pretty healthy going into Week 2, but the Vikings could be missing a couple of key linemen due to knee injuries, DT Kevin Williams and C John Sullivan. Although Minnesota is 9-18 ATS (33%) in games played on a grass field in the previous five seasons, it is a strong 12-8 ATS (60%) as an underdog since 2011. Chicago is 0-7 ATS after playing an AFC team in the past three seasons, but is a solid 7-5 ATS (58%) as a favorite of 3.5 to 9.5 points in the past three years.
Which NFC North foe will prevail on Sunday? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. During the 2012 campaign, the experts combined for a 52% ATS success rate in NFL Best Bets, highlighted by StatFox Brian's 60% ATS mark (36-24-2 ATS) and StatFox Dave's 53% ATS accuracy (44-41-4). StatFox Scott and StatFox Gary dominated NFL Totals, with Scott going 57% (38-29-1) and Gary cranking out a 56% clip (28-22-1) during the season, capped off by a perfect 4-0 run in the postseason.
Although Adrian Peterson's rushing numbers last week looked impressive, consider that he did very little after his early 78-yard TD scamper, rushing for a paltry 15 yards on his other 17 carries. Peterson certainly has the ability to bounce back against a Bears team that he has gained 1,085 yards on 217 carries (5.0 YPC) with 14 TD in 10 career meetings against. Last year Peterson rumbled for 262 yards on 49 carries (5.3 YPC) and two scores versus Chicago. Even if he is unable to chew up a lot of yards on the ground, the Vikings passing attack was a lot stronger Sunday (225 yards) than it was last year (172 YPG, 2nd-worst in NFL). QB Christian Ponder completed 18-of-28 passes for 236 yards (8.4 YPA) with 1 TD, but also threw three picks versus the Lions. Ponder has also had his problems throwing the football on the opportunistic Bears' defense. In three career starts in this series, Ponder has completed just 37-of-70 throws (53%) for a mere 278 yards (4.0 YPA), 1 TD and 3 INT. It is imperative for the Vikings to put pressure on Jay Cutler to win this game. They failed to sack Matthew Stafford at all last week and allowed the Lions to gain 6.1 yards per play. However, Detroit's offense controlled the clock for 36:19, which was a big reason the Minnesota defense gave up so many yards.
Jay Cutler has thrived in this series in his career, going 6-2 with 227 passing YPG, 17 TD and 9 INT versus Minnesota. He always leans heavily on top WR Brandon Marshall, especially against the Vikings last year when Marshall caught 22 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown in the two meetings. Although Marshall led the team with 10 targets in Week 1, WR Alshon Jeffery, TE Martellus Bennett and RB Matt Forte all were targeted at least a half-dozen times by Cutler, but none were able to reach 50 receiving yards. Forte also struggled to run the football against the Bengals last week, gaining 50 yards on 19 carries (2.6 YPC) and failing to gain more than nine yards on any of his attempts. Forte has also failed to score in seven straight meetings with the Vikings, but he's still averaged 85 total yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry during this TD-less skid. The Bears defense led the NFL with 44 takeaways last year and started off 2013 with three more forced turnovers. They did allow Andy Dalton to complete 26-of-33 passes for 282 yards and two scores, but Chicago was tough on the ground, limiting Cincy to a mere 63 yards on 21 carries (3.0 YPC).