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We've reached the final four games of the season for the 4-9 Chicago Bears and judging by most of the fan reaction, everyone seems ready to move onto the offseason where significant changes in the front office will hopefully begin to take place. But there are still games to be played, assuming the COVID-19 omicron variant doesn't shut everything down, and this week's matchup for the Bears features the unpredictable Minnesota Vikings in primetime.
At 6-7, the Vikings are still in the thick of the NFC playoff race and have played exactly one game this season that was void of dramatics.
Chances are we're about to see another crazy game between these two division foes at Soldier Field in primetime.
⏰ : 7:15
📺 :ESPN and ABC
🎙️ : Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick
💰 : Bears +6.5, O/U 44
Last week: The Bears lost to the Packers 45-30. The Vikings beat the Steelers 36-28 on Thursday Night Football.
All-time record: The Vikings lead 61-57-2.
Three things to know about Bears-Vikings
1. COVID-19 is dominating the Bears and the NFL
The storyline all week leading up to not only this game, but all NFL games, has been the rampant COVID-19 cases that have impacted nearly every team. Some games even had to be postponed due to the large case numbers amongst players and coaches. The Bears and Vikings avoided that scenario, but both teams are feeling the effects.
The Bears had 17 players and coaches on the COVID-19 list on Sunday afternoon. The secondary was officially picked clean after Jaylon Johnson and Tashaun Gipson were late additions. All three coordinators could be missing and the offensive line is a mess with Larry Borom on the list and Jason Peters ruled out with an injured ankle.
No wonder the Bears reportedly ask the league to move this game.
2. The Bears' most dependable weapon is ... Jakeem Grant?
When the Bears acquired return specialist Jakeem Grant from the Miami Dolphins earlier this season, did anyone think he would become the team's most dynamic offensive player for the last stretch of the season? Grant's role has evolved from return specialist to impactful wide receiver these last three weeks. He has 133 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns across that span, as well as a touchdown on a punt return. It's a welcome sight for someone who was written off by fans almost immediately after coming onto the team.
Grant struggled on special teams and didn't have much of a role on offense. But injuries forced the coaching staff to adjust and give him more meaningful snaps. While they have failed in other areas when it comes to finding roles for players on offense, they seemingly got it right with Grant. He's seeing touches on end arounds, pitch passes, and deep patterns, showing great hands and vision in his runs after the catch. Expect him to continue to get opportunities.
3. The Bears will try to extend their D/ST scoring streak on MNF
If you read my three things prior to the Bears-Steelers game last month, you'll remember I teased the fact the Bears had an unusual scoring streak on Monday Night Football. For the last five Monday night games, the Bears have scored either a defensive or special teams touchdown, dating back to 2017. They did it again against the Steelers with the muffed punt return and now will try to make it seven games in a row this week against the Vikings.
Coincidentally, the streak started against the Vikings back in 2017 when Pat O'Donnell threw a touchdown on a fake punt. The Bears also added to the streak last season against Minnesota when Cordarrelle Patterson took the second half opening kickoff to the house. Can they do it yet again? Kirk Cousins is notoriously poor in primetime games and could toss up a duck that leads to a pick six. Or perhaps another kickoff return for a score is in the cards? Regardless, this streak is worth monitoring on Monday if you're looking for something to root for (or bet) in this otherwise lackluster matchup.
Kevin Kaduk — Midway Minute (9-4)
Vikings 31, Bears 13
"Thoughts and prayers to Justin Fields, the dudes filling in on the secondary against Justin Jefferson and anyone holding tickets to the game."
Scott Koral — Midway Minute (11-2)
Vikings 27, Bears 13
"With NFL games happening 6 of the next 8 days, we all win, unless we watch the Bears."
Brendan Sugrue — Midway Minute (12-1)
Vikings 23, Bears 21
"If the Bears had a fully healthy roster and coaching staff, I would pick them in an upset. But if Matt Nagy has full control of this game, I'm all the way out."
David Brown — Midway Minute (8-5)
Vikings 38, Bears 20
"This game has become a nice little microcosm of U.S. society in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bears have many, many players in the protocols, including the entire secondary, but the NFL decides to play the game without postponement anyway. No big deal."
Maggie Hendricks — Bally Sports (10-3)
Vikings 14, Bears 9
"I really, really want Justin Fields to have one good game before this season is over. One game that he can point to as he prepares for next year and say, 'Ok, I can do this.' But with the Bears o-line in bad shape and the Vikings leading the lead in sacks per game … uhhh, it won't be tonight."
Alyssa Barbieri — BearsWire (12-1)
Vikings 27, Bears 23
"Chicago was already at a disadvantage in this game, and the COVID-19 outbreak certainly doesn’t help."
Chris Maltby — Beared Down (10-3)
Bears 27, Vikings 24
"Justin Fields has been getting in a groove, and the Vikings defense has been gutted like a fish the last month or so. Give me Chicago, amidst all the COVID fallout, in an upset."
Usayd Koshul — Fireside Bears (10-3)
"The Bears win a game that is your typical Chicago-Minnesota game, filled with ugly from start to finish."
Greg Braggs Jr. — Braggs in the Stands (11-2)
Vikings 35, Bears 21
"I was about to pick the Bears to upset. But with Jaylon Johnson out there's simply no one to stop those Vikings Wide Receivers. Is it 2022 yet?"
Three interesting prop bets
The Bears may not be closing strong, but I'm having a nice run to finish the season after a poor start. Last week was my second straight 3-for-3 week. Can I make it three? — K.K.
Justin Jefferson OVER 100.5 receiving yards (-105)
This is a high number, but Jefferson has gone over 140 yards in three of his last five games. Don't overthink this one.
Kirk Cousins OVER 1.5 passing TDs (-136)
The only person capable of preventing this from cashing is Dalvin Cook.
Bears D/ST Anytime TD (+55o)
Brendan said he'd refund my bet if it doesn't hit.
Dodging Traffic by Noon Whistle
Made with Tugboat coffee, Dodging Traffic drinks surprisingly smooth and is a nice option for people looking for a barrel-aged beer apart from the usual suspects. Drink it before tonight's game and see if the caffeine boost gets you to the final whistle.
The worst celebrity Vikings fan
The list of celebrity Vikings fans isn't a long one. And a comedian best known for a special entitled "Seriously, Who Farted?" is at the top of the list.
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