There certainly were many factors to consider for oddsmakers going into tonight’s NFC Central Division showdown. Where would the game be played, who would play quarterback for Minnesota and what would the impact be playing outdoors on truly frozen tundra according to Vikings punter Chris Kluwe Sunday afternoon. After a brief practice yesterday, Kluwe tweeted on the playing conditions, “as hard as concrete” and “unplayable,”
After going thru the sorted details, Minnesota opened as a seven-point “home” underdog and within two hours, +7.5 or +8 were common numbers, with total bouncing back between 33 or 33.5.
If you have or are still thinking about supporting the Chicago, here are the elements that will determine your fate.
1) Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz would be wise to take a page out the New England playbook with uncertain field conditions. Skip the outside throws to receivers on square-outs, rather keep the passing game within the hashmarks, with Jay Cutler making quick reads and throwing laser shots five to seven yards.
2) Keep using the running game as a weapon to keep the Vikings defense honest as Matt Forte and Chester Taylor have a nice rhythm going. Use two-tight ends frequently with the idea of better pass protection and also to create confusion in the Vikes secondary when deciding to throw. If used properly, the play-action passing game would be valuable asset.
3) Chicago is presently seventh in third down defense in the NFL and Minnesota is 27th in offensive conversions. The Bears will have an opportunity to control the game by getting off the field continually against inexperienced quarterback.
If the idea of taking the points with the team in purple is more appealing despite the fact clubs catching a touchdown or more are 9-16 ATS the past five weeks, these are a few points that would lead to covering the spread or winning outright.
1) The offensive line and Adrian Peterson have to play like men. The O-line has to keep quarterback Joe Webb ahead on down and distance on earlier downs to set up third and short as often as possible. A.P. almost always runs hard, but this would be the time to have a bust out game.
2) Minnesota has to quickly get Webb in comfort zone making short safe throws on slants to Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice or sit-down routes under 10 yards where the quarterback just has to stick it between the numbers. This can be accomplished from the start by using tight ends in routes further down the field to pull Brian Urlacher out of the middle.
3) Minnesota’s defense has to eliminate the Chicago running game. Though Cutler has been better recently, he’s still prone to forcing balls in narrow spaces, which can lead to turnovers. Stuff the run as Mike Martz is usually too impatient to stick with it.
Field conditions and ability to execute will be the biggest factors in deciding the total score. If the field is like concrete in some areas and slippery in others, hard to imagine the score topping the total, especially since both coaches are unlikely to take many risks. If turnovers become a larger part of the picture, short fields will yield higher point totals.
Chicago comes into this game trying to build on division lead and maintain second seed status and is 8-1 UNDER after two or more consecutive losses against the spread since last season. In a lost season for the Vikings, a victory in the last home game of the season over division rival would be extremely satisfying, given the stadium issues the last nine days.