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The door has swung wide open for the Chicago Bears, who have a fantastic shot to put a vice grip on the NFC North in all likelihood on Monday Night Football. They take on the Minnesota Vikings, who are playing at their new home away from home for at least one week, and they are doing so with third string quarterback in tote. The NFL odds are high in this one though, so be sure to read this pro football pick first to sort out all of the action.
Matchup: Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
Date: Monday, December 19th, 8:30 ET
Location: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Game Line: Minnesota +9
Bears Notes: This is the second time this season in which the Bears have faced a team playing with its third string quarterback, and Head Coach Lovie Smith can take some real motivation from his team's 16-0 win at the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football several weeks ago. Chicago has a fantastic defense that usually just does not relent, though last week's loss to the New England Patriots proved to be a tremendous exception to this rule. In fact, over the course of the last three weeks, Chicago has conceded 82 points, If you go back over the course of the previous six games, the Bears only allowed 78 points. The team's scoring average is still a healthy 17.5 points per game, and teams are just having no success running the football against these guys at 87.9 yards per game, tops in the NFC. The real problems come on offense, where QB Jay Cutler has to be wondering if he is going to have a job next year unless he finds a way to improve in a hurry or wins the Super Bowl. Cutler is leading an offense that has more turnovers this year than touchdowns, and is averaging less than 300 yards per game. The former University of Vanderbilt star isn't quite having as bad of a season as he did last year, but throwing for just 2,697 yards and 17 scores against 12 picks in a dozen starts is nothing to write home about. There won't be a 1,000 yard receiver this year to work with, though WR Johnny Knox has had a great year with 45 catches, 790 yards, and a pair of TDs. On the ground, there won't be a 1,000 yard rusher either, though we are happy to see that RB Matt Forte is at 4.2 yards per carry now, marking the first time in two seasons that he has averaged in the fours in this category. He has 773 yards and five TDs, while his backup, RB Chester Taylor, has found pay dirt three times.
Vikings Notes: The Vikings just have to be rooting for this season to end. Everything conceivable just continues to go wrong. For the second straight week, Mall of America Field isn't accessible, which forces the team to look elsewhere for its "home games." At least playing at the University of Minnesota is better than relocating to Ford Field, but this certainly isn't going to feel like home for a team that is used to playing in a dome. Now, to make matters worse, QB Brett Favre has seen his ironman streak come to an end at 297 games, and he is about to see his consecutive games inactive streak stretched to a whopping two games with his shoulder and other various ailments. QB Tarvaris Jackson suffered turf toe last week as well in the second half, which has really just left rookie QB Joe Webb with the opportunity of a lifetime to start on Monday Night Football. Should Webb fail, QB Patrick Ramsey will have to come in off the bench having had just five days of preparation to learn this new offense. Now, to put the icing on this very bitter cake, RB Adrian Peterson might not play either, as his knee is acting up once again this season, and playing in the snow in a game that quite frankly means nothing, probably isn't the greatest of ideas. If there is anything to fall back on for the Vikes, it is that their defense ranks No. 7 in the NFL at 313.6 yards per game, and though this unit has struggled at times, the overall body of work is rock solid and deserves some recognition even though the team has massively underachieved as a whole this year.
The Final Word: Having already seen this script once before, it's really hard to back the Bears. Minnesota was crippled last week by the New York Giants in tremendous fashion, and we just don't see Webb being able to really get anything going offensively either. This should be one of the ugliest Monday Night Football duels of the year for sure, but the Bears should be able to figure out how to get out of town with a tenth win on the season.
Free Pro Football Picks: Chicago -9
Prediction: Chicago 16 – Minnesota 3