Free NFL Pick: Chicago at Minnesota 12-20-2010

December 20, 2010

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Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Monday December 20th, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Line: Chicago -8

Overview:

Minnesota saw the roof of their stadium collapse last week due to the amount of snow piling up. Last week they were forced to play in Detroit, seemingly losing their home field advantage and all of the noise generated in their stadium from their noisy home crowd. This week, they have decided to keep the home field atmosphere by playing it in Minnesota, by taking over the University of Minnesota’s field. The change of venue will have a large impact on the game, as Minnesota is no longer in the confines of their dome, but rather in the middle of a blizzard that is projected to have six inches of snowfall.

They take on the Chicago Bears, who are more seasoned in playing in cold weather, but have shown that they have the potential to struggle while battling the elements. Although they probably would have lost on any field in any weather when they took on the Patriots, the Bears looked uncomfortable in the snow. Chicago has the potential to feel a bit more comfortable in the division race with a victory here by moving to 10-4 on the season.

Keys to the Game:

  • Joe Webb is starting in place of the injured Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson. Webb has five attempts, two completions, and only eight total passing yards, which is a far cry statistically from Favre’s incredible stat sheet. It is unclear what Webb holds, as there is not a lot of film on him to begin with. What type of quarterback is he? The Bears can watch college film on him, but will likely be surprised by what they see.
  • Julius Peppers is going to do everything in his power to dominate Joe Webb and  force him to make poor decisions. Having an inexperienced quarterback on offense can make the defense smell blood in the water. Peppers not only has eight sacks this season, he also creates opportunities for Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and virtual unknowns like Israel Idonije to make plays. A big day from Peppers will likely render poor quarterback play from Webb.
  • The Vikings are probably going to struggle at moving the ball through the air, but they happen to have one of the best running backs in the game in their back field. It is unclear how effective Peterson is going to be able to be. The Bears have a stout run defense and Peterson is hurt. He is not in a position to have 30 carries, as the Vikings don’t want to worsen his injury going forward. Even so, the Vikings need to make him a workhorse back in order to compensate for the quarterback situation. Essentially, the more the ball is in the hands of Peterson, the less danger the ball is in.
  • Matt Forte needs more touches. Forte has been an asset in the Chicago offense and while he might not be having monster games very frequently, he isn’t getting very many carries. He can catch out of the backfield and is an effective runner. While the Vikings are no slouches against the run, if Matt Forte can get something going it will be easier for the Chicago offense to get rolling. Cutler will have to utilize his check downs and Forte is going to be a perfect outlet when things don’t go Cutler’s way.

Key Matchup:

Both Teams Vs. The Elements

  • When playing under these kinds of conditions, there are a few things that usually ring true. Defense benefits, because the offense is limited in what they can do, the offense slows down, and more mistakes are made. The passing attack struggles, because the wind pushes the ball and teams aren’t willing to air it out, due to the potential dangers of letting it fly. That makes the running game excel, as teams seek refuge in the safety of keeping the ball on the ground.
  • While this is true for nearly every game, the team that makes the most mistakes will win. Being overly cautious is not a bad thing. This game will be won in the turnover battle and by field position. Moving the ball and punting is not a bad offensive series. Don’t look for a high scoring game or game full of big plays. The big plays are going to be made when turnovers and fumbles occur. The snow and coldness play a huge role in the game, but the adverse effects of wind could prove to be more challenging.

Wrap Up:

I think Chicago is more fit to play in this game. They are more accustomed to the weather, the Vikings have an inexperienced quarterback, and Adrian Peterson is hurt. This isn’t going to be a slaughter, but it will probably be more than an eight point victory. Minnesota is not used to playing bad weather games, despite living in a city where bad weather is the norm.

Free NFL Pick: Chicago -8


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