The battle for the NFC North reaches a fever pitch in Week 11 as the second-place Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1, 2-1-1 away) travel to Soldier Field to face the division-leading Chicago Bears (6-3, 4-1 home) on Sunday Night Football. Kickoff is set for 8:20 PM ET on November 18th.
Minnesota was expecting to have a balanced attack this season with Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray in the backfield and Kirk Cousins working with a trio of great weapons (Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph) in the passing game. However, Cook has barely seen the field and the team is averaging just 4.2 yards per carry (19th), meaning coach Mike Zimmer has had to go pass-heavy week in and week out.
The good news is that the aerial attack has been able to pick up the slack. Minnesota has the eighth-ranked passing attack through Week 10, while sitting 28th in rushing (91.7 YPG).
Cousins, a high-priced free-agent acquisition, is living up to his contract, throwing for 2,685 yards and 17 touchdowns (11th). He and Thielen, in particular, have found great chemistry.
— Troy White (@fatmouthsports) November 5, 2018
While Thielen had his streak of eight straight 100-yard games come to an end last week (4 receptions, 22 yards, 1 TD in Week 10), he is still third in the league in receiving yards (947) with a solid 7 TDs.
Minnesota’s defense was expected to be one of the strongest units in the league heading into the year, after finishing 2017 ranked first in both total yards and scoring. While they haven’t quite been on that level in 2018, they have been solid, largely due to their ability to stuff the run.
The Vikings’ front-seven is allowing a meager 88.9 yards per game on the ground (3rd), compared to 233.3 through the air (12th).
Scoring-wise, they’re outside of the top-ten at 22.7 points per game (11th). That said, they only team to score more than 21 points against them in the last five games was the mighty New Orleans Saints, the highest scoring team in the NFL.
.@vikings set a new sack record (franchise began in ‘60) with 10 sacks . 8/10 sacks happened in 2 QTRS. #Stafford was also hit 17X in 46 drop back attempts. Plenty of blame @Lions to go around but @DHunt94_TX is your new @NFL sack leader #GeauxTigers. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/xbOevsDz1e
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 5, 2018
Coming off a 10-sack performance against Detroit, this Vikings defense is getting back to its 2017 level.
Vikings vs Bears Statistical Comparison
|24.6 (14th)||PPG||29.9 (5th)|
|374.3 (12th)||YPG||363.4 (16th)|
|91.7 (28th)||Rushing YPG||120.1 (12th)|
|282.7 (8th)||Passing YPG||243.3 (20th)|
|22.7 (11th)||PPG Allowed||19.4 (T4th)|
|322.2 (5th)||YPG Allowed||319.6 (4th)|
|88.9 (3rd)||Rushing YPG Allowed||84.0 (2nd)|
|233.3 (12th)||Passing YPG Allowed||235.6 (13th)|
|+1 (16th)||Turnover Differential||+13 (1st)|
Minnesota’s defense will be facing something the NFC North hasn’t seen in a while, though: a Chicago team that is lighting up the scoreboard. Someway, somehow, this Bears team is 5th in the NFL in scoring at 29.9 points per game.
The ground game has been solid, if not spectacular, averaging 120.1 rushing yards per game (12th), and second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky has thrown for 2,304 yards with a 19:7 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The eye test hasn’t been as friendly to Trubisky as the bare statistics, however, as he’s still missing open receivers. His shortcomings are evident to those who dive deeper than counting stats; he is ranked a lowly 30th among QBs by Pro Football Focus.
Mitchell Trubisky ranks among Pro Football Focus’ worst starting QBs entering Week 10 https://t.co/ODezcLZGNP
— Bryan Perez (@BryanPerezNFL) November 7, 2018
On the other side of the ball, it’s the exact opposite story. Chicago’s defense is one of the top units in the NFL and even better than the traditional stats suggest. They’re giving up 19.4 points per game, the fourth-fewest in the NFL, but are ranked first by both Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders’ Defensive DVOA.
89 Points off Takeaways
(Most in NFL)
(Most in NFL)
+13 Turnover margin
(Best in NFL)
(Most in NFL)
12 Forced Fumbles
(Tied for 2nd in NFL) pic.twitter.com/ouyx0Kj15G
— Chicago Bear Pause (@ChicagoBearPaws) November 11, 2018
Turnovers have been a huge part of their success. The Bears have taken the ball away 23 times this season, the second-most in the league, and they’ve even contributed some points of their own, finding the endzone four times.
In reality, defensive touchdowns and short fields are why the Bears’ offense is scoring nearly 30 points per game. When this unit is at full strength – i.e. when Khalil Mack is healthy – they are force to be reckoned with.
There’s also reason to be optimistic about Trubisky and the Chicago offense moving forward. With #1 receiver Allen Robinson back in Week 10, the Bears offense piled up 402 yards and 34 points against Detroit (34-22 W). Robinson led the way with 133 receiving yards and 2 TDs, helping Trubisky go 23-30 for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns in his best game of the year.