A Surprising Nugget about Vikings Next Game on MNF
In the 21st Century, the Minnesota Vikings are 5-15 at Soldier Field in Chicago. They win one out of every four times when traveling to Illinois.
During the 20 years before that – 1979 to 1999 – the Vikings owned an even-steven 10-10 record at the Bears, so the woes in that building are somewhat new.
Every time Minnesota makes the trek to Chicago, weird stuff happens, the Vikings play to whatever level the Bears perform, and the game is generally sloppy. In that regard, Monday Night Football between the Vikings and Bears in Week 15 should be no different.
Yet, Vegas oddsmakers entirely disregard Minnesota’s futility at Soldier Field. Why? Because the Vikings are opening-line 4.5-point favorites to beat the Bears in one week. This is particularly strange because a) The Vikings struggle in Chicago b) The Bears aren’t a good football team, but they’re not wretched c) The home team usually gets a three-point headstart for betting-line purposes.
But none of that matters for casinos, evidently. The Vikings are 6-7 with 33% odds to reach the 2021 postseason. During some stretches of 2021, Minnesota looks unbeatable – see: 1st Half against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14 or the closeout drives against the Chargers and Packers. However, time and time again, the Vikings play poorly against bad teams, even losing to the then-winless Detroit Lions a couple of weeks ago. This season’s mantra is: The Vikings can beat anybody; the Vikings can be beaten by anybody.
So when Vegas assigns a 4.5-point favorite designation, things seem a bit wonky. If you’ve watched both teams in 2021 – the Vikings clinging to all-in Super Bowl stakes while the Bears are led by rookie quarterback Justin Fields – the line for this upcoming contest should probably be “Vikings by 1.5” or something similar.
Establishing the Vikings as a 4.5-point favorite affords Mike Zimmer’s team a lot of respect and clout, which it really doesn’t deserve. In fact, the 4.5-point spread would be more sensical if the Vikings were at home, not the Bears.
Regardless, Minnesota needs this Monday night game more than Chicago. The Bears are playing to save the job of head coach Matt Nagy, thoroughly jettisoned from any playoff hopes through 14 weeks. The Vikings, on the other hand, sway violently with the outcome of this matchup. If Minnesota topples Chicago, it ascends to a 50% probability of reaching the postseason. Should Kirk Cousins and Co. lose, well, those percentage odds dip to a puny 11%.
Think of it this way – if the Vikings can beat the Bears in Week 15, there is a very reasonable shot a playoff spot is obtained. In the event Chicago is victorious, Minnesota’s postseason dreams hit absolute life support. They’d cradle longshot mathematical hope, wanting oodles of team to lose while assuming wins over the Rams, Packers, and Bears will be automatic. You get the point.
When Vegas creates betting lines, it knows what it’s doing. Apparently, the “house” knows something that Vikings fans and the rest of the world do not. Winning at Soldier Field is a chore for the Vikings, but Vegas favors them by north of four points nevertheless.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).