The oddsmakers have reviewed the film, crunched the numbers and decided that the Packers are better than the Vikings.
A lot better.
And we can’t say we blame them.
The Packers are 9.5-point favorites against the Vikings on Sunday. That game is at TCF Bank Stadium, and we really can’t remember too many times when Minnesota was that big of a home underdog.
It’s common for oddsmakers to dictate that home-field advantage is worth three points, so they’re saying that on a neutral field Green Bay is 12.5 points better than Minnesota. At Lambeau? 15.5 points (though in reality they were more than double that good in the real game earlier this year, a 42-10 Packers rout with Christian Ponder at QB).
Based on that dismal showing and all of the Vikings’ losses, really — Minnesota has been held under 300 yards and 16 points in each of their six setbacks — the 9.5-point spread really isn’t surprising. Green Bay has topped 50 points each of the past two weeks, including hanging 55 on a Bears team the Vikings could only manage 13 against on Sunday.
So not surprising, but still a bit sobering considering 24 hours ago some of us were talking about the Vikings picking off a wounded Bears team and possibly making a playoff run with the Packers game representing the first of three in a row at home.
Instead, the Vikings are 4-6 and will need to pull a major upset to avoid dropping to 4-7.
Zach Parise and Marco Scandella returned to the Wild’s lineup in a big way, contributing three goals in a 4-3 overtime win over Winnipeg. Scandella’s game-winner made up for a poor third period by Minnesota, which led 3-0.
In their previous four games, the Vikings defense allowed just 12 third down conversions out of 50 opportunities.
The Bears nearly matched that many third down conversions in one game. They went 10 of 17 on that specific down in the Vikings’ 21-13 loss at Soldier Field on Sunday.
“We didn’t cover, it’s that simple,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said.
The Vikings blew their coverage assignments at times on third downs with quarterback Jay Cutler proving once again how dangerous he can be improvising on the run. Missed tackles also contributed to the third down struggles. Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, who has become about as sure of a tackler on the team this season, missed three tackles on the Bears first offensive drive.
Vikings defensive players said Cutler got rid of the ball quickly on third downs to avoid pressure, relying on wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall to make contested catches. They did all game, combining for 225 on 18 catches and three touchdowns.
“In situations like that when the ball is coming out quick and your rush can’t get there you have to get your hands up, help your [defensive backs] as much as you can and your [defensive back] has to make the play,” linebacker Chad Greenway said.
Due to the previous four game stretch, the Vikings entered the game with the 10th best third down percentage (37.6) despite their early-season issues on that specific down.
Even with the bye week, and what the Vikings called a good week of practice, the defense regressed in that area and kept the Bears offense on the field for over 38 minutes.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was frustrated about the clock malfunctioning at Soldier Field in the Vikings’ 21-13 loss to the Bears on Sunday.
The game clocks in the end zones were sporadic throughout the game. When they were functioning, the clocks were out of sync with the actual time, causing Solider Field officials to turn off the clocks for periods of the game.
“It was musical clocks,” Zimmer said.
They stopped working again on the Vikings final drive when rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater attempted to tie the game with 2:03 left in the game. Bridgewater threw an interception in the end zone with 42 seconds left to seal the Bears win.
After the game, Zimmer described the clock situation in a manner unsuitable for this particular PG-friendly, suitable-for-all-audiences, Vikings blog, but it rhymes with pulpit.
“It’s hard [for Bridgewater] because no one is able to tell you how much time is left,” Zimmer said. “…The whole day the whole thing was going out, so it was just another thing. Excuse my language.”
It got to the point where the referee was announcing the game clock to the crowd once it hit a certain point in the quarter because there was no access to the time anywhere in the stadium.
Daktronics, who manufactured the scoring and timing system at Soldier Field, released a statement about the matter:
“At this point in time, it is undetermined what caused the issues. Daktronics is investigating whether the cause was software or hardware related. Despite a preventative maintenance program with Daktronics that includes having two technicians on site for each game, the problem was not able to be corrected during the game.”
Figures lie and liars figure, former Gophers football coach Glen Mason was fond of saying. It was a polite way of expressing how he felt about statistics, which – true – can sometimes be misleading.
Sometimes, though, they tell you a lot about the level of dominance that happens within a game. For instance:
*957 to 546: That’s the combined yardage by which the Gophers (489-303) and Vikings (468-243) were outgained Saturday and Sunday.
The sentiment at the end of each of these games was quite different, as Gophers fans could at least relish the team’s resiliency against a very good opponent while Vikings fans were left to gripe about laying an egg against a Bears team poised to give up on its season.
But the bottom line in each was quite similar. Both were close games in that they ended with the local team within one possession, though losing in each case. And both final scores, in some ways, obscured the dominance of the opponent.
With due respect to Gophers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who confidently talked postgame about Minnesota being the better team and the Gophers dooming themselves with their own mistakes, the Buckeyes made more than their share, too. Minnesota earned respect, but Ohio State’s playmakers showed up in that yardage disparity.
The Vikings? They were nearly doubled up in yardage and at one point were being outgained 453-144. In all six of their losses this season, they’ve been held under 300 yards of offense – a stat that perfectly illustrates the widespread flaws on that unit, from the line, to quarterback, to receivers, to coaching.
For our money, the coaching and offensive line can take about 60 percent of the blame, while the play of Teddy Bridgewater and his receivers can take the rest. However you dice it, though, this is an offense that is flat-out bad.
Sorry, but this is EXACTLY the game I was expecting and predicted from the moment most people started assuming that the Bears were beatable because they had just become the first team since the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons to give up 50 points in back-to-back games.
The Vikings were riding their first two-game win streak since 2012 and were coming out of a bye. They had beaten the Bucs and Washington and the mood was unrealistically high for a 4-5 team without a signature win over a team with a winning record. Meanwhile, the mood was too low for a Bears team that had to play Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in back-to-back games.
Yes, the Bears were outscored 107-37 by those two teams. But the Vikings also were outscored 72-17 by those two teams. And the game was in Chicago, so this, to me, was an easy game to pick based on how the NFL works. When you’re at the level that these two 4-6 teams are, up comes down rather quickly and down goes up at the same rate.
The Bears were humiliated and played like a team that was tired of being humiliated. They converted 10 of 17 third downs, mainly by throwing to big receivers over the top of little corners who were stranded in too many man calls.
Defensively, the Bears held the Vikings to 10 first downs, 21:22 in time of possession and 243 yards, 48 of which came on a fake punt run by backup safety Andrew Sendejo.
But just because the Vikings lost this game and are at 4-6 doesn’t mean some value can’t come out of this season. The playoffs never were a realistic proposition, especially after Adrian Peterson was lost after the first game.
The season can still be productive if Teddy Bridgewater learns from games like this and improves, which I think he will. Defensively, a lot can be gained by playing coach Mike Zimmer’s defense for the full season and coming back next year with a full understanding and some upgrades at some positions.
So, bottom line, it was what I expected today. But it’s not a total disaster, especially with three straight home games coming up.