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Bears vs. Vikings Gambling Preview/Prediction

NFL: BEARS, VIKES BATTLE FOR DIVISION

The NFC North lead is up for grabs on Sunday when the Chicago Bears face the Minnesota Vikings on the national stage.

Minnesota is a 3 ½-point favorite, and despite what’s at stake for both teams, you could say that this contest is bigger for the Vikings, as the Bears won the first meeting between the teams and have the better divisional record.

In addition, Chicago plays its next three games at home while the Vikings hit the road for their next two.

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The Vikings have gone just 2-7-1 against the spread (ATS) against NFC North foes in head coach Brad Childress’ tenure, including 0-4 ATS this season.

The Bears are 3-1 in divisional play this year and own an 11-6 ATS edge in their last 17 trips to the Metrodome. They are also on a 25-10 ATS run in November road games and have gone 23-10 ATS against teams averaging more than 130 rushing yards per game since 1992.

There isn’t a zero to be found in the boxscore from the game between the Bears and Vikings in Week 7, when the longtime rivals combined for 89 points — the most points score in 95 all-time meetings. Each team scored at least a touchdown in all four quarters, and they combined for 766 yards. The difference was turnovers: Minnesota committed five and Chicago only one.

Thirty-seven-year-old quarterback Gus Frerotte, in his second stint with the Vikings, was picked off four times by the Bears and two weeks later he threw three interceptions against the Green Bay Packers, including one Nick Collins returned for a score, but the defense and running back Adrian Peterson bailed him out in a 28-27 win.

Frerotte has just eight touchdowns to nine interceptions in the last five games, and his lack of mobility has led to 15 sacks over the same span.

Chicago’s defense will give Frerotte every opportunity to make plays downfield to Bobby Wade (team-high 39 catches) and Bernard Berrian, because containing Peterson is priority No. 1.

In just over a year-and-a-half, the Bears have grown all too familiar with Peterson, who has 423 yards rushing and six touchdowns in three games against a unit that usually intimidates and preys on young backs.

With 80 yards and a score in last week’s 30-12 victory at Jacksonville, the former Oklahoma star upped his league-leading rushing total to 1,180 yards.

The Vikings have the fourth-best rushing attack in the league, while the Bears moved up the ladder into the Top 20 after gaining 201 yards in a 27-3 win in St. Louis. Rookie Matt Forte has done a commendable job while shouldering much of Chicago’s workload, rushing for 909 yards on 225 carries but he hasn’t exploded for many long runs.

The visitors should enjoy an edge on special teams. Danieal Manning and Devin Hester have the ability to break a long return at any time, and kicker Robbie Gould is 18-for-21 on field-goal attempts.

Minnesota has given up four touchdowns on punt returns alone.

With three straight home games upcoming after this short trip, the Bears could take a big step toward the NFC North title with a win this week and deal the Vikings a major blow at the same time.

PREDICTION: Minnesota 23, Chicago 16

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