NFL Picks Week 17: Bears looking to end five-game skid at Minnesota

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, 1/1/12, 1:00 PM EST, TV:  FOX
Opening Point Spread:  Chicago -1
Current Betting Line:  Minnesota -1.5
Opening Total:  39
Current Total:  41
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Bears vs. Vikings NFL Betting Preview
Jared Allen and the Vikings hope to hand the Bears a sixth straight loss on Sunday.

The Chicago Bears will try to end a five-game losing streak and beat the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth straight time when the NFC North rivals square off at the Metrodome in Sunday’s season finale.  The Bears (7-8) will also be looking to avoid a losing season one year after winning the division title while the Vikings (3-12) begin life without star running back Adrian Peterson, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee last Saturday in a 33-26 victory at Washington.

Minnesota (-1.5, O/U 41) will likely be without Peterson at the start of next season as well, but rookie quarterback Christian Ponder is expected to be under center after he passed concussion tests during the week.  Ponder was forced to leave last week’s win over the Redskins, paving the way for Joe Webb’s game-winning heroics.  Webb threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the second half after relieving Ponder.

Ironically, the positive development of both young quarterbacks for the Vikings enabled them to eventually waive veteran Donovan McNabb, who started the last meeting against Chicago in Week 6.  The Bears routed Minnesota 39-10 to begin a five-game winning streak, with McNabb getting benched in favor of Ponder, who has started every game since then.

Chicago’s season was derailed when QB Jay Cutler fractured the thumb on his throwing hand in a 31-20 home win against San Diego in Week 11.  Cutler and running back Matt Forte (knee) were both placed on injured reserve earlier this week, and their team has not won a game without them.  Forte sprained the MCL in his right knee in a 10-3 home loss to Kansas City in Week 13.

Josh McCown took over as the Bears starter at QB for the ineffective Caleb Hanie last Sunday in a 35-21 loss at Green Bay and played fairly well, throwing for 242 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.  McCown started an NFL game for the first time since 2007 after Hanie threw nine interceptions in losing all four of his starts.

Kahlil Bell also took advantage of his increased playing time without Forte and Marion Barber in the lineup at RB, totaling a career-high 121 yards on the ground.  Bell, a third-year player out of UCLA, has revenge on his mind against the Vikings, who he played for as a rookie in 2009 before he was cut and signed by Chicago.

The Bears are 1-4 against the spread during their skid and have seen the total go OVER in their past two.  The OVER has cashed in each of the last four games for the Vikings along with eight of 10.  The OVER is also 8-3-1 in the past 12 meetings between the teams.

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