Monday Night Football Preview: Week 10

This Monday night matchup will feature two NFC North teams who are heading in different directions as of late. The Minnesota Vikings, who have won two straight after starting the season 1-5, will travel to Soldier Field and take on the Chicago Bears, who have lost three straight after starting 5-1. Both teams will desperately need a win to stay in playoff contention so Monday night will be an important one for both organizations, which should make for a great game to cap off Week 10.

– Monday Night Football Preview –

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

Vikings (-3) at Bears | Over/Under 43

Vegas Odds

While there have been various outcomes that have occurred over the nearly sixty years these franchises have faced each other, in recent years these games have been closely contested, low scoring affairs. In fact, over the last two years, when these two teams have played, their games have had an average combined score of 35.25 points and were decided by an average of 7.75 points. Though every year is different, there is a lot more familiarity between divisional teams that play twice each year versus other teams around the league that you may face once every few years. When you consider this along with the way both teams have been playing recently, you can see where Vegas got the lines of Minnesota being favored by three and 43 for the over/under. Although the Vikings have not defeated the Bears since 2017, when you consider the current winning and covering the spread streak, I would ride the hot hand in this matchup. Take the Vikings and the points this week. I also expect this game to continue the low scoring trend so I will be betting the Under for Monday night.

Quarterbacks

Since assuming the full-time stater role for Chicago, Nick Foles has yet to make his mark a fantasy asset. From Week 4-7, Foles did not have a game with multiple passing touchdowns and had at least one turnover in each game. Recently though, he has had some solid numbers, ranking as the QB12 for Weeks 8-9 (depending on scoring format) by limiting his turnovers and increasing his touchdowns to two per game in that stretch. Foles is still quite a way away from being a weekly fantasy starter but he has shown as of late that he can be streamed in the proper matchup. On Monday night he will get just that as he plays a Minnesota defense that has allowed the sixth-most passing yardage and the fourth most passing touchdowns since Week 9. While there are plenty of other solid streaming options this week, Foles is not a bad choice in his own right. Feel confident in streaming him on Monday night.

Despite being one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league, Kirk Cousins has had a very mediocre 2020 season. He had an abysmal start to the season where he was ranked as the QB17 for Weeks 1-6 (depending on scoring format); which may not sound too bad, but he also led the league in interceptions with ten, throwing them at an alarming rate of 5.7% per attempt. Since Week 8, Cousins and the Vikings have been using a new offensive approach by taking the ball out of his hands and scaling back their passing attack. Cousins has only attempted 34 passes in the last two weeks, the lowest amount by any starting quarterback in that timeframe. This shift has had a massive impact on the team’s offensive efficiency, helping them win their last two games but it is a huge damper for Cousins’ fantasy upside going forward. When you consider this along with the bad matchup he will be facing in Chicago, a team he has struggled against mightily in his time with Minnesota and is ranked as the sixth-best defense against fantasy quarterbacks through Week 9, Cousins is someone I would be benching or leaving on the waiver wire for Monday night.

Running Backs

Dalvin Cook has been one of the hottest fantasy players in recent weeks, as those who own him or have faced him would tell you. In Weeks 8 and 9, Cook has had 52 rushes for 369 yards and five touchdowns along with four receptions for 109 yards and one touchdown combined in those weeks. Cook is vital to the Vikings’ success, accounting for nearly half of their total touchdowns and over 32% of their total scrimmage yardage through Week 9. He has continued to show why he is an elite fantasy running back and should be relied on for the foreseeable future, including Monday night.

No team in the NFL has had more trouble finding consistent rushing production than the Bears. They rank last in the league in rushing touchdowns (2) and are among the worst teams in terms of rushing yardage (30th in the league with 741) and rushing yards per attempt (tied for 31st with 3.7). Despite these struggles as a team, David Montgomery has found some fantasy success in 2020. Before last week’s game where he exited early after suffering a concussion, Montgomery had a five-game streak going of double-digit performances in PPR scoring formats where he averaged 13.5 points per game. Unfortunately, he will be out for Monday night due to that Week 9 concussion, leaving the Bears backfield in a precarious position.

Chicago will be looking to their depth chart to carry the ball on Monday night. They will be relying on a combination of Cordarrelle Patterson and Ryan Nall with the chance of Artavis Pierce and/or Lamar Miller being mixed in as well. It will be interesting to see what the Bears offensive coaching staff will come up with, especially since they are facing a Vikings defense that has allowed two consecutive top RB17 weekly performances. Given the Montgomery injury and the massive uncertainty, I would stay away from the Bears backfield on Monday night and look for other options.

Wide Receivers

Allen Robinson is continuing where he left off in 2019, where he finished as the WR8 in PPR scoring formats. Through Week 9 of 2020, Robinson is the WR9 and is among the league leaders in targets, yards, and receptions. He has been one of the most consistent fantasy plays at wide receiver all season. In the nine games he has played this season, Robinson has posted a double-digit fantasy performance in PPR scoring formats in eight of them with his only dud game coming in Week 2 (three receptions for 33 yards). He will try to maintain that level of efficiency on Monday night against Minnesota, which should not be a challenge for him. The Vikings have one of the worst defenses when it comes to defending wide receivers, they have allowed the eighth-most yardage and are tied for allowing the most receiving touchdowns to the position group at 16. This matchup should give Robinson and company plenty of upside for Monday night. Robinson is questionable for the game with a knee injury so there is some concern about his health; but if he is active and good to go, look for him to continue his WR1 trend going this week.

A big question for many owners this week is whether the upside of Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller in this prime matchup is worth starting on Monday night. Both players have been hot as of late, ranking as the WR21 and WR30 respectively in Weeks 8-9 (depending on scoring format). Mooney and Miller have seen at least six targets in the last two games and they have turned those into solid fantasy production. Look for this usage to continue on Monday night against Minnesota, especially in light of the Montgomery injury. If you had to pick between the two, I would lean towards Mooney as he has been the more consistent player with Foles under center but Miller is also a decent option himself. Flex both these Bears receivers on Monday night.

Few wide receiver duos have been as potent in 2020 as Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. They are one of only three sets of wide receivers (Julio Jones/Calvin Ridley and D.K. Metcalf/Tyler Lockett being the others) to both have at least one game of 30 points or more in PPR scoring formats on the same team this season. While there have been some lower scoring games for both Thielen (Week 2) and Jefferson (Week 5) this year, when either player is having a good game, it is likely a week-winning level performance for your lineup. These types of games have been fleeting in recent weeks, however, as the Vikings have moved to a run-first offense and are passing at a significantly lower rate. This philosophy change has had a direct effect on the outputs of Thielen and Jefferson as both wide receivers have yet to catch more than three passes and gain more than 64 receiving yards in any game since Week 8. Thielen has been especially poor as of late, combining for five receptions and 65 yards in the last two games; a similar stat line to what he had through two and a half quarters of their Week 3 game versus Houston (five receptions for 73 yards). Both players should no longer be considered weekly starts until Minnesota increases their passing numbers back to their early-season levels, something I just don’t see happening unless feeding Cook stops working. This is especially true for Monday night as the Bears have one of the best defenses against fantasy wide receivers through Week 9, ranking third in the league (depending on scoring format) and have only allowed one top 20 weekly performance in their last four games (A.J. Brown in Week 9 who was the WR17). If you have other options I would move both Thielen and Jefferson to your bench this week.

Tight Ends

After having a small dip in production in Weeks 6-8, Jimmy Graham continued his 2020 redemption tour in Week 9 where he caught six passes for 55 yards and one touchdown against Tennessee. Graham has been a delightful surprise this season, ranking as the TE6 through Week 9 and has been a reliable player to start for a majority of his games this year. One part of his game that has been revitalized is his red zone usage. Graham has been targeted eleven times in the red zone through Week 9, the third-most among tight ends behind only Travis Kelce and Darren Waller and he has caught all five of his touchdowns there, also third-most behind Kelce and Jonnu Smith. Matt Nagy and the Bears offensive staff have made Graham a focal point in their red zone offense and will continue to do so Monday night. The Vikings have allowed three straight double-digit performances to opposing tight ends in PPR scoring formats and will have their hands full trying to contain Graham. Start Graham again this week and look for a TE1 level performance once again on Monday night.

In Week 9, Irv Smith Jr. had one of the most interesting stat lines in recent memory. Last week against the Lions, Smith caught two passes for 10 yards and two touchdowns, making him the first tight end with two touchdowns on two receptions along with 10 or fewer receiving yards since Zach Miller did so for the Seahawks in 2013. This performance helped him finish as the TE4 in PPR scoring formats that week, the highest finish of a Vikings tight end in 2020 by a large margin. Unfortunately, Smith will not have a chance to repeat this feat on Monday night as he has been ruled out due to a groin injury.

This will leave Kyle Rudolph as Minnesota’s main tight end. Though he has flashed in years past, Rudolph has had a hard time finding fantasy relevance this season, ranking as the TE33 through Week 9. A major reason for this due to a lack of passing work in general, but especially to Rudolph and Smith. In fact, the Vikings tight ends have the sixth-fewest targets in the league for their position group (40 through Week 9) and it does not look like that is going to change anytime soon. The Bears are ranked as the fifth-worst defense against tight ends through Week 9 (depending on scoring format), so there is some upside to play Rudolph this week. But, given Minnesota’s tight end usage in the passing game so far in 2020, it would be a stretch to assume Rudolph will have anything better than a TE3 level performance Monday night. I would stay away and find other options this week.

Defense/Special Teams

Though they have been fantasy powerhouses in recent years, the Bears and Vikings D/STs have stumbled in 2020. Both units have been mediocre through Week 9 with Chicago having the best ranking at 11th in the league (depending on scoring format). Monday night will present both D/STs with a bounce-back opportunity in their own right. For Chicago, they have the talent advantage and are facing a quarterback in Cousins who averages one turnover and four sacks against the Bears since he joined the Vikings. If they can at least meet those numbers and keep the score low, Chicago’s D/ST will find success on Monday night. For Minnesota, they will be facing a Bears offense that will be missing some key pieces on Monday night and is also one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league as the Bears have turned the ball over at least once in every game since Week 2. While there are better opportunities for Week 10, but both of these D/ST units are solid startable options for Monday night.

Prediction

Much like their recent games, this matchup will come down to Minnesota’s ability to get the running game going and limit their turnovers. Following their Week 7 bye, there has been a clear shift in this team and it may have potentially saved their season. Stopping Cook, or at least trying to limit him as much as possible, will be paramount for Chicago. They have done a solid job of stifling Cousins in recent years, which should lead to Minnesota relying on Cook and the ground game even more so. If Cook keeps his dominance going, the Bears will be in trouble. With that being said I have this game going to the Vikings by a score of 20-10.

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