NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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GAME REPORTS

 
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For First
by Dennis Ranahan

NBC flexed out what turned out to be a very good football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers had lost twice to Jacksonville last season, both in the regular and postseason in Pittsburgh. They appeared to be on their way to a third loss in two seasons against Jacksonville when they trailed in the fourth quarter, 16-6. But, with a late game surge, Ben Roethlisberger pulled out a 20-16 road win with a late touchdown stretch.

Skipping that game, the primetime telecast tonight features a contest with more promise going in than the Jaguars/Steelers matchup. At stake in the game NBC flexed to tonight for their national telecast is first place in the NFC North Division. The Chicago Bears currently hold the top spot by virtue of the Minnesota Vikings missing a would-be winning field goal and tying the Green Bay Packers in second week action.

The Bears have one extra win against that game the Vikings tied, which brings them into action tonight with a one-half game lead in their division race. In other words, if the Bears win tonight they would move one-and-one-half games ahead of the Vikings in the NFC North, while with a loss Minnesota would take over first place by a half game.

That creates a more dire need for a victory on the Vikings side, while Chicago looks to succeed in a situation they failed in four weeks ago. The Bears had their first opportunity to see if they were ready to compete against the best when the New England Patriots visited Soldier Field on October 21st. The Bears, as a slight underdog, lost that game straight-up and against the point spread, 38-31.

Tonight, they get their second chance to test their ability to compete against the best with first place on the line. Chicago is having a better season than their opponent, who behind the off season acquisition of Kurt Cousins, are just beginning to reach a championship form on the offensive side of the ball. At the same time, the Vikings defense has failed to live up to the standards they set in 2017, when they were among the best in the league.

Chicago has actually allowed 29 fewer points than the Vikings this season in a like number of games. While the Mitchell Trubisky offense has put up 48 more points than the Vikings.

There is no reason from a football talent standpoint to not expect the Bears to win tonight.

The problem for Chicago may not be found in the offense or defense, but their inexperience at winning big games. They have a rookie head coach, Matt Nagy, who needs to test wits tonight with the more experienced Mike Zimmer. He also has the younger quarterback, and as well as Trubisky has played this season, he has not yet cleared the hurdle of winning a game like tonight’s.

Then we have the point spread, which based on the Bears recent three game winning streak has a number of people headed to the window placing their fortunes on a Chicago team favored by 2½ points.

The Bears failed as an underdog against the Patriots four weeks ago, and now after victories against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, teams that don’t qualify in the upper two thirds of the league, they are posted as a favorite against a Minnesota team that needs the game and is ranked in the top third of the league.

I love Chicago. I think they are really close to breaking through as a power.

But tonight, while it is too late to list the Vikings as a money rated selection, it’s not too late to tell you that the Vikings are the play tonight.

Qoxhi Picks: Minnesota Vikings (+2½) over Chicago Bears