One of the best rivalries in the NFL takes place on Sunday, Dec. 30 when the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings throw down at U.S. Bank Stadium in what could be an important game for both teams. It’s earned our place as the Week 17 Game of the Week since it could have a serious ripple effect.

This season, the Chicago Bears proved the experts wrong by beating the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North Division title. The Bears won the North by utilizing a suffocating defense and creative play-calling from head coach Matt Nagy. Nagy and Chicago have something to play for on Sunday, a higher-seed in the playoffs.

While the Bears fight for playoff seeding, the Minnesota Vikings fight for their playoff lives. It’s simple for the Vikings – win and you’re in. If Minnesota loses, they’re sitting home while playoff teams battle it out for big bonus checks and Super Bowl rings. With a victory, the Vikings travel next weekend to Soldier Field, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, or AT&T Stadium to battle the Bears, Rams, or Cowboys as a wildcard.

Who takes it in one of the most meaningful rivalry games of the season and our Week 17 Game of the Week?

Week 17 Game of the Week
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, December 30th – U.S. Bank Stadium – 4:25pm ET
Odds: Vikings -4 (41)

Bears Can Keep Vikings Out of Playoffs

If the Chicago Bears win on Sunday, they’ll either be the 2-seed or the 3-seed in the NFC Playoffs. Whether or not they’re the 2-seed depends on if the Los Angeles Rams beat the San Francisco 49ers. Bears win and Rams lose and Chicago gets a bye. Rams win and it doesn’t matter if the Bears win or lose. Rams get the 2-seed and the bye.

Even though the chances of grabbing the 2-seed’s remote because the Rams should beat the 49ers, Chicago has plenty to play for on Sunday. For starters, they want to remain sharp knowing there’s a big chance they hit the gridiron next week. They also would like to knock the Vikings out of the playoffs.

Few rivalries are as nasty as the ones in the NFC North among the Bears, Vikings, Packers, and Lions. Chicago will be all out to keep Minnesota from making it to the postseason if for no other reason than because the Bears can’t stand the Vikings.

Chicago’s not the type of team to rest on their laurels just because they won the division. Matt Nagy wouldn’t allow them to do that no matter who they played on Dec. 30. The fact they play the Vikings means Nagy will be extra tough on his team during practice this week.

Vikings Play for Postseason Berth

For Minnesota, one of the favorites to win Super Bowl 53 before the season started, taking down Chicago to earn a playoff spot would be sweet redemption for a season that’s gone awry for a variety of (mostly injury related) reasons. A victory in our Week 17 Game of the Week gives them momentum heading in to the post season and confidence that they can hang with the best the NFC has to offer.

Minnesota’s had a rocky season. Savior Kirk Cousins hasn’t turned out to be any more effective than last year’s starter, Case Keenum. It took Week 16 for the run game to get on track, and the defense has been playing well below its talent level.

None of that matters if the Vikings can beat the Bears on Sunday. A win gives Minnesota a chance of winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy. A loss could turn into a pink slip for coach Mike Zimmer and provide an offseason of questions about Kirk Cousins and the franchise’s direction. There is almost too much at stake with the loss potentially on the books.

The good news for Minnesota, and the reason they’re favored in the Week 17 Game of the Week, is because Chicago is unlikely to roll out their full armada of weapons. That gives the Vikings a real shot at not only winning, but covering the spread.

Week 17 Game of the Week Analysis and Pick

Since opening at Vikings -6.5, the line’s steadily decreased so that now Minnesota’s only a 4-point favorite. The trends scream Chicago.

The Bears are 8-1 ATS in their last 9 overall, 6-1 ATS in their last 7 following an ATS win, and 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings. The Vikings are 2-8 ATS versus a team with a winning record, and 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 following a straight up win.

However, Minnesota is also 11-2 ATS in their last 13 home games versus a team with a winning road record. The Vikings are a different team with offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski. Minnesota should step it up on Dec. 30. I like them to win and cover.

Week 17 Game of the Week Free Pick: Vikings -4