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Mike Carlson: Return of Bradford can give Vikings the edge

Mike Carlson thinks the return of Sam Bradford could be the difference
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Mike Carlson returns with a look ahead to the Monday Night Football clash between Minnesota and Chicago as well as a recap of Sunday's action...

"I thought Chicago's defense would give Keenum problems, and though they will give Bradford some too, he's better equipped to cope with them. And unlike Trubisky, he actually has some receivers to throw to."

It has been another topsy-turvy weekend in the NFL, with the Jags leading the way. Two pick-six touchdowns off Ben Rothliesberger set them up to play a second half where they threw the ball exactly once, which is the best way to win with Blake Bortles throwing. But all eyes in Chicago were probably on Houston, where rookie Deshaun Watson threw five touchdown passes, but the Texans still lost to red-hot Kansas City.

The Bears' coach John Fox has reluctantly inserted his prize rookie thrower, Mitch Trubisky, in as starter, since watering Mike Glennon's roots was proving too difficult for their offensive line. Trubisky was a starter for only one year in college, and his inexperience is going to show through, especially against a defense as tough as Minnesota's, which a coach as defensively astute as Mike Zimmer.

Earlier in the week, when I was making my straight-up picks, I chose the Bears, thinking Trubisky gives them a better chance of winning than Glennon did, that is, some rather than none. But that was before the Vikings announced that Sam Bradford would return and start, which means no Case Keenum. I thought Chicago's defense would give Keenum problems, and though they will give Bradford some too, he's better equipped to cope with them. And unlike Trubisky, he actually has some receivers to throw to.

The Vikes are without rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who's been impressive, but Latavius Murray is a decent backup. The Bears can run the ball, but without the threat of a passing game, it will be easy for the Vikes to hold Jordan Howard and pint-size rookie Tarik Cohen in check. I wish I could have that Friday pick back.

For you, however, the temptation might be to think Bradford won't be ready, and the Bears getting 3.5 points at 20/23 is better than the Vikes giving the points at 20/21. I think, in the end, the Vikes cover, but I like the under of 40.5 at 10/11 better.

The specials intrigue me more for this game. Keenum was going to tight end Kyle Rudolph a lot, taking him to register over 36 yards at 5/6 seems reasonable. The Bears will probably throw a lot to their backs: taking the over on total yards running and receiving for Howard 86.5 and Cohen 48.5, also at 5/6 is possible; I like Cohen's number better. Trubisky under 19.5 completions at 5/6 is attractive, and Latavius Murray over 54.5 yards, also at 5/6 is tempting.

And a quick look ahead to next Thursday's game: Philadelphia at Carolina is all of a sudden a game of the week candidate. The Panthers (-3 at 20/23) looks good because I think they are a solid defense that will be in control given the short week, and the over (46 at 20/23) also interests me, because the Eagles and Carson Wentz will make some plays, but Cam Newton and his big receivers, Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, and Ed Dickson, finally seem to be getting on the same page.

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