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Game Preview: Bears-Vikings

Another primetime NFC North showdown

Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

For being a 1-6 team, the Bears are on primetime television a lot. Unlike last time, there is no baseball game going against it so there is nothing to really distract from the Bears and their crappy season.

Chicago has just this game standing between it and their bye week. One game before a nice, long break to try and get healthier and regroup for the second half stretch of the season.

However, they must face one of the top teams in the NFL, the 5-1 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings were the last undefeated team standing before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

So now the 1-6 Bears get to face an angry Vikings team that will be looking to re-assert itself as the best defense in the league in primetime.

No small task.

Minnesota Vikings

SB Nation blog: Daily Norseman

Record: 5-1, first in the NFCN

Last week: 21-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles

Bears all-time record against: 50-57-2

Historical match ups: The teams have played each other for a long time so there is plenty of history here. The famous Thursday night come back early in the ‘85 season comes to mind. The teams have met once in the postseason: a 35-18 Bears win in 1995. That’s right, Dave Wannstedt and Steve Walsh took down Warren Moon and Dennis Green.

Last meeting: 38-17 Bears loss in Week 15 last year. Teddy Bridgewater threw four touchdowns, including two to Stefon Diggs and the Vikings QB also rushed for a touchdown.

Key injuries: Jerick McKinnon has an ankle injury but will likely play through it, receivers Jarius Wright and Laquon Treadwell missed the Eagles game and could be out again this week. Defensive Shariff Floyd is still working back from a meniscus tear.

Offense: The Vikings enter Monday night ranking 18th in points for and second-to-last in yards, a disparity not unlike the Bears.

New-to-Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford is playing some of the best football of his career, or at least he was until last week. He has a 100.3 rating and has thrown seven touchdowns to one interception. Bradford had been turnover free until last week when he threw the pick and lost two of his four (!) fumbles.

The Vikings have only 10 offensive touchdowns, coincidently the exact same number as the Bears have.

Also much like Chicago, the Vikings have been decimated by injuries on offense, losing Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and getting no impact from first round pick Treadwell. Unlike the Bears though, they’ve overcome them.

McKinnon is averaging 3.2 yards per carry and Matt Asiata just 3.3, making for the 31st ranked rushing attack.

The Bradford-led passing attack isn’t much better, only ranking 26th. Bradford’s two favorite targets are Stefon Diggs (27 rec./390 yds./1 TD), Kyle Rudolph (26/291/3) and Adam Thielen (22/324/1). Corrdarrelle Patterson has two TDs on just 18 catches.

Defense: This is where the Vikings do their damage. The Vikings are the No. 1 defense in the league: first in yards in allowed, first in points allowed (tied with Seattle). The unit ranks top five against both the pass and run: fourth in passing, third in rushing.

With players like Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, it’s no surprise. This unit is loaded.

Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Tre Waynes are a dynamc duo in their own right in front of safeties Smith and Sendejo.

The Vikings have three players tied for the team lead in sacks (4): Danielle Hunter, Robison and Griffen. Hunter has two forced fumbles and Robison and Griffen one each.

Opposing QBs have a league-worst 63.7 rating against Minnesota, throwing just five touchdowns and nine interceptions. Opposing QBs also have the lowest completion percentage (55.7, tied with Denver) against them.

Key match ups: For the Chicago defense, on paper there isn’t much that screams “scary match up nightmare.” Stefon Diggs has been dangerous at times this season, but after starting the season with 16 catches, 285 yards and one touchdown in the first two games, his stats have been 11/105/0 since.

The rushing attack is struggling without AP. Despite the poor rushing statistics, the Vikings stay true to it, boasting the 15th most rushing attempts in the league despite the 2.6 YPC as a team and the 31st fewest rush yards.

The key on defense will be to get pressure on Bradford, who has been sacked 14 times this season and keep receivers Diggs, Thielen and TE Rudolph covered.

For the offense it’s going to be about protecting Jay Cutler in his first start since Week 2 and limiting mistakes. The Bears have an awful lot of penalties and Cutler is prone to throw picks but if the Bears are going to get a huge upset they will have to limit those mistakes.

The Vikings are such a solid unit it’s tough to say where they can be exploited. The Bears have to stick to the run and work short passes to get Cutler into rhythm and to give them play action potential downfield for Alshon Jeffery.

Speaking of Jeffery, get him and Cutler in sync early in the game and make life hard on the Vikings great secondary.

What to watch for: This is an injured, bad Bears team against the best defense in the league. If Cutler wasn’t starting I would seriously be concerned about a shutout. The Bears are overmatched in this game but the Eagles found a way to beat them.

They did it by, well, mostly the Vikings making mistakes. The Vikings won time of possession but both teams had seven penalties and four turnovers, the Eagles simply took better advantage of their opportunities. That’s what the Bears have to do on Monday night.

Key stats: 12-21-1 - Bradford’s career record on the road. He’s 2-3 all time on Monday games and 5-8 in night games.

The Bears are 2-6 against the NFC North since John Fox became head coach.

Jay Cutler hasn’t played a game without an interception since Week 16 last year against Tampa Bay.

How do you see Monday night going? What are your key factors?