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Week 17 Game Preview: Bears-Vikings

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A clash of two teams dying to have their season end

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

In just a few days another NFL regular season will be wrapped up and once again, it seems like it flew by.

For the Chicago Bears it means another season out of the playoffs, focusing instead on draft picks and position, coaching staff changes, organizational issues and all that.

Six straight seasons without a postseason trip and one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

The Bears have never finished a 16-game season with 13 losses before so there is pride to play for on Sunday.

Although, many will be screaming that pride be damned and just lock up that third overall draft pick.

Either way the game is looked at, there is something to play for: a hollow victory or a shot at a true blue chip, potential franchise-altering player.

The Vikings on the other hand, they’re just trying to get to the offseason, get healthy and pick up the pieces of their 5-0 start and potential 7-9 or 8-8 finish.

Minnesota Vikings

SB Nation blog: Daily Norseman

Record: 7-8, third in the NFC North

Last week: 38-25 loss to the Packers that somehow wasn’t even as close as the 13 final margin appears.

Bears all-time record against: 52-57-2 (including postseason)

Historical match ups: This will be the 112th meeting between the two proud NFC North franchises. The last time these teams met was back in the 2014 finale, the last game of the Marc Trestman/Phil Emery era. The Bears lost 13-9 at TCF Bank Stadium. The Bears had no turnovers that day but no touchdowns, 264 total yards of offense and eight penalties.

Last meeting: A 20-10 win on Monday Night Football on Halloween in Week 8. It was the second loss in a row for Minnesota and the triumphant return of Jay Cutler, who was 20/31 for 252 yards and a TD. Jordan Howard rumbled for 153 yards and a TD. Things were, for the moment, looking up for the Bears.

Key injuries: On Wednesday report Adrian Peterson did no participate with injuries to his knee and groin, starting guard Alex Boone was shelved with a back issue. Wide receivers Stefon Diggs (hips) and Laquon Treadwell (ankle) sat out practice while receiver Charles Johnson (knee) was limited. Starting OL Joe Berger (elbow) and Brandon Fusco (concussion) were limited as well. Safety Harrison Smith was limited due to an ankle issue.

Offense: Offensive fireworks are not likely in the cards Sunday as the Vikings come in just two spots ahead of the Bears in terms of points scored at 26th with 19.3 points per game. They are 30th in yards per game, which is 17 spots behind Chicago.

Quarterback Sam Bradford is playing mediocre but efficient football, completing 71.3 percent of his passes for 3,627 yards, 17 TDs and just 4 INTs for the 18th ranked passing attack in the league.

Catching those passes for Bradford are Diggs (84 catches/903 yards/3 TDs), Adam Thielen (68/960/5), TE Kyle Rudolph (72/723/6) and Cordarrelle Patterson (51/414/2). Rudolph (117 targets) and Diggs (112) are Bradfords favorite targets.

The Vikings, who have been without AP for all but three games, have severely lacked a running game. They are dead last with 72.1 yards per game and tied for third-to-last with eight rushing scores.

Matt Asiata leads the Vikings ground game with six TDs and a 3.4 yards per carry average but has just 388 yards while Jerrick McKinnon has 450 yards but a 3.1 YPC and a single score.

Defense: When the Bears and Vikings met eight weeks ago, Minnesota boasted the No. 1 defense in yards and points allowed. Now they come in ranked second in yards per game allowed and eighth in points per game.

The Viking pass defense is fourth in the league, allowing 212 yards per game with 21 TDs and 12 INTs, allowing opposing QBs an 83.7 QB rating against them.

They still have a fearsome pass rush with the third most sacks in the league (40). Led by Danielle Hunter with 12, followed by Everson Griffen (8) and Brian Robison (7). in the secondary, Xavier Rhodes has four interceptions and nine pass break ups. Trey Waynes has two picks and eight deflections while safety Andrew Sendejo also has a pair of picks to go with four PDs.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks is a player that the Bears will need to scheme for as he is the Vikings’ do-it-all defender judging by his stat line of 68 tackles (second on the team), 2.5 sacks, nine deflections (tied with Rhodes for team lead) and a forced fumble.

The Vikings are 15th against the run, allowing 101 yards per game to opponents and the third fewest rushing TDs with nine.

Key match ups: For the Bears offense they are going to need to account for the playmaking defenders like Kendricks and Waynes, as well as the ferocious Vikings DL.

Keeping the pocket clean for Matt Barkley will be key because, as last week showed, he can make bad throws when under duress.

Sticking with the run game will be important for Chicago, not only will it keep the defense honest but it’s also the Bears’ strongest offensive attack.

On defense it’s going to be about getting after Bradford. He’s been relatively mistake free as far as throwing the ball is concerned, but he does have 10 fumbles on the season.

The Vikings have a large discrepancy in their run/pass ratio (sound familiar?) ranking 11th in pass attempts and 27th in rushing (554 to 352). The Bears need to take advantage of that.

The defensive line should get some chances as the Vikings’ OL is banged up and also has struggled with the Vikings allowing 38 sacks, the 10th most in the league. Ideally Willie Young, Akiem Hicks and Pernell McPhee get some chances Sunday.

What to watch for: It all depends on your outlook: lose for a better draft selection or cheer for pride and “momentum,” if you believe in such stuff.

Ideally it will be a close, tightly fought contest with Chicago still emerging with the third pick at the end of the day, maybe with some help of other teams winning as well.

Key stats: The Vikings are +7 in turnover differential, good for sixth in the league, while the Bears are 30th at -16.

The Bears will be playing for the first time in the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Bears have a chance to go 0-8 on the road for the first time ever.

The Bears rank 29th in rushing attempts but rank eighth in the league in yards per carry (4.5). A product of the disparity or evidence that they should have run more?

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Are you rooting for a win or a loss Sunday?