After a a third consecutive 1-3 start to the season, the Bears are hoping to get a boost from rookie second-overall pick Mitchell Trubisky who will make his debut against a tough Minnesota Vikings defense.
The Bears are hoping it’s a season-changer. It is sort of like a reset button for the offensively struggling Chicago squad but it’s difficult to say that this team could really be a playoff contender.
However, .500 the rest of the way is possible if they can catch some breaks and if Trubisky plays up to his potential while limiting his rookie mistakes.
SB Nation site: Daily Norseman
Record: 2-2 (3rd in NFC North)
Last week: 14-7 loss against the Detroit Lions
Bears All-Time Record Against: 52-58-2
Historical Match Ups: The Bears and Vikings have met 111 times, third-most among franchises in the league.
Of all of those they’ve played in the playoffs just once, in 1995, when the Bears broke a six game losing skid to the Vikings to win 35-18 in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
The Vikings last swept the season series in 2015 but the Bears haven’t swept them since 2012.
Last Meeting: 38-10 Vikings win in Week 17 of last season. The Bears looked like a team ready to shut the door on a horrible offseason while the Vikings looked like a team upset about missing out on the playoffs.
Injury Report: The Vikings listed seven players on their Thursday injury report:
- QB Sam Bradford returned to practice in a limited fashion while coming back from his knee injury
- LE Eric Kendricks was limited with an illness
- S Andrew Sendejo did not participate because of a shoulder injury and an illness
- DT Shamar Stephen did not participate because of a back injury
- T Rashod Hill did not participate because of a knee injury
- RB Jerick McKinnon and DT Tom Johnson were full participants
Offense: The Vikings rank sixth in offensive yards but 19th in points. Their passing offense ranks eighth while the rushing attack ranks 17th.
The Vikings might get starter Sam Bradford back for Monday, who hasn’t played since week one with a knee injury. In his place has been Case Keenum, who has played well in his absence completing 61 percent of his passes for 755 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Minnesota has two dangerous receivers, Adam Thielen (24 rec./358 yds./0 TDs) and Stefon Diggs (22/391/4) rank third and first respectively in the NFL in receiving yards. Behind them is TE Kyle Rudolph (10/109/1) and then an assortment of single-catch guys including former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell (5/42/0).
The rushing attack will be hurting, coming into the game ranked 17th in the league with 108 yards per game, but without their leading rusher Dalvin Cook.
Cook was lost for the season last week with an ACL tear, a brutal loss for Minnesota. Cook was averaging an impressive 4.8 yards per carry and out-carried his next closest teammate by 60. He had 74 carries for 354 yards and two TDs. Behind him are Latavius Murray (14/38/0) and Jerick McKinnon (10/26/0). Cook was also a good receiver out of the backfield with 11 catches for 90 yards.
The Vikings offensive line, which has been criticized in the past, has actually surrendered just five sacks so far this season.
Defense: The Vikings defense ranks 12th in the league in yards allowed per game and rank eighth in points allowed per game, giving up just 19 points per game.
The Vikings’ pass defense is 24th against the pass, allowing 246.8 yards with 5 touchdowns against and three interceptions.
They rank third against the run though, giving up just 71.2 yards per game on the ground and just one touchdown on the season.
Through four games Minnesota DE Everson Griffin already has five sacks while Danielle Hunter has two and Eric Kendricks, Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen each have one.
The talented secondary of the Vikings have all three of the teams picks with safeties Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith, as well as CB Trae Waynes each notching one.
Head coach Mike Zimmer will certainly try to confuse Trubisky with a number of disguised looks, different fronts and blitzes to throw him off.
Which brings us to
Key Match Ups: Zimmer vs. Mitch Trubisky. That might be an overstatement for a player’s first career start but it is really going to be about how well Trubisky can diagnose pre-snap and make the blocking calls and be able to pick apart a talented defense.
With the way the Bears’ WRs have been playing it’s going to be more on Trubisky to throw his guys open and to use his accuracy to pinpoint the ball where his players can catch it because the WRs getting themselves open is not their strength.
It could be tough sledding for the Bears’ RBs to find running room against the VIkings’ defense but keep in mind they have played rushing offenses that rank 19th (Detroit), 21st (Pittsburgh), 22nd (New Orleans) and 26th (Tampa Bay). They haven’t faced a rushing attack like the Bears have, so is the Vikings rush defense a product of their opponents or their opponents a product of facing the Vikings?
On defense the Bears will need to slow down Thielen and Diggs as well as getting after the recovering Bradford or Keenum (which ever ends up playing).
If the Bears avoid getting in an early deficit they can keep running the game going and really go at the VIkings’ front and chew up the clock. If Trubisky can make the downfield passing game a viable threat then the Vikings defense will have to play more honest and not just attack the rookie.
What To Watch For: Do I have to tell you? For the debut of Mitch Trubisky! The future might be now for the Bears. The Bears have been searching for “The Guy” for the better part of all of our lifetimes and hopefully the Bears have found theirs, finally, mercifully.
He might not show it right away, he still has time to grow and no one can expect him to be an All-Pro right away, but just look for the positives we saw in the preseason: Accuracy, mobility, throwing on the run, ability to make plays when things break down.
That’s what I’ll be excited about.
Key Stats: Since 2008 the Bears are 8-1 at home against the Vikings.
Despite that streak though, they’ve only won one of their last five against Minnesota.
The Bears are one of four teams to not have an interception yet this season.
The Vikings are one of four teams yet to throw an interception yet this season.
Can the Bears get the win on Monday night?