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Week 17 Game Preview: Bears-Vikings

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The Bears season ends Sunday but the 2018 season is just beginning

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally the end of the season for the Chicago Bears.

While in many ways that is a good thing, because of the frustration and disappointment that this season has consisted of, it’s also sad for fans that just love watching the Bears play, regardless of the record.

However, this offseason is sure to be busy with a (likely?) coaching change and all of the excitement and development that comes with that and yet another top-10 draft selection.

But there is one last game to be played and it has a bit of a worse-case scenario depending on how fans approach.

On one hand, having the Vikings needing to win to help their seeding and earn a bye, it means that the Bears will be facing the full force of Minnesota’s starters.

One the other hand, the above scenario trades a potential sixth win for more certainty of a higher draft pick.

Minnesota Vikings

SB Nation site: Daily Norseman

Record: 12-3 (First NFC North)

Last week: 16-0 over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field

Bears all-time record against: 52-59-2

Historical match ups: With 113 meetings between the teams there have been some memorable ones.

They have never played on New Years Eve but they have played four times on New Years Day, including Jan. 1 2017, meaning that the Bears will have played the Vikings three times in one calendar year and will have also faced them on the first and last days of the year, ending the season twice. Weird, trivial stuff.

Last meeting: 20-17 loss on Monday Night Football in October. Mitch Trubisky’s first start.

Injury report: The Vikings listed eight players on their Wednesday injury report:

  • LS Kevin McDermott did not participate due to a shoulder injury
  • DT Shamar Stephen did not participate due to an ankle injury
  • CB Tramaine Brock Sr. did not participate due to a foot injury
  • C Pat Elflein did not participate due to a shoulder injury
  • TE Kyle Rudolph was limited by an ankle injury
  • CB Terence Newman was limited but not due to an injury
  • RB Jerick McKinnon fully participated despite a shoulder injury
  • T Mike Remmers fully participated with a low back injury

Offense: The Vikings enter the final week of the season ranked 10th in offense in yards and points.

The rushing offense is the strong suit for Minnesota, ranking eighth in the league, even without Dalvin Cook. Latavius Murray (196 att./731 yds./6 TD) leads the way while the speedier Jerick McKinnon (138/526/3) spells him. The two are each averaging below 4 yards per carry (3.7 for Murray, 3.8 for McKinnon) but have a combined 1,257 yards.

The passing game is strong in its own right though, ranking 13th in yards and 12th in passing touchdowns. They have managed to throw the third fewest interceptions along the way as well.

Case Keenum has been a revelation in place of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford. Keenum, thought of as a back up and nothing more, has 3,358 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

His weapons have been plentiful, from the quick-rising Adam Thielen (85 rec./1,215 yds./4 TDs), the speedy Stefon Diggs (58/784/7), touchdown leader TE Kyle Rudolph (56/529/8) and McKinnon (51/421/2).

That diverse group of receivers catching balls could lend credence to Pat Shurmur being a realistic candidate for a head coaching job this offseason. He’s gotten a lot of offense out of a group lacking big star power.

Defense: The VIkings come in with a strong defense, ranking first in yards and points allowed.

Both parts of the defense, passing and rushing, ranks second in yards allowed and has given up the fewest passing touchdowns and just the 13th fewest rushing touchdowns.

The Vikings don’t have a huge number of turnovers though. While they are very good at stopping opponents, the defense ranks 19th with just 19 takeaways.

The defense has a lot of star power, beginning up front with Everson Griffin (13 sacks) and Danielle Hunter (7 sacks), continues to the middle of the defense with LBs Eric Kendricks (1 sack, 65 tackles, 1 INT, 6 pass defended) and Anthony Barr (50 tackles, 6 PDs) and is shored up by talented secondary members Trae Waynes (55 tkls, 1 sack, 9 PDs, and 2 INTs), FS Harrison Smith (57 tkls, 1.5 sacks, 11 PD, 5 INTs), SS Andrew Sendejo (2 INTs, 6 PDs). There is also CB Xavier Rhodes (2 INTs, 9 PDs) is a Pro-Bowler.

That’s a lot of talent to watch out for.

Key match ups: There is a lot out there to worry about for the Bears. This is one of the best teams in the league and they are talented top to bottom.

The last time the two teams played, the Vikings were 2-2 and didn’t appear to be the class of the division. Chicago pulled out all of the stops to give themselves a chance, including a fake punt for a touchdown and a nifty option two-point conversion.

They will need to go back to that well and then some to pull off this upset. Trubisky is better than he was the last time around but he isn’t necessarily ready to take on the best defense in the league.

Kyle Fuller will have his hands full covering Thielen, hoping to finish his season strong as he weighs free agency and the possibility of a big payday.

The banged up offensive line will have their hands full against the Vikings pass rush, a week after allowing three sacks in the first half to the Browns, the line needs to slow down Griffin, Robison and numerous blitzers.

They will also be tasked with finding some running room between those players as well for Jordan Howard. Howard will need to be better at breaking tackles Sunday, compared to a week ago when he had trouble finding running room against a defense keyed against the run.

Elsewhere on the defense, the Bears will need to slow down McKinnon and Murray and try to get after Keenum to possibly force him into mistakes.

What to watch for: It’s the final Bears game of the season, always a sad reality for football fans that like watching their favorite NFL team. Even though the team sucks, it is the final chance to evaluate players and see who has a chance to shine under a new coach in 2018.

Key stats: Trubisky has been sacked 11 times in December, over a third of the 30 sacks he’s taken as a starter for the Bears.

Trubisky has turned over the ball just three times in the last four games, all coming in the Detroit game.

The Vikings have allowed just seven points to their opponents in their last two games, after allowing 31 to the Panthers.

Minnesota has allowed just 47 points in the final month of the season, averaging 11.7 points per game.

The Bears are averaging just under 17 points per game on the season.

The Bears have yet to beat the Vikings in 2017 (0-2).

Can the Bears pull off an upset Sunday? Would you rather they win or lose?