Well this is it, this is the last chance to watch the Bears in 2017. More than likely, this game will be the last hurrah for John Fox and the coaching staff. So if you love yourself some Fox-ball with a sprinkling of Dowell “danger zone” Loggains, then you had better relish this game. It’s your last opportunity to see the second-worst head coach—based on record—in Bears history.
The Vikings are still playing for something—the number two seed in the NFC, which comes with a first-round bye—which makes this game have a bit more intrigue. At the very least, we will have one more opportunity to evaluate the players that are currently on the roster, and healthy.
On the flip-side, the Bears have a lot of players that are seeking new contracts, that still respect John Fox, and that don’t have a “quitting gene” in their body (I’m looking at you Akiem Hicks). If nothing else, I would expect the Bears to at least play hard in this game, if for no other reason than to spoil the Vikings bye week.
What to Watch For
On offense, I would imagine that Loggains will empty out the play book in this game. I would expect to see a lot of passing, screens, deep passes, and gadget plays. If there are any trick plays that we haven’t seen already, I would expect to see them now. How ironic would it be to see the Bears come out and completely mix-up their play-calling and go on to beat the Vikings?
Defensively, it feels like Vic Fangio is showing a tad more than he has earlier in the season. Case Keenum doesn’t turn the ball over much, so the Bears will have to play tight and aggressive to force the issue. My guess is that the Vikings will play more conservatively as they don’t want to give the Bears an opportunity to beat them, which is probably the best way to approach this game. If they do play it close to the vest, it will likely make watching the Bears defense an exercise in futility.
Who to Watch
Mitch Trubisky: The last 4 games have seen Trubisky play pretty well. This is also the first chance we will get to see him get a second crack at this type of defense. Let’s see if he learned his lesson about throwing at Harrison Smith. Mainly, I just want to see how he handles playing against this defense after being on a bit of a roll.
Benny Cunningham: I would venture to guess that the Bears are going to try and use the screen pass as a weapon again. The Vikings have a really good pass rush and Cunningham helps in two ways. He is probably the best blocking running back on the team. He may not quite have Tarik Cohen’s hands, but he can absolutely catch the football. I would look for a nice game from Cunningham.
Bradley Sowell & Cameron Lee: With both Bobby Massie and Josh Sitton not participating in practice this week, I think it’s likely that neither of them play. Lee played last week and I thought he was fine. Sowell on the other hand, has not played particularly well this year. He is likely going to play right tackle this week, which may not be a good thing. Both of these players will be auditioning for a job for next year.
Nick Kwiatkoski: The inside linebacker has quietly had a really good run since he came back from injury. With the likelihood that Jerrell Freeman will be released at the end of the season, this is a chance to watch his replacement. Danny Trevathan and Kwiatkoski have played very well together. I think the future looks bright for this pair.
Keys to the Game
Empty the Playbook: As mentioned above, I think this is the perfect opportunity to try and catch the Vikings off-guard. If you have a flea-flicker, halfback pass, or any other non-traditional plays in the playbook, now id the time to unleash them. What is there to lose at this point? If you play the Vikings straight-up, you probably aren’t winning this game.
Let Them Play: If I was an NFL coordinator on a team that basically had nothing to play for, I would let them have some fun. Do they want to play more man or zone? Do the linebackers want to blitz more? Do the lineman want to try some new stunts? Let them play and have fun out there. Again, what do you have to lose?
The X-Factor: It is time to use Tarik Cohen the entire game. I don’t care how many touches he gets, he still affects the game. Get Cohen involved more, move him around, and keep him moving. If they can keep him on the field and use him equally as a decoy and a target, they can disguise what they are doing. They are too predictable when Cohen is on the field, just leave him out there.