Ever since the Bears and Vikings met on "Monday Night Football" for Mitchell Trubisky's NFL debut, both teams have gone in dramatically different directions.
That game was the beginning of the resurgence of Case Keenum and a Minnesota team that would rattle off eight straight victories to put itself into pole position for an NFC first round bye.
Meanwhile, the Bears would win their next two, before eventually and gradually settling into their place in the NFC North cellar, cementing the failure of John Fox era. But, this year was never about results for Chicago. It was always about the progression of Trubisky, his development, and the lessons he would take from the important experience gained.
As the Bears visit Minnesota today, we're on that final step of Trubisky's rookie season, before expectations rise for the 23-year-old. Before he's expected to make a leap and take this franchise to new heights. Before he does any of that, he must take on the Vikings one last time in one final difficult road lesson.
Here are WCG's staff picks for Bears-Vikings:
The Vikings are playing for a first round bye. The Bears (some of them) are playing for pride, and on the road. Chicago will fight valiantly but this won’t end well with those stakes. Luckily, a quick needed franchise turnaround awaits on Monday.
Vikings 26 Bears 17
Lester Wiltfong Jr.
The Vikings need this win to ensure a first round bye, and the Bears need to play this game because it's on the schedule. I think the Vikes will come out looking to end this one with a first round knockout, and then coast to a victory.
Vikings 38 Bears 13
It's a worst case scenario for the Bears: a team with playoff seeding on the line that will be motivated to earn a week off since they aren't getting it Sunday. I expect them to be at their best, no Sam Bradford limping around this time to let the Bears hang around. The Bears could see some garbage time points, but I also think Trubisky will play well, getting his second shot at a team for the second time.
Vikings 34, Bears 21
This will be a rough game. I fully expect some guys to play their hearts out, but this can go sideways on the Bears fast. I think it will be one of Trubisky's worst games statistically.
Vikings 27 Bears 13
With the Vikings locked into the No. 2 seed, they bring an underwhelming performance as the Bears win. Money Mitch tosses four touchdowns to tie Charlie O'Rourke for the franchise rookie record for passing touchdown in a season, with 11. Shout out to Lester for pulling that up.
Bears 34 Vikings 21
The Vikings have already clinched the playoffs, but will still be looking to clinch home-field advantage this week. The Bears, on the other hand, don't have much to play for. Their season is a lost cause, and a majority of the coaching staff will be on its way out after the game. Poor coaching dooms Chicago for one last time, marking the seventh time that they will have lost by eight points or fewer.
Vikings 21 Bears 13
The Vikings have a lot to play for and with a noon game, they have to take control of their own destiny. The Bears also have some things to play for. They have two cornerbacks that are looking for money and security, a rookie class that wants to finish on a high-note, and a few players like Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan who don't know the meaning of the word quit. Couple that with the fact that the coaching staff has likely been informed that they will not be returning, and you have a recipe for an exciting end to the season. Of course, this game probably ends in a blowout, but I believe it will be a fun one.
Vikings 23 Bears 20
I want to believe the Bears offense can do something against this Vikings defense, but with the Bears' backup-laden offensive line and no injured Bradford to hand them good field position, 17 is the most optimistic point projection I can offer. The Vikings are playing to clinch a playoff bye. The Bears are playing to reward optimistic fans who made a sushi bet with their obnoxious Packers fan co-worker that the Bears would beat their 5.5 win projection: so motivation should be equal. It's a home game for the better team, and I don't see the Bears managing an upset.
Vikings 27 Bears 17
Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition!
Bears 21 Vikings 17
WCG Contributors: Jeff Berckes; Patti Curl; Kev H; Sam Householder; Jacob Infante;Andrew Link; Ken Mitchell; Steven Schweickert; Jack Silverstein; EJ Snyder; Lester Wiltfong, Jr.; Robert Zeglinski; Like us on Facebook.