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Week 15 Game Preview: Bears-Vikings II

Two teams “in the hunt.” Only one can remain “in the hunt.” Which team is hunter and which one is huntee?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday is, for all intents and purposes, an elimination game for the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings.

We all love to joke about the “In the Hunt” graphics but if the Bears wish to stay there, they need to beat the Vikings, first and foremost, before you can start worrying about what else needs to happen.

Now there are those out there that are actively rooting against the Bears and just hoping for the absolute best draft pick to come out of this. But as I’ve said on the Sunday Livestream and elsewhere, that’s just believing in false hope.

I am firmly in the camp of “root for the wins as long as they’re playing games” but I also understand that this team is not going to make any noise in the playoffs and will likely get bounced in the first round.

If that’s the case, then so what? If it means Nagy and Pace come back for another year, then that probably doesn’t do much for anymore, but there’s a chance they could come back regardless of how the Bears wrap up the season.

What ever happens, a lot could be hinging on Sunday’s game in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Vikings

SB Nation site: Daily Norseman

Record: 6-7, 2nd in the NFC North

Last week: 26-14 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Game day, time, TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX

Bears all-time record against: 55-61-2 regular season, 1-0 postseason

Historical meetings: Back in 2010, the 9-4 Bears traveled to Minneapolis to face the 5-8 Vikings on Monday Night Football.

This is also known as Brett Favre’s final game, aka The Corey Wootton Game.

After the Vikings scored on the opening drive, the Bears held them in check and got a touchdown and a field goal of their own. Then in the second quarter, on a third and four, Corey Wootton, rushing from right end plowed by the left tackle and sacked Favre for a 12-yard loss. It knocked Favre out of the game and he never played another down in the NFL.

The Bears scored two more touchdown passes and Devin Hester returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown as well.

The Bears won a route 40-14.

Last meeting: On Monday Night Football in week 10 the Vikings beat the Bears 19-13. Their only touchdown came from a Cordarrelle Patterson kick return.

Injury report: The Vikings had six players on the injury report Thursday that were limited or did not participate in practice.

Limited participation: RB Alexander Mattison (illness), FB C.J. Ham (quadriceps), DT Armon Watts (back), DE Jordan Brailford (back), DE D.J. Wonnum (ankle)

Did not participate: LB Eric Kendricks (calf), TE Kyle Rudolph (foot)

Offense: The Vikings rank 14th in points and seventh in yards.

Their passing offense ranks 17th while their rushing offense ranks sixth.

Kirk Cousins (67.5 cmp pct./3,298 yds./27 TD/12 INT) leads the show throwing to rookie sensation Justin Jefferson (65 rec./1,078 yds./7 TD), who torched the Bears in the first meeting, Adam Thielen (60/760/12), who had two touchdowns in the first game against Chicago.

After that comes Dalvin Cook (37/322/1) as a receiver, then TEs Kyle Rudolph (28/334/1), who is hurt and Irv Smith Jr. (19/245/3).

On the ground it’s Cook (273/1,352/14) leading the way, spelled by Alexander Mattison (74/338/1).

Defense: The Vikings come into the game ranked 22nd in yards and 24th in points allowed.

Their passing defense ranks 26th and their rushing defense ranks 19th.

Eric Kendricks (107 tkls/6 PD/3 INT/4 TFL) is playing at a high level but is hurt, Harrison Smith (4 INT/69 tkls/8 PD/0.5 sk) is still playing well in the secondary and Eric Wilson (95 tkls/3 sks/1 FF/6 PD/3 INT) is playing well too.

After that it’s a lot of young guys like Ifeadi Odenigbo (3.5 sks/15 QB hits/3 TFL), Jeff Gladney (67 tkls/2 PD), Cameron Dantzler (1 INT/3 PD/41 tkl) and D.J. Wonnum (3 sk/5 TFL/8 QB hits/1 FF).

Key match ups:

  • In the first game the Bears were just two of 11 on third downs and had two turnovers to go with 10 first downs and zero touchdowns.
  • The way the offense has been playing lately, it would seem that some of those stats should improve, but I think it’s going to be vital for the offensive line to open holes for David Montgomery and to give Mitch Trubisky time to throw.
  • Rookie Jeff Gladney against Allen Robinson should be a key match up for the Bears offense as well. Gladney is allowing 68.4 completion percentage this year and has allowed six touchdowns.
  • On defense, it’s all about stopping Dalvin Cook. That’s something the Bears did very well in the first game, although it ultimately proved fruitless.
  • If the secondary is down Buster Skrine and Jaylon Johnson, then Duke Shelley and Kindle Vindor are going to be the next guys up and have the tough task of facing Adam Thielen and possibly Justin Jefferson at times.

Key stats

  • The Vikings leading pass rusher is Yannick Ngakoue (5 sacks) despite his last playing for the team in week 6
  • In the week 10 meeting, the Bears defense held Cook to a season-low 3.2 yards per carry
  • The Vikings have scored exactly 19 points in the last two meetings of these teams
  • Despite their middling numbers overall the Vikings defense is the fourth-best red zone defense and fifth-best third down defense
  • The Vikings have 15 turnovers in their seven losses against just seven in their six wins
  • The Packers are the only team with a winning record that the Vikings have beat this season

Can the Bears turn in two good complete games in a row? Will the Bears remain in the hunt?