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Five Questions with the Daily Norseman: Will Matt Eberflus win his first NFC North game?

In the second matchup of the year, we find two NFC North teams headed in opposite directions.

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

When the Chicago Bears last faced the Minnesota Vikings, both teams looked like they were in for a long year. But the Vikings used that win against the Bears to propel themselves into playoff contention. They lost Kirk Cousins for the year, but enter Josh Dobbs who continues to have them on a roll.

The Bears are coming off one of the worst losses in the history of the franchise. Matt Eberflus is desperately searching for wins to prove to Kevin Warren and George McCaskey that he deserves to come back for 2024. Could a win against Minnesota propel the Bears to a late season surge? We sat down with Christopher Gates from our sister site, the Daily Norseman, to help us preview the game.

1. What is going on with the Vikings? No Kirk Cousins. No Justin Jefferson, yet Minnesota has won 5 of their last 6. I’ll be honest, when Kirk Cousins went down, I thought Minnesota would be in competition for the first overall pick, but this is quite an impressive run by Josh Dobbs and company.

I think a lot of us were pretty down on the Vikings when Justin Jefferson went down and were certainly bummed out when Cousins went down given the way that Cousins had been playing in the stretch leading up to his injury. I don’t think anyone figured this team would go 5-1 without Justin Jefferson, given that he’s the reigning Offensive Player of the Year and one of the best overall players in the league. But, credit to Kevin O’Connell for keeping this team together during a pretty chaotic stretch, to Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for pulling off the Dobbs trade with the thought that this team could still compete in 2023, and to Brian Flores for engineering a turnaround for the Minnesota defense that’s been nothing short of miraculous compared to what that unit brought us last season. I don’t know if it’s sustainable but they’re in a pretty good position in the NFC, all things considered.

2. How confident are you in Kevin O’Connell? I think it’s interesting that teams like the Vikings and Denver Broncos also started off 1-4 but have turned their season around, while the Bears were also 1-4 but continue to struggle. How much do you think O’Connell has done to help with this season’s turn around?

I get more confident in Kevin O’Connell with every week that goes by, honestly. Sure, he has some times when his play calling is less than ideal, but he kept a team that was 1-4 focused on the task at hand and has them believing that they can go out every week and at least compete with any team in the league. He’s an outstanding motivator and his ability to communicate with Josh Dobbs as someone that’s played quarterback in the NFL before has been a big part of why this team is still on track and has won five of their last six games. I don’t think he’s going to end up getting a lot of votes for Coach of the Year or anything like that given what DeMeco Ryans is doing in Houston, but he should definitely be a contender for the award at this point.

3. Are Vikings fans all shaving their eyebrows? This Josh Dobbs story is incredible, especially his first game in Minnesota. I really want to cheer for him and the story, but, you know, it’s the Vikings so I’m not going to do that.

Dobbs has finally gotten an opportunity to be “the guy” for a team after bouncing around the league the way he has. He was drafted by a Steelers team that had Ben Roethlisberger entrenched as the starter and has basically speed run Josh Johnson’s career since then. He’s been on four teams this calendar year, for crying out loud. He’s not a perfect quarterback or anything even close to it, but he’s got skills and he’s finally getting an opportunity to showcase them for a coach that clearly believes that he has the ability to get the job done. I don’t know if he’s the long-term answer for the Vikings. . .hell, I don’t even know if he’ll be back with Minnesota next season. . .but he’s provided a spark for this offense and has kept them competitive over the past few weeks.

4. As a division rival, what do you think is the biggest issue with the Chicago Bears as they are headed for a bottom 5 record in the league for the second consecutive season and haven’t had a winning record since 2018. Ownership? Personnel? Coaching? And let’s hear what a rival thinks about this team and also please share your thoughts about Justin Fields and if he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback.

The Bears are a strange case, honestly. They fired Lovie Smith after the 2012 season when he went 10-6 and have kind of struggled to get back to that level since then. I’ll start with Fields, who I think certainly has the physical skills to be a very good quarterback but I don’t know if Matt Eberflus is the sort of coach that can get him to that level. I almost think that the Bears would be better off going with an offensive-minded coach and try to load up on the talent on the offensive side of the ball to give him that opportunity. The Bears could easily end up with two picks in the top five (or better) in the 2024 NFL Draft, and the idea of Marvin Harrison Jr. in a Chicago uniform would scare the hell out of me. I think that Fields has more value to the Bears than he would as a trade piece because I don’t think you’re going to get the return for Fields that a lot of folks might think based on his performance. But if you wanted to build a system around Fields and give him the opportunity, the Bears will have a chance to do that.

As far as the franchise as a whole, I don’t think Matt Eberflus is a great coach based on what we’ve seen from him these past couple of seasons. I’m not sure who the Chicago faithful might want to replace him with but I think they can do better. Other than that, they just need to stockpile talent. They got a good start on that with the Montez Sweat trade/extension but they need to add more. As I mentioned earlier, they’ll definitely be in a position to do that.

5. What is your sure-fire, can’t miss, I’ll bet my mortgage bet that you see on DraftKings for the Monday Night Football match-up?

As far as the best bet for Monday night’s game, I think that the best bet in most Vikings’ games going forward is going to be the “under.” Brian Flores’ defense is coming after folks with a vengeance and not giving up a whole lot of points, but the offense isn’t quite what it was when Kirk Cousins was at the helm, either. The Vikings will continue to play close games. . .36 of their last 46 games have been decided by one score. . .and I think they’ll continue to be low-scoring games as well. If you’re going to bet on Vikings’ games to this point, I think the under is definitely the first place for people to start looking.

This is a big match-up for both teams but for very different reasons. The Vikings look to continue their push to a playoff berth in 2023 while Matt Eberflus only has a handful of games left against solid opponents to show he can win big games as the head man for the Chicago Bears. After Monday night, both teams should be closer to finding out which one of those statements is correct.

And as always, if you want to place a little wager on the game, DraftKings Sportsbook has you covered.