The Minnesota Vikings visit Soldier Field for the first of two meetings with the Bears this season on Sunday afternoon.
This will be the 106th regular season matchup between the Vikings and Bears as Minnesota holds a slight edge in the all-time series 54-50-2.
However, the Bears have beaten the Vikings six straight times dating back to the 2007 season, when Brian Griese was the starting quarterback in Chicago.
If you don’t remember that Week 6 meeting, the Bears trailed 31-17 late and Griese tossed two touchdown passes before Ryan Longwell nailed a 55-yarder with time expiring to win it for Minnesota.
This time around a lot has changed. Adrian Peterson is not in a Vikings uniform due to an off the field incident which led to an early season suspension and Jared Allen is donning the orange and blue after six seasons in Minnesota.
The Bears (3-6) sit in last place after suffering three straight losses, in two of which they allowed over 50 points. They need to get back on track, while the Vikings (4-5) are looking to pick up a tough road win with a rookie quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater.
Jay Cutler is 6-2 all-time against the Vikings as the Bears starter, tossing 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He threw a career-high 292 yards against them in a Week 2 win last season at Soldier Field.
What the Vikings are thinking
First-year head coach Mike Zimmer has changed the way Minnesota has played defensively. The Vikings have allowed the third-fewest passing yards per game (197.1) in the NFL this season.
Bridgewater has settled in nicely the past two games throwing two touchdowns and no interceptions as the Vikings have won two straight.
The first-round rookie from Louisville had five interceptions in his previous two starts, both losses. He’s been sacked 18 times in five starts, posting a 3-2 record under center.
Look for the Vikings to get tight end Kyle Rudolph back into the mix. Arguably the most complete receiver outside of Greg Jennings, Rudolph returns after missing the last six games due to an abdomen injury.
It will likely take some time for Rudolph and Bridgewater to develop a solid chemistry, but Rudolph’s presence should open up things for Cordarrelle Patterson, Jennings and Jarius Wright.
The Vikings will be focusing on pressuring Cutler and playing sound defensively. That means they will employ plenty of defensive end Everson Griffen who’s tied for sixth among linemen with nine sacks this season.
Offensively look for them to simply want to play mistake free football in what should be a cold road matchup.
Sitting one game under .500 you can bet Minnesota will give it their all on Sunday.
What the Bears are thinking
The Bears are well out of the NFC playoff hunt and even if they win out and finish 10-6 that isn’t a guarantee that they will advance to the postseason. That is obviously a huge if after the last three blowout losses, but you never know.
Cutler and the offense will be looking to get back on track in front of what should be a tough Bears crowd who have witnessed three home losses this season.
Second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson will suit up for the first time this season after fully recovering from a broken collarbone he suffered in training camp.
For the confidence levels of all the Bears talent, especially offensively they have to put together a complete performance. It may not mean much at this point in the season, but it could do wonders heading down the stretch and beyond.
The defense has struggled, including the pass rush the past two weeks. Jared Allen and Willie Young have to play better up front to help everyone else on the back end.
Expect to see plenty of opportunities for rookie defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson in this one.
The secondary play has been suspect starting with safeties Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy. Both veterans are playing for a spot on the team next season. Mundy has a better shot at earning that, but there are no guarantees in this league.
General manager Phil Emery will be watching this one with a very close eye.
Bears – OUT: Darryl Sharpton (hamstring), Eben Britton (illness), Trevor Scott (knee); DOUBTFUL: Jordan Mills (ribs); QUESTIONABLE: Josh Morgan (shoulder); PROBABLE: Martellus Bennett (ribs), Brandon Marshall (ankle), Tim Jennings (knee) —Sharpton and Britton are out for the second consecutive week, while Scott has a knee issue meaning David Bass and Cornelius Washington will see more time in the defensive end rotation.
—Mills is doubtful, but is expected to be out. Michael Ola will start at right tackle with Brian de la Puente moving into the left guard spot. This will be the sixth different offensive line combination in the past six weeks.
—Santonio Holmes was released this week and Morgan is questionable with a shoulder issue. Marquess Wilson was activated on Friday and will play on Sunday. Chris Williams is another option at receiver behind starters Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Joshua Bellamy is also a name to keep in mind for the rest of the season.
Vikings – QUESTIONABLE: DE Scott Crichton (hip); PROBABLE: TE Jordan Ford (foot), TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen), RB Jerick McKinnon (lower back)
—Crichton appears to be the only Viking in danger of missing this NFC North clash. That means the Bears may see a good amount of Corey Wootton, who spent his first four seasons in Chicago before not being re-signed this off-season.
—Rudolph returns to give Bridgewater and the Minnesota offense a needed boost, while McKinnon will draw the start for maybe the last time this season with Adrian Peterson’s return looming.
Final Score Prediction
Bears 27, Vikings 23
Although Minnesota boasts a tough challenge defensively, the Bears want to get back on track. Want is obviously more of a wish than an actual act. But Cutler and the offense should be able to move the ball effectively in this one, while the defense should have chances to pressure Bridgewater against a soft Vikings offensive line. It will be a close one, but this is an important game for the Bears to get their confidence and arguably their sanity back in order.
Season prediction record: (2-7).
Mostly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of light snow. Highs in the lower 30s. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph.
Thoughts on this Vikings-Bears matchup on Sunday afternoon? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.
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