By Bryan Dietzler
The 2017 NFL season will end on December 31st and see the 5-10 Chicago Bears take on the 12-3 Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis under the dome. The Bears are coming off a 20-3 win over the Cleveland Browns while the Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers 16-0. The Vikings have won the NFC North and are looking for better playoff positioning, so they will have some motivation to win this game. The Bears have nothing to play for but pride and a possible strong sendoff for head coach John Fox.
Chicago is headed in the right direction but probably not headed the right way with the current coaching staff. They need a coaching staff that will be able to help develop quarterback Mitchell Trubisky while building up the defense making it one of the best in the league. The Bears need a lot of work done and it might take a couple of years to get them to where they need to be. But other teams have managed to turn things around in a short amount of time. Perhaps the Bears will be able to do that.
But right now, the Bears have one more game to finish and that’s against the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s look at some of the numbers behind the upcoming game, see who has the edge and what the numbers mean.
Chicago Offense versus the Minnesota Defense
Chicago’s Passing Game versus the Vikings Pass Defense
The Chicago Bears passing game has been getting a little bit better over the last few games even though they have ongoing issues at wide receiver. Their passing attack is ranked 31st in the NFL getting 176 yards through the air per game. That is not great by any means but then when you look at what the Bears have to work with, it’s easy to see why they struggle.
Minnesota’s passing defense is holding teams to an average of 193.8 yards per game through the air which is 2nd in the league. So, it doesn’t appear that the Bears are going to have a lot of room to pass the ball Sunday.
The Bears do need to keep developing Mitchell Trubisky as much as possible even though it could be difficult Sunday. I had mentioned this last week but it’s worth mentioning again and that is that the Bears cannot afford to get Trubisky hurt. The Vikings will get after him and could sack him several times so hopefully, he comes out of Sunday’s game unscathed. If he doesn’t, Chicago’s plans for 2018 will be seriously affected.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Bears will be playing with a patchwork offensive line. The offensive line they had I place didn’t do that well on Sunday against the Cleveland. With Minnesota being a much better pass rushing defense than any team they have faced, the Bears are going to have to make sure that they can keep Trubisky from getting blasted when he’s dropping back to pass. They need to keep him upright and healthy to keep him ready for better times ahead in 2018.
The Vikings pass rush and passing defense is fierce. The Bears probably will not be able to hold up to the test that it will present but remember this is a division game. Anything is possible when these two teams meet, and the Bears just might be up to upsetting the Vikings Sunday.
Chicago’s Rush Offense versus Minnesota’s Rush Defense
The Bears have made their mark rushing the football but have struggled lately. Perhaps it’s because of the changes that they have been forced to make on their offensive line. Running back Jordan Howard has not been that effective in recent weeks because of those changes. This has contributed to the inability of the Bears to rush the football and has caused them problems.
Right now, the team is averaging 117.2 yards per game which is 11th in the league. This number does appear a little deceiving especially since they haven’t rushed for that many yards over the past three weeks. Can the Bears pick it up and get something going against the Vikings?
The Vikings’ rush defense is ranked second in the NFL allowing just 87.1 yards per game. They should be able to stifle Chicago’s rushing and make the Bears one dimensional. That dimension, the passing game, may not even be able to gain much traction. The Bears’ offense may not have any dimension to it at all.
Chicago’s offense could be in a lot of trouble on Sunday and may not be able to get going. Minnesota could easily shut them down.
Minnesota’s Offense versus Chicago’s Defense
Minnesota’s Passing Offense versus Chicago’s Passing Defense
The Chicago Bears have a decent defense all season, but it doesn’t show with their record. Injuries have caused them some problems, especially up front and at linebacker so the Bears have been forced to plug in second and third string players to help fill in the gaps. This has not helped but despite that, the Bears’ defense hasn’t been terrible.
But how will they do against the Vikings?
The Vikings are averaging 238.2 yards per game through the air which gives them the 13th ranked passing offense in the NFL. Their quarterback, Case Keenum, has been good this season and has done well in Pat Shurmur’s offense. It appears that their offense is poised to do some good things in the NFL playoffs. They will try to use their offense to their advantage to get what they need out of a victory in Week 17 and get some needed momentum heading into the playoffs.
Chicago’s passing defense is ranked eighth in the NFL allowing just 213.1 yards per game. They are banged up and missing some of their key players but can still play. But it doesn’t look like they will be able to shut down a potent Vikings passing attack that features some good wide receiving and tight end talent. The Bears will have their work cut out for them on Sunday and may not be able to keep up with what Minnesota puts up.
But keep remembering the factor that these are division rivals, so anything can happen.
Minnesota’s Rushing Offense versus Chicago’s Rush Defense
Chicago has been up and down all season when it comes to defending against the run. The Bears are currently ranked 9th in the NFL allowing a total of 105.5 yards per game. Chicago has had games where they have allowed significant rushing yards. Still, for the most part, they have been able to stuff the run.
The Vikings are gaining an average of 120.7 yards per game on the ground which is good for 8th in the league. The rushing game for the Vikings could be huge in controlling the ball and the clock. The Bears need to put a stop to it and force the Vikings to pass the ball where guys like Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara can try to do some damage.
But, if you go by the numbers in this game, the Bears are going to struggle.
This game could either be a blowout or close as these two teams traditionally play one another tough. The Vikings have something to play for while the Bears are just trying to get something going at the end of a bad season. Will they be up for a fight or has the fight left them? I bet that the young guys are willing to put up a fight and try to stick it to the Vikings.
But they won’t be able to do much to derail the Vikings.
Minnesota is going to probably beat the Bears and send them out with a loss. After that, it’s almost certain that head coach John Fox will be fired, and the team will be looking for another coach. A loss would signal a miserable end to a miserable past three seasons. But is another new start going to reap rewards for the Bears? Or will they just keep on being bottom feeders in the NFC North?
Change is good. Let’s hope it’s good for the Bears.
Here is a look at the injury report for the Bears and the Vikings heading into Sunday’s game.
Tom Compton-OT-Compton has been dealing with concussion symptoms but practiced in full this week.
Bradley Sowell-OT-Sowell has a back issue and has been limited in practice. Consider him questionable for Sunday.
Bobby Massie-OT-Massie has not practiced this week with a knee injury and will probably be doubtful for Sunday.
Josh Sitton-OG-Like Massie, Sitton has not practiced this week and has an ankle injury. He is likely doubtful for Sunday.
Adam Shaheen-TE-Shaheen has missed some time with a chest injury and was limited in practice this week. Let’s see if he plays Sunday.
Kevin McDermott-LS-McDermott has a shoulder injury and has not practiced this week.
Trumaine Brock-CB-A foot injury has kept Brock out of practice all week. He may not play on Sunday.
Kyle Rudolph-TE-An ankle injury has kept him limited in practice. He could be a game-time decision for Sunday.
Shamar Stephen-NT-Stephen has not practiced this week due to an ankle injury. His status is up in the air for Sunday.
Terence Newman-CB-Newman had a non-injury issue earlier in the week but is practicing now.
Jerick McKinnon-RB-A shoulder injury has limited McKinnon and makes his status for Sunday up in the air.
Pat Elflien-C-A shoulder injury has made him unable to practice all week and he may not play Sunday.
Mike Remmers-OT-Remmers has a lower back injury but practiced in full this week. He should be a go for Sunday.