When the 5-4 Chicago Bears face the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10 they will be hoping for a little ‘then’ in their ‘now’. That’s because the Bears are reeling while the Vikings might be hitting their stride. In year’s past, however, the Bears have had the Vikes number. Will this contest be a repeat of history? Or will the Bears slide right on into their bye week?
More ‘Then’, Less ‘Now’ Needed for Bears in Week 10
A Simpler Time
History tells us this will be a Bears win. After all, Chicago is 4-0 against Minnesota under Matt Nagy. They’ve outscored the Vikings 86-55; or for an average score of about 21-14. Kirk Cousins only has three touchdowns to two interceptions in three starts against the Bears with the Vikings Sean Mannion started the Week 17 meeting last season). We have to remember this was a playoff Vikings team, by the way.
The Bears didn’t just shut down the passing game either. Dalvin Cook finished eighth in rushing attempts and 10th in rushing yards last season, despite missing two games. Against the Bears, he had just 39 yards on the ground in one game. He too missed the Week 17 contest last season. In three career games against the Bears, Cook has averaged 11 carries for just under 29 yards per game with two touchdowns. It is worth mentioning, though, Mike Boone ripped Chicago for 148 yards and a score on 17 carries in that Week 17 game.
One thing the Bears won’t miss in this matchup is Stefon Diggs. The former Vikings wideout used to be a problem for the Bears typically stout secondary. He’s gone over the century mark twice. He also has two scores. Adam Thielen has 110 yards total over that same span so it’s clear who was the bigger challenge for the Bears.
It wasn’t always roses for the Bears when facing the Vikings. Mitchell Trubisky was injured twice against them in the past two seasons. But going back before Nagy, Minnesota won five of the first six meetings of Chicago general manager Ryan Pace’s tenure. Not a soul in Chicago wants to see that trend return.
2020 Be Like…
Those numbers certainly paint a much rosier picture than the ones from 2020. We have discussed ad nauseam about the Bears scraping the floor of all the major offensive categories. 28th in DVOA (per Football Outsiders), 28th in scoring, 31st on third downs, and 30th in the red zone. Well, Minnesota is the fifth-best pass defense they have faced this season. Chicago is 1-3 versus the other four. Can the Bears hodgepodge offensive line fend off the Vikings toothless pass rush (31st in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate) and give Nick Foles time to hit the deep routes to Darnell Mooney?
The Bears are uniquely ill-equipped to exploit the Vikings biggest weakness. Their run defense. They’ve only faced two teams, the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, who rank worse in run defense DVOA. Unfortunately, the Bears could be without David Montgomery. He left last week’s loss to the Tennessee Titans with a concussion. If Montgomery is unable to suit up, the Bears could be left with Cordarrelle Patterson, Ryan Nall, and undrafted rookie Artavis Pierce. Unless they finally call up Lamar Miller from the practice squad.
Cook will play in this one. He currently leads the league in rushing and just gashed the Lions for 206 yards while averaging over nine yards per tote. We can expect to see a formula similar to last week for the Bears. Chicago, 23rd in rushing yards allowed, held Derrick Henry to just 68 yards at 3.2 yards per carry. It didn’t help them win the game, but it was clear they weren’t going to let Henry beat them. Cook will get the same treatment.
Rookie Justin Jefferson has been great opposite Thielen. He has just three fewer catches but 147 more yards on 14 fewer targets. He’s even averaging more yards per reception than Diggs last year. But he has tailed off over the past couple of weeks against far lesser secondaries than what he’ll face on Monday night. The Bears have their own impressive rookie in Jaylon Johnson who’s allowing just over 48 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. He and Kyle Fuller are the best duo the Vikings have seen this year.
Bears Need Some ‘Then’ in the ‘Now’
It’s been a rocky season for the Bears and their fans. The optimism of a 5-1 start has given way to the anxiety of another season lost due to an inept offense. They are currently outside of the playoffs and their only chance to make the playoffs if the season ended today would be if the special 16-team expansion provision kicks in. It’s still hard to completely write them off with so much time left in the season.
Heading into the bye week, the Bears need a win in the worst way. Not only to regain some momentum ahead of the break but to keep pace in the NFC North. They’ll face the division-leading Green Bay Packers and MVP-hopeful Aaron Rodgers right after the break. Whereas the Bears have at least split their meetings with the Vikings, they have only beaten the Packers once under Nagy and twice total since Pace was brought in.
Before they can even think about that though, the Bears will try to inject a little ‘then’ into their ‘now’ against the Vikings. Make this game about Cousins and the Bears can go into the bye feeling a little better about themselves. Of course, Mitchell Trubisky (and Chase Daniel) started those games. Can Foles keep things on track?
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