The home team is playing for a playoff berth, while the visiting team is trying to bolster an outside chance of a first-round bye that would require a win and a loss by the Rams. Motivation favors the Vikings, who will win to clinch a wild-card spot and set up a potential rematch in Chicago.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Win and in
The Vikings can claim an NFC wild-card spot if they beat the Bears or the Eagles lose or tie against the Redskins. The most direct path is to win in Minneapolis against the Bears for the seventh straight season.
Cousins hoping to be better against Bears
Vikings QB Kirk Cousins had perhaps his poorest outing of the season in the Vikings’ Nov. 18 loss in Chicago, with the Bears returning one of Cousins’ two interceptions for a touchdown. The Vikings figure to be more committed to the run than they were that night, but they’ll need Cousins to be sharp with a playoff berth on the line.
Can Bears bag a bye?
Chicago could claim the NFC’s No. 2 seed with a win and a Rams loss to the 49ers. The Bears could be judicious with some players while keeping an eye on the Rams-49ers score to see if they have anything to play for.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings LT Riley Reiff vs. Bears LB Khalil Mack
Reiff, who allowed six pressures against the Bears on Nov. 18, had high praise for Mack in colorful language after the game. Mack, a contender for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was used primarily on Reiff’s side of the field the first time, and has been given more playing time against left tackles since then.
Vikings RT Brian O’Neill vs. Bears DT Akiem Hicks
O’Neill was one of several players who had trouble with Hicks on Nov. 18. Hicks knocked him into the backfield to stop a third-and-1 on the Vikings’ first series, and gave O’Neill a rough night on run plays especially. The Vikings’ newfound commitment to the run could hinge on them winning more battles at the line of scrimmage.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
1,217 Rushing yards the Bears have allowed through their first 15 games. The NFL’s second-ranked run defense can break the franchise record for fewest yards allowed in a season if it holds the Vikings to 95 or fewer.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF…
They’re able to start fast and build a lead against a team that might be looking for reasons to pull starters. The Vikings likely can’t play from behind if they want to try and stick with the run game, and building a lead would also take some pressure off Cousins.
THE BEARS WILL WIN IF…
They can shut down the Vikings’ run game again and make Minnesota one-dimensional enough to force Cousins into some unadvisable throws, giving the Bears chances to add to their NFL-high 107 points off turnovers. Given the playoff situation, a Chicago victory could require a strong start.
Prediction: Vikings, 17-13
Win Probability: 55 percent