Picking the Vikings to win at Soldier Field — and especially against a Bears defense that has given Kirk Cousins lots of trouble — could turn out to be foolish. But the Bears are discombobulated enough on offense that the Vikings might only need to make a few more plays to win and head into a three-game homestand with lots of confidence.
THREE BIG STORY LINES
Vikings surge as Bears slide
Just under a month ago, the Vikings were 1-5, while the Bears had raced out to a 5-1 start that had them battling the Packers for the division lead. Now this is an important game between two NFC North rivals trying to keep themselves in the race for the conference’s new third wild-card spot.
Bears offense could turn to former Viking
After three straight dismal offensive performances, Bears coach Matt Nagy this week turned over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who will have to piece together a running game with David Montgomery out because of a concussion. That could mean the Bears turn to former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back as well as a receiver.
Struggles not limited to Soldier Field
It’s well-known the Vikings haven’t been able to win consistently in Chicago (they’re 3-15 there in this century), but if they’re able to get a victory on Monday night, it will be Mike Zimmer’s first against Nagy, who led the Bears to a win that kept the Vikings out of the 2018 playoffs and got a victory at U.S. Bank Stadium in a Week 17 game last year when the Vikings rested their starters.
TWO KEY MATCHUPS
Vikings offensive line vs. Bears DT Akiem Hicks
Khalil Mack might get more headlines, but it’s tough to argue anyone has given the Vikings’ line more trouble in the past few years than Hicks, who’ll spend a fair amount of time on the left side of the Bears’ defensive front against center Garrett Bradbury and right guard Ezra Cleveland. The Vikings are optimistic about the growth on the right side of their line, but their ability to control Hicks will say plenty about the group’s progress.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Bears CB Jaylon Johnson
The two rookies likely will see plenty of one another, as Johnson lines up at right cornerback and Jefferson sees plenty of time at split end. Johnson, a physical cornerback out of Utah, was a popular name for the Vikings in some mock drafts before the team drafted Jeff Gladney at the end of the first round. The snaps where Johnson is covering Jefferson could be the first of many over the next few years between the two players.
ONE STAT THAT MATTERS
2.53 Dalvin Cook’s career rushing average per carry in three games against the Bears. He had just nine carries for 12 yards in a Sunday night loss to Chicago in 2018, and got only 11 carries for 39 yards in the Vikings’ Week 17 loss that year, before carrying 14 times for 35 yards in a Week 4 loss in 2019.
THE VIKINGS WILL WIN IF …
They’re able to control the Bears’ defensive front and repeat the formula they’ve used the past two weeks, leaning heavily on Cook and keeping Cousins out of situations where he has to challenge the Chicago defense; and if the Bears’ offensive problems, and their decimated offensive line, make it easier for the Vikings to get to Nick Foles, who has struggled against pressure this year.
THE BEARS WILL WIN IF …
They’re able to piece together drives with Patterson running behind the offensive line and Allen Robinson — who’s questionable because of a knee injury — being healthy enough to play and win matchups against the Vikings’ secondary. But the Bears’ path to victory against Minnesota in recent years has revolved around containing Cook and pressuring Kirk Cousins.
Goessling's prediction: Vikings 20, Bears 17