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5 Vikings-Bears Storylines to Watch

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.

The Vikings and Bears will conclude their 2014 seasons together in Minnesota on Sunday, with the Vikings looking to secure their first NFC North win of the season and the Bears looking to log a win for the first time since Week 12.

Let's take a look at five storylines to watch this week as the Vikings and Bears prepare to battle.

1. Vikings Look to Conclude Promising 2014 Season on a High NoteThe Vikings enter the final week of the 2014 regular season with six wins and no chance of making the playoffs. But regardless of how their Week 17 contest goes against the Bears, the Vikings will head into the offseason with their heads held high, knowing a lot of promising things happened over the course of the year that will help build up Mike Zimmer's program for down the road. All of that can be worried about in the coming weeks and months, though, as for now the Vikings are focused on cleaning up their mistakes from last week's loss in Miami in an attempt to defeat their NFC North rivals and earn the first division win of the season.

2. Jared Allen Returns to MinnesotaThe 2014 season is nearly over, but Vikings fans will get their first in-person look at Jared Allen in a Bears uniform on Sunday. Allen, who was acquired via trade by the Vikings in 2008 and played six seasons in Minnesota, had 85.5 sacks during his Vikings career and was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team in 2010. The Vikings earned three playoff appearances and won two division titles with Allen as a stalwart on defenses that were dominant at times against the run and always a threat to turn a game upside down because of quarterback pressure. Allen had 1.0 sack last week against Detroit and has had some of his best games late in the season, meaning the Vikings will be on the look-out for their former teammate as the offense looks to heat up the cold Minnesota air.

3. Jay Cutler Returns to the Bears LineupWith one of the better arms in the NFL, a cold-blooded and gun-slinging mentality, and a talented cast of offensive playmakers around him, Bears QB Jay Cutler was poised to have a huge season in 2014. But after taking 38 sacks, throwing 18 interceptions and losing nine games in his first 14 starts, Cutler was benched last week in favor of Jimmy Clausen. But that didn't last long. Cutler has been inserted back into the starting lineup after Clausen developed concussion-like symptoms following a hit in last week's game, and now the veteran signal caller will be back in action and will look for his second win of the season against the Vikings after throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns in these teams' earlier-season matchup at Soldier Field.

4. Vikings Offense on a Roll Since Last Bears MatchupThe Vikings offense had a tough time in the last matchup against Chicago, receiving little opportunity (just 46 offensive snaps) and struggling to move the ball when given the chance (243 yards, 13 points, 10 1st downs). With the rematch fast-approaching, though, the Vikings offense is in a much better place. In the five games since the earlier-season matchup, the Vikings offense ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in total touchdowns (16, third), completion percentage (69.1%, fifth), passer rating (99.4, seventh), points per game (26.2, ninth) and offensive penalties (29, 10th). The key to this improvement has been the play of rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, who has thrown a touchdown in nine consecutive games, has authored a passer rating of 100+ in three of the past four contests, and is second to only Dallas' Tony Romo in completion percentage since November 30 with a 73.0% rate on 115 attempts.

5. Tackles Race Goes Down to Final GameLB Chad Greenway entered 2014 having led the Vikings in tackles for the past six seasons, tied for a franchise record with Scott Studwell. Greenway missed three games early in the season and his hold on the tackles title looked to be in jeopardy. But then Greenway returned and got to work, vaulting up the charts and eventually overtaking the lead. Heading into the final game of the season, though, sensational safety Harrison Smith has taken the lead by one over Greenway, who missed half of last week's game because of an injury and may not play this week against the Bears. As it stands now, Smith leads the team in tackles with 116, Greenway is second with 115 and Robert Blanton is third with 111.

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