The Vikings and Bears will do battle in the final week of the regular season, as the Bears look to complete a disappointing 2017 season on a high by playing spoiler to a Vikings team looking to log its 13th win and earn the NFC's No. 2 seed.
Here are five storylines to watch this week in the buildup to Vikings vs. Bears.
1. Another mobile quarterback to contain
Last week in Green Bay, the Vikings took their foot off the gas with regard to their pass rush in favor of a more controlled rush designed to make it more difficult for Brett Hundley to dissect coverage and complete passes to receivers. The strategy worked, as Hundley finished the game with his lowest single-game completion percentage (42.5) of the season and his third-lowest passing yardage total (130 yards) of 2017. A similar strategy may be needed this week against Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who has used his mobility to gain 246 yards on 40 rushes (6.2 yards per rush) this season. Trubisky is good at using his legs to extend drives as well as to extend plays to find open receivers. The Vikings will construct a rush plan with this in mind, and that plan may result in fewer sacks but should also result in a lower completion percentage and passing yardage total.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.
2. Cohen, Howard form dynamic and formidable running back tandem
As important as it will be for the Vikings to contain Trubisky on the ground, it's even more critical for the Vikings to corral the productive running back tandem of rookie Tarik Cohen and workhorse Jordan Howard. In 2016, Howard shredded the Vikings defense for 288 yards in two games. In his rookie season, Cohen has found a way to make an instant impact. He's averaging 4.3 yards per carry with two rushing touchdowns and has 47 receptions for 7.2 yards per catch and one touchdown. Cohen has also thrown for one touchdown and he's taken a punt return back for a score. The good news is the Vikings were able to manage this tandem quite well earlier in the season, holding the pair to 83 yards of offense on 26 touches (3.2 yards per touch).
3. Vikings offense goes back inside but faces stingy defense
Fueled by a stingy defensive effort, the Vikings cruised to a 16-0 win last week. As convincing a win as it was, there are some who need more convincing that the Vikings offense is in playoff form. In frigid conditions that impact footing, catching and throwing, quarterback Case Keenum threw for just 139 yards and completed 56% of his passes, both numbers well below his season-long outputs in both categories. This week, though, the Vikings will head back to the climate-controlled U.S. Bank Stadium, where they scored three offensive touchdowns two weeks ago. While the conditions will be more favorable, the opposition's defense will actually be tougher than it was a week ago in Green Bay. The Bears are giving up 11.3 points per game over their last four games and their front seven is a physical group that will challenge a Vikings offensive line that will be down at least one starter (Nick Easton).
4. Division title already in hand but division dominance is at stake
The Vikings have already secured the NFC North title in 2017. But that won't deter head coach Mike Zimmer from insisting his team finish the campaign by finishing off a division foe. The Vikings enter the season's final game with a 4-1 mark against the NFC North and a chance to go 5-1 against the division. From a micro standpoint, a win on Sunday locks up a first-round bye for the Vikings. From a macro standpoint, though, a win on Sunday further emphasizes the fact that the Vikings are the kings of the (NFC) North and that the 2018 division title runs through Minneapolis.
5. Zimmer won't let his team overlook the 5-10 Bears
Chicago has been eliminated from playoff contention for weeks, they've lost starters on both defense and offense and they're on the road in the last week of the season. All of those factors could cause the Bears Week 17 opponent to overlook them, especially with visions of being the NFC's second seed and being the first team to play in and host a Super Bowl dancing in their heads. But the Vikings aren't just any Week 17 Bears opponent. The Vikings are led by a head coach who never allows his team to rest on its laurels and who has been through enough battles in the NFL to realize even the best teams are susceptible to lackluster performances against lower-caliber opponents.