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5 Vikings-Bears Storylines to Watch in Week 10

The Vikings (3-5) are trying to carry their momentum into a Monday Night Football matchup with the Bears (5-4) in Chicago.

It will be the 119th overall meeting (includes one postseason game) between the franchises that first met on opening day of Minnesota's inaugural 1961 season.

Here are five storylines to watch this week, as well as a link below to the game preview by the Vikings PR staff and a list of connections between the teams.

1. Different directions

The Vikings have claimed two division wins in a row out of their bye week, notching a victory at Green Bay in Week 8 and their first home win of 2020 by topping Detroit in Week 9.

Minnesota was outscored by 37 combined points in opening the season 1-5 but has bettered Green Bay and Detroit by 20 total points. Perhaps the biggest factor is the Vikings went from minus-seven in turnover differential in their first six games to plus-four in the past two.

The Bears have dropped three in a row (at the Rams, in overtime against the Saints and at the Titans). Chicago wants to stop the skid on the way into its bye week.

Turnover differential also has flipped for Chicago, which was plus-one through its first six games and has been minus-four in its past three games. Not surprisingly, points for have dipped by an average of 4.6 points per game (21.3 to 16.7) and points allowed have increased by 5.4 points per game (19.3 to 24.7).

2. Ride the run again?

Dalvin Cook has been central to Minnesota's surge, totaling 478 scrimmage yards and six scores in the past two weeks to earn back-to-back NFC Offensive Player of the Week and FedEx Ground Player of the Week honors.

Cook's rushing total the past two weeks has been 369 yards, which is the most prolific two-game stretch by a Vikings player in team history. Adrian Peterson hit 366 over the course of two games in 2007 and 2012.

His prowess has been incredible when the Vikings have schemed advantages or lucked out, and he's also pulled the rug out from under would-be tacklers.

With a touchdown, Cook can become just the fourth player in NFL history with at least one rushing touchdown in each of his first eight games played of a season and first since George Rogers in 1986. Hall of Famers Lenny Moore (1964) and John Riggins (1983) are the other two players.

In three games against Cook, Chicago's defense has limited "The Chef" to 86 yards and one score on 34 attempts and 54 yards on 13 receptions.

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

3. The Monday Night monkey and full-grown bear

Kirk Cousins has delivered high-efficiency (passer rating of 146.7) and turnover-free play in his two games since the bye.

Cousins has the opportunity to continue that and remove a Monday Night Football monkey from his back while notching his first win against the Bears as a Viking.

It's almost an absolute certainty that Cousins' 0-9 record as a starter on MNF, which includes his time in Washington, will be brought up this week. Fair or not, wins and losses are always tied to quarterbacks, but Cousins has solid passing statistics in those previous contests. NFL Media Research has him averaging 252.8 yards per game and a passer rating of 89.5. He's also thrown 12 touchdowns against six interceptions.

Cousins is 7-3-1 against Green Bay and Detroit since joining Minnesota (250.5 passing yards per game, 24 touchdowns, six interceptions and a passer rating of 112.8).

He's 0-3 against the Bears since 2018 (209.0 passing yards per game, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 82.0).

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.

4. Flash course and other special teams questions

A week after playing against Peterson, Everson Griffen and Jayron Kearse, the Vikings will face Cordarrelle Patterson, who leads the NFL with 652 yards on 24 kickoff returns for an average of 27.2 yards per run back.

That's down from the average of 30.4 by "Flash" in four seasons with Minnesota that included a pair of All-Pro designations and two Pro Bowls.

Patterson is a significant threat in an aspect of the sport that has diminished greatly in the NFL since kickoffs moved to the 35 (in 2011) and touchbacks after kickoffs moved to the 25 (in 2016).

The Vikings kickoff coverage team will face arguably the greatest threat at the position all season.

Eyes also will be on other aspects of special teams for a Vikings unit that allowed two blocked punts by the Lions. The questions expanded this week when long snapper Austin Cutting was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday.

5. Breaking the streak/winning at Soldier Field

Stop me if you've heard this/lived this, but since 2000, the Vikings are 4-16 in games at Soldier Field.

The victories include a 12-point win in 2000 and 3-pointers on decisive field goals in the final 12 seconds or fewer of games in 2007, 2015 and 2017.

Minnesota has had no fewer than 147 rushing yards in any of those victories. The Vikings are averaging 160.4 rushing yards per game at the season’s midpoint, which is good for third in the NFL. The Bears are allowing an average of 116.9 on the ground (14th in NFL).

Local Connections

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was born in Peoria, Illinois. He wrestled and played football and baseball at Lockport Township High School before attending Illinois State.

Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins (Barrington) and WR Chad Beebe (Aurora) were born in Illinois.

Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers was born in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Vikings-Bears Connections

Bears WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson was selected by the Vikings in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft and played for Minnesota from 2013-16.

Chicago quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo was Minnesota's offensive coordinator in 2018.

Bears tight ends coach Clancy Barone held the same role for the Vikings in 2017 and coached Minnesota's offensive line in 2018 after Tony Sparano passed away.

Professional Connections

Vikings DT Shamar Stephen teamed with Bears OL Germain Ifedi and LB Barkevious Mingo in Seattle in 2018.

Minnesota C Brett Jones, who has spent time on the practice squad and 53-man roster, teamed with Chicago WR Dwayne Harris with the Giants from 2016-17.

Vikings QB Sean Mannion and Bears LB Robert Quinn were teammates with the Rams from 2015-17.

Minnesota Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Rick Dennison, tight ends coach Brian Pariani and assistant offensive line coach Phil Rauscher were on the Broncos staff for Chicago LB Danny Trevathan's final season in Denver (2015) and Bears tight ends coach Clancy Barone's final two seasons with the Broncos (2015-16). They won Super Bowl 50 together.

Kubiak, Dennison and Pariani overlapped with Chicago DE Brent Urban and Senior Defensive Assistant/Outside Linebackers Coach Ted Monachino with the Ravens in 2014. Monachino worked with Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu from 2006-09 with the Jaguars.

Kubiak, Dennison and Pariani were on the Texans staff for Bears DB Sherrick McManis' first two NFL seasons (2010-11).

Dennison and Bears defensive line coach Jay Rodgers worked together in Denver in 2009.

Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf (2012) and assistant defensive backs coach Roy Anderson (2012-15) were on Bears Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano's staff with the Colts.

Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins overlapped with Chicago Passing Game Coordinator Dave Ragone in Washington when Ragone was an offensive quality control coach in 2015. Ragone played for the Texans from 2003-05 under Vikings Senior Defensive Assistant Dom Capers.

Vikings P Britton Colquitt was with the Browns from 2016-18 and played for Bears Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor.

College Connections

Vikings RB Dalvin Cook and Bears DE Mario Edwards, Jr., at Florida State

Minnesota C Brett Jones and Chicago DT Akiem Hicks at the University of Regina

Vikings T Brian O'Neill and Bears TE J.P. Holtz at Pittsburgh

Minnesota TE Irv Smith, Jr., and Chicago S Eddie Jackson at Alabama