EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings are playing their second consecutive prime-time game on Monday night when they host the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Both teams are coming off disappointing Week 11 losses and are eager for a bounce-back victory.
Chicago (3-8) has starting quarterback Justin Fields back. He returned last week after missing four games with a dislocated right thumb, which he suffered against the Vikings in Week 6.
Minnesota (6-5) is undefeated through two games in NFC North play this year, and four of its remaining six games will be against division opponents.
Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. (CT) on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
The Classic is back. The uniform paying tribute to the Vikings earliest days features a darker purple on the jersey, slab serif font on the numbers, traditional lettering on the nameplate and stripes on the sleeves. Pants feature striping like the Vikings wore earlier in franchise history. Minnesota introduced The Classic in Week 1.
- Dual-threat QB battle: Last week, the Bears used Fields as the dual-threat weapon he is. Fields completed 16 of 23 passes for 169 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to receiver DJ Moore. He finished with a 105.2 passer rating and rushed for a season-high 104 yards on 18 carries, most of which were designed runs.
Dobbs is also one of the league's best dual-threat playmakers. Only Lamar Jackson (seven) has more games with at least 150 passing yards and 40 or more rushing yards than the six by Dobbs this season.
Dobbs and Fields are two of four quarterbacks since 1970 who have had a five-plus game streak with one or more rushing touchdowns. With another rushing score on Monday, Dobbs can tie Fields' NFL record of six consecutive games with a rushing touchdown. Fields hit that mark last season.
- Justin Jefferson tracker: Six weeks ago, star receiver Justin Jefferson missed his first career game due to a hamstring injury suffered in Week 5 against the Chiefs. Jefferson's absence started against the Bears, and now there is a chance he will return against them.
However, O'Connell has clarified that the team will not rush their franchise player back. O'Connell said he views Jefferson as "questionable" for Monday night.
The coach was asked about the All-Pro again on Wednesday and said the following:
"He took a major part in our walk-through earlier today. We'll get back out here in a little bit, get a little work tomorrow morning before giving these guys the rest of the day to spend with their families," O'Connell said. "I think we're just going to assess it, and we've been doing that throughout the past couple of weeks, but he is getting closer. He is feeling really, really good. When that translates to him having a full performance, we'll rely on the medical team.
"We're just going to continue to be smart. We have urgency to win this football game. It's a very important football game. We know that anytime you get a division opportunity at home. We're just not going to allow that to distract us from the fact that we started out with some really strong principles and making sure Justin was at a good place and 100-percent healthy when he would return. We want to give him every opportunity to do that, but we're not going to let any other outside circumstances or the circumstances of our team to drive that decision in any way, shape or form."
In Jefferson's absence, the passing offense has starred tight end T.J. Hockenson Jordan Addison and benefited from Dobbs' off-script playmaking. Hockenson leads all tight ends with 75 receptions and 736 yards.
- Next-man-up mentality: A lot has changed for both teams since they first met in Week 6. Since then, the Vikings have started three quarterbacks, had two different offensive line combinations, reconfigured their front seven, and started a rookie cornerback.
The Bears also look slightly different. Chicago traded for star defensive lineman Montez Sweat and started undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent four times. The Bears have also used eight different starting offensive line combinations in 11 games.
- Back-to-back prime-time games: The Vikings played the Broncos last Sunday night and now face Chicago on Monday night. Monday marks the fourth Vikings prime-time game this season. The team is also scheduled for a Sunday night game against the Packers on New Year's Eve.
Monday will be the Bears fourth and final prime-time game of the season. Fields has won his last two prime-time starts; both were on the road. The previous Bears quarterback to win three straight prime-time road games was Rex Grossman in 2006.
3 Things 'Bout the Bears
- Historic loss last week: The Bears were on the wrong side of history in their 31-26 loss at Detroit. Chicago squandered a 12-point lead with 4:15 to go despite forcing four turnovers in the game and possessing the ball for more than 40 minutes.
Entering Week 11, teams trailing by 10 or more points in the final 4:00 of a game this season were 0-83.
In Bears history, the team had won 24 in a row dating back to 2007 when finishing a game with a plus-three turnover margin. The last time Chicago lost despite producing four takeaways was in 2008. The Bears had won the previous 22 such games, and 14 of those victories came by at least two touchdowns.
Sunday was the Bears ninth division loss under Head Coach Matt Eberflus, and the Bears have lost 12-straight NFC North contests. The Vikings have won five straight over the Bears, the team's third-longest winning streak all-time against Chicago.
In those games, forcing field goals and creating turnovers has been key. The Bears have turned it over 11 times and are averaging 14.8 points per game in their past five games versus the Vikings.
- Turnover-forcing defense: Once again, the Vikings face an opportunistic defense that thrives off forcing turnovers.
Against the Lions, Chicago recorded four takeaways and had its second game of the season with three interceptions (tied for the most such games in the NFL in 2023). Rookie corner Tyrique Stevenson, linebacker T.J. Edwards, and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds all had interceptions in the loss.
Though the Lions scored twice in under three minutes to complete an improbable comeback, the Bears offense scored just 10 points off the four turnovers.
- Kicking game matters: The Broncos were perfect in the kicking game against the Vikings, including five made field goals, four of which were 37-yard tries or shorter.
Chicago is benefiting from similar kicking consistency. Bears kicker Cairo Santos made all four of his field goal attempts Sunday from 31, 53, 40, and 39 yards. Santos has missed only one field goal attempt all year and is 19 of 20 on the season. He is also 9 of 10 from 50 yards or more over the past two years.
Dobbs' historic stretch continues
Since joining the Vikings in Week 9, Dobbs is responsible for seven of the Vikings eight touchdowns. Only MVP candidates Dak Prescott (10) and C.J. Stroud (nine) have more total touchdowns than Dobbs since the trade deadline.
Currently, Dobbs leads both the Vikings (three) and Cardinals (three) in rushing touchdowns this season. If this mark holds, he will become the second player since 1930 to lead two different teams in rushing scores in a season, joining Herschel Walker in 1989, who was also traded in-season to Minnesota.
One-two punch returns
Last week, Vikings running back Alexander Mattison rushed for 81 yards, while second-year runner Ty Chandler gained 73 yards on 10 carries. The duo became the first pair of Vikings players to each have 70 rushing yards in the same game since Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon in Week 16 of the 2015 season.
1 Talking Point
"As I get more weeks under my belt, we get more situations out there on the field. Whether it's another 2-minute [drill] in the game, a 4-minute operation situation. Different defenses require different installation of plays. So as we continue to get more looks, I'll just continue getting to that mastery level. I'm fighting to get to that level as quickly as possible, but the knowledge and knowing the playbook is leaps and bounds from where we were even a week ago. So that's exciting."
— Dobbs on quickly picking up the Vikings offense
Vikings defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Khyiris Tonga, long snapper Andrew DePaola and receiver N'Keal Harry previously played for the Bears.
Minnesota running backs coach Curtis Modkins held the same role in Chicago, and Assistant Head Coach Mike Pettine was with the Bears in 2021.
Bears defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was with the Vikings for six games in 2020.
College and Pro Connections
The Vikings and Bears will meet for the 126th time overall. Minnesota is 66-57-2 all-time, including 39-24 when hosting Chicago, which includes one home playoff loss.