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5 Vikings-Bears Storylines to Watch in Week 15

The Vikings are seeking their third sweep of the Bears during Mike Zimmer's seven seasons as head coach.

Minnesota previously claimed both annual games in the series in 2015 and 2017 on the way to winning NFC North titles. That's not a possibility this year since Green Bay clinched the division last week, but a sweep of Chicago is always welcome, especially for the game's magnitude toward the NFC Standings.

The Vikings and Bears are both 6-7, but Minnesota has a tiebreaker on Chicago because of its win last month and enters Week 15 in eighth place in the NFC, one position below the final playoff spot. The Bears are ninth.

A Vikings victory (or a tie — yuck!) would be their fourth in division games and cause the fourth NFC North loss by the Bears, which would secure a tiebreaker if both teams finished with the same record.

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. Will hits keep coming?

Since suffering just one sack at Soldier Field in Week 10, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been sacked 14 times, including 10 over the past two outings against Jacksonville and at Tampa Bay.

The Jaguars were credited with 14 hits on Cousins by press box statisticians, and the Buccaneers tallied a dozen more.

While he's hung tough, that's not a path to sustained success.

Minnesota will try to repeat one of its best statistical protection performances this season against the likes of Khalil Mack, who leads Chicago with 7.5 sacks and is seeking his first at U.S. Bank Stadium.

2. Justin on their mind?

Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson caught eight passes for 135 yards on 10 targets in his career debut against the Bears.

He'll be making his second start against a team for the first time in his young career and looking to continue an unbelievable run at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In seven games so far, he's recorded 40 catches for 708 yards and all seven of his scores on 57 targets. That's good for 17.7 yards per catch and a stellar average of 101.1 yards per home game.

Will the Bears try to deploy something similar to the Buccaneers last week when Tampa Bay limited Jefferson to four catches and 39 yards? Who knows, but it is certain that Jefferson will be on Chicago's mind.

3. Trubisky trending

The Vikings faced quarterback Nick Foles back in Week 10 and limited him to 15-of-26 passing for 106 yards with an interception by Harrison Smith. Foles totaled a passer rating of 51.1 against the Vikings before leaving with an injury. He was replaced by Tyler Bray, who completed one of five passes for 18 yards late.

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

This time, Mitchell Trubisky is back in the lineup and coming off one of the best games of his career. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 267 yards and three scores (126.7 passer rating). Trubisky is yet to have a passer rating higher than 85.9 against the Vikings, but the Bears are 4-2 in his six starts (includes game last year in Chicago that he left early).

4. Specials again

Former Viking Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 104 yards for Chicago's only touchdown against Minnesota in Week 10. The play gave the Bears a 13-7 lead, and Patterson tied an NFL record with eight career return touchdowns.

Five of his returns for scores occurred as a member of the Vikings. The very first — in his second pro game — was a 105-yard run-back at Soldier Field in 2013. Patterson in 2018 as a member of the Patriots also recorded a 95-yard kickoff return against the Bears.

The NFL's leader in kickoff return average recorded a kickoff return touchdown at the Metrodome (2013), University of Minnesota (2015) and U.S. Bank Stadium (2016).

The Vikings likely want to play "keep-away from Cordarrelle" on Sunday.

Minnesota kicker Dan Bailey is looking to right the ship after two rough weeks by putting the football back through the uprights. Among the NFL's leaders in career accuracy, Bailey's status has been questioned by media members.

5. Stretch run

Dalvin Cook's career-highs of 1,352 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns rank second in the NFL and are tied for first, respectively with Tennessee's Derrick Henry.

Henry has the inside track on defending his rushing crown, having recorded 1,532 yards on a whopping 297 rushes.

Cook has rushed 273 times despite missing a game-and-half, but he would like to challenge Henry. He's vowed that he's ready for the stretch run.

Chicago's David Montgomery enters Week 15 with 760 rushing yards. The former Iowa State Cyclone missed Week 10 against Minnesota, but he's impressed in the three weeks that have followed Chicago's bye. Montgomery has averaged a substantial 7.4 yards per carry (288 yards on 39 rushes) and scored three touchdowns in the past three weeks.

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.

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

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 [IR] 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., teamed at Florida State.

Minnesota C Brett Jones and Chicago DT Akiem Hicks were on the same squad at the University of Regina.

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

Minnesota TEs Irv Smith, Jr., and Hale Hentges teamed with Chicago S Eddie Jackson at Alabama.

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