The long wait is nearly over. The Vikings contest against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football is nearly ready for kickoff. To help you pass the final moments of time before the game begins, here are a few final thoughts on the matchup.
Trick and treat
The treat on this Halloween weekend for the Vikings was a good day on Sunday, with NFC contenders Detroit, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Seattle all losing plus Washington not winning (they tied with Cincinnati). But now it's about avoiding the trick, and that is an underdog Bears team playing the role of spoiler at home to the division-leading Vikings. A win for the Vikings tonight would create some separation in the NFC North, putting them at 6-1 while the Packers dropped to 4-3.
Spook Cutler early
The Halloween theme continues in Final Thoughts with a note about the importance of the Vikings giving Bears quarterback Jay Cutler a rude welcome back to the field. Cutler hasn't played since Week 2, but he's making a return to the field tonight as Chicago's starter after backup Brian Hoyer was injured in last Thursday night's loss to Green Bay. Cutler is a talented passer who is dangerous when he's on a roll. The key for the Vikings will be to hit and frustrate Cutler early in the game to prevent him from gaining rhythm and momentum, particularly with stud receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has been a thorn in the Vikings side for his entire career.
Vikings must handle the elements
Just as it was in last week's road game at Philadelphia, the weather looks to be cooperative for game time. The forecast calls for a kickoff temperature of 58 degrees with a 5% chance of precipitation and winds of around 10-15 mph. Those are quite moderate conditions for a night game at Soldier Field. But the Vikings must still handle the elements of this game. Prime time, outdoors, on the road and with a couple non-starters potentially in ball-handling roles. Punt returner Marcus Sherels is questionable, which means Adam Thielen could be charged with the role of securing punts and ensuring the offense a possession. Also, RB Jerick McKinnon is out, which means that Matt Asiata is the likely starter but also that Ronnie Hillman could see additional snaps and responsibility. It's also important to mention P Jeff Locke and K Blair Walsh has players who must handle the unique elements of playing at Soldier Field.
Taking another step forward in the running game
Vikings Nation has grown accustomed to seeing productive ground games with Adrian Peterson toting the rock in recent seasons. But of course Peterson has been sidelined since Week 2 and the running game has taken a drastic step back as a result. Lately, though, the running game has been showing signs of progress. The Vikings have rushed for 90+ yards as a team for three straight games, and keeping at that pace or even increasing it tonight will help the Vikings accomplish another one of their top priority on offense, which is to protect the quarterback. One hurdle in that effort tonight is the absence of McKinnon, but his absence represents an opportunity for Asiata and Hillman to step up and produce.
A Soldier Field encore for Diggs?
Stefon Diggs' first game at Soldier Field was a memorable one. He had six catches for 95 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown that was vital in the Vikings comeback win. Diggs had an outstanding effort against the Packers in Week 2 this season but hasn't looked fully healthy since and even missed the Week 5 game against Houston. He wasn't on the injury report this week and it would be convenient timing for the Vikings if he displayed the same form against these Bears that he did against the 2015 version as well as the Packers back in September.