Sunday’s matchup between the Vikings and Bears is quickly turning into must-see television, as the division rivals (and hopeful NFC contenders) square off at Soldier Field.
Both teams enter with a 2-1 record, with each loss for the Vikings and Bears coming in the division.
There is plenty at stake, even in the first month of the season, as The Athletic recently tabbed the battle between Minnesota and Chicago as one of the league’s ‘most intriguing’ games of Week 4.
Chad Graff, who covers the Vikings for The Athletic, recently broke down the matchup with Kevin Fishbain, who is a Bears beat writer for the site.
Graff wrote that he’ll have his eyes on the defenses in the Windy City.
These teams aren’t built exactly the same. The Bears have a still-young quarterback and an offensive coach while the Vikings have a veteran quarterback and a defensive-minded coach. But so far, it’s apparent that their path to winning games is the same. Play good defense, run the ball successfully and hope your quarterback doesn’t make any horrible throws.
Graff opined that the Vikings can win if they play a smart brand of football and don’t give the Bears solid starting field position.
Graff wrote that he foresees a Vikings victory if “Kirk Cousins doesn’t commit any turnovers and Dalvin Cook, the league’s leading rusher, is still able to find some holes in that talented Bears’ front seven. Cook won’t need to put up more than 120 yards of offense as he’s done every game this season, but he will need to take some pressure off Cousins.”
Fishbain said he’ll be watching the other side of the ball, as he is most interested to see how Chicago’s offensive line holds up against a menacing Vikings defensive line.
On Monday night, Washington sacked Mitch Trubisky three times, which is one more sack than that defense had in its first two games combined. Now an O-line on a short week that might be without right tackle Bobby Massie faces a Vikings defense averaging 12.7 pressures per game to go along with 10 total sacks. Both in run-blocking and pass protection, the Bears’ O-line we’ve seen in the first three games is going to have problems Sunday afternoon with Minnesota, and that’s the last thing an uneven offense needs. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were held without a sack against the Bears in Week 2, but we didn’t see consistent run blocking in that game. The Bears also have eight holding penalties, tied for fifth-most in the NFL.
While Graff and Fishbain were split on their predictions, they each projected a one-point win.
Fishbain has the Vikings getting a 10-9 win, while Graff predicted a 14-13 victory for Chicago.
Each NFC North team was featured in the list of intriguing games, as Green Bay hosts Philadelphia on Thursday Night Football and the Lions host the Chiefs on Sunday.
The other two games featured included a matchup of 3-0 teams (New England at Buffalo) and the Sunday Night Football matchup between the 3-0 Cowboys and 2-1 Saints.
Cook ranked among MJD’s top running backs
Three games into the 2019 season, Cook is healthy and flourishing in his third year in the NFL.
Plenty around the NFL have taken notice, including former running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who recently ranked the Vikings running back among the best players at his position across the league.
Jones-Drew unveiled his weekly running back rankings Thursday, and tabbed Cook as the No. 3 player on his list.
I felt like Cook could be this guy when he came into the league as a second-round pick in 2017, so it's nice to see him healthy and leading Kevin Stefanski's offense. He's on pace for a massive campaign just three weeks in, and I'm guessing Minnesota will continue to give the rock to the productive running back.
Cook leads the NFL with 375 rushing yards and an average of 6.6 yards per carry. He also has four rushing touchdowns, which is tied for second in the NFL.
The 2017 second-round pick is also the only player to have rushed for 100-plus yards in each game so far this season.
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (289 rushing yards, 5.3 yards per carry and two rushing touchdowns) topped Jones-Drew’s list, followed by Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (318 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry and three touchdowns).
Cook leads a Minnesota rushing attack that ranks second in the league with 581 rushing yards, good for an average of 193.7 per game.
The Vikings will be up against a stern test Sunday in Chicago, as the Bears defense currently ranks fifth in the league by allowing just 68.7 yards per game.