The Vikings will play seven games over the next 47 days while competing for the NFC North title or at least a spot in the NFC playoffs.
Minnesota currently sits at 5-3-1 and in second place in the NFC North, but Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com thinks the Vikings will be a playoff participant once January rolls around.
Barnwell recently broke down the teams in the hunt for a playoff spot, and had the Vikings listed as one of the “favorites” to make it to the dance.
Barnwell, who put the Vikings current playoff chances at 59.8 percent, wrote:
The Vikings, who had their bye this week, have the toughest stretch of their season — and arguably of any team in the league — coming up over the next four weeks. They face the Bears in Chicago on Sunday night, host the Packers the following Sunday night, then finish up with road games against the Patriots and Seahawks. The best defense in football, a visit from an arch-nemesis, and a December swing to two of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
FPI expects the Vikings to win 1.7 of those games, and if we round up and project them to go 2-2, Minnesota would be well-positioned to finish strong and make a return trip to the postseason at 7-5-1. If you're looking for an all-or-nothing approach, consider that FPI thinks Minnesota's chances of losing all four games is 9.7 percent, more than three times their odds of winning all four, which come in at 3.1 percent.
Besides Minnesota, Barnwell also listed Washington, Carolina and Chicago as favorites to make the playoffs in the NFC.
He listed New Orleans and Los Angeles, two teams with only one loss apiece, as “elite” teams in the conference.
The Vikings will endure the four-game stretch mentioned above by Barnwell before returning to U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 15 against Miami. Minnesota will then close out the regular season with a game in Detroit and a Week 17 home game against the Bears.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Bears.
Krammer: Vikings will have hands full with Chicago’s front 7
The Vikings will see one of the NFL’s top defenses on Sunday night in prime time.
Chicago’s defense ranks fourth in yards allowed per game (319.6) and is tied for fourth in points allowed per game (19.4).
The Bears have also racked up 30 sacks, which is one behind the Vikings and three other teams who are tied for the league lead at 31 total sacks.
Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune took a look at the problems the Bears will present when their defense is on the field.
Krammer, who said the Bears have regained respect around the league, wrote:
Chicago boasts a potent mixture of front-seven strength, allowing a league-best 3.6 yards per carry, and a back end with the NFL’s most interceptions (16) entering Week 11.
Headlining is edge rusher Khalil Mack, who leads the Bears with seven sacks despite playing in just seven games this season. Mack returned last week from an ankle injury and looked healthy with two of the Bears’ six sacks on Matthew Stafford.
The Bears acquired Mack a week before the 2018 season in a trade with Oakland.
Mack, the two-time All-Pro, will be a behemoth challenge for both [Riley] Reiff and Brian O’Neill. The Bears pick spots for Mack, who has lined up more vs. right tackle (64.8 percent) this season than against left tackle (35.2 percent), according to Pro Football Focus. But his alignment differs by week. Against the Lions on Sunday, Mack spent seven of every 10 snaps against left tackle Taylor Decker while racking up two sacks.
Krammer said that Mack won’t be the only problem that Minnesota’s offensive line has to worry about Sunday night in the Windy City.
But the Vikings’ challenges continue along the Bears’ front. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman is one of the league’s best run stoppers. The Vikings just saw one of them — Lions DT Damon Harrison — and he beat Isidora and center Pat Elflein en route to a team-high seven tackles (one for a loss). Right guard Mike Remmers was the most consistent interior lineman last week, and the Vikings need him to continue his solid play in Chicago.