EAGAN, Minn. — It doesn't get much bigger than this for the Vikings.
Win (or tie) on Sunday against the Bears, and Minnesota is in the postseason. Lose, and Minnesota has to hope for some help from Washington against Philadelphia.
The Vikings and Bears kick off at 3:25 p.m. (CT) from U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota can still claim either Wild Card spot, meaning the Vikings will most likely be on the road the entire way if they intend to make a deep playoff run.
But Sunday's game is at home, and the Vikings should use that to their advantage, as Minnesota is 18-6 at U.S. Bank Stadium (including one postseason game) since the venue opened in 2016.
The Vikings defense has allowed only 10 touchdown drives at home in 2018, which is tied with Tennessee for the fewest this season.
And Minnesota's offense runs the ball better at home, where the Vikings average 121.2 rushing yards per game. On the road, Minnesota's rushing average is 72.6 yards per game.
If you're playing one game to get in the playoffs, you'd much rather it be at home than on the road.
"We get an opportunity to play in front our fans in the best home atmosphere in the league, and it's going to be a playoff atmosphere at 3:30 on Sunday," said tight end Kyle Rudolph. "I'm glad that they have to come to our house."
Added Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins: "I think our team feeds off the crowd and what they bring – it's just a great place to play an NFL football game. And I can't say enough good things about the venue, the locker room, the facility and the way our fans spur us on. I'm certainly glad that our final game is at home, and hopefully, I'm just glad it gives us a chance here at home to be able to finish the right way."
Here are three areas to watch in Sunday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:
Get it done | By @Eric_L_Smith
At times, the Vikings 2018 season has felt like an amusement park ride, with a twist here, a turn there and a loop or two thrown in for good measure.
But here we are as Week 17 approaches, and the Vikings have a chance to straighten out the roller coaster and cruise into the playoffs with a win.
"You know you're going to face [adversity] when you're standing here in August talking about the upcoming season, and I'm sure there are teams that could say they've faced more than we have," Cousins said. "But through the course of the season, it's going to be up and down and there's going to be people taking shots at you and criticizing you, and you just kind of shrug your shoulders and move through it, try to block out the noise and just go play.
"You're going to have injuries, you're going to have in-game setbacks, and that's kind of life, and that's the way it is in this league," Cousins added. "Hopefully we continue to show resiliency here in Week 17, and that will give us the opportunity, then, to keep playing."
Forget the fact that a season that began with Super Bowl expectations has been filled with inconsistent play and lingering injuries alike.
A maddening tie against the Packers, a bad home loss to the Bills and frustrating performances in prime time … they can all be erased by that victorious scoreboard early Sunday evening.
Win in Week 17, and the playoff dream is alive and well.
Containing Trubisky early and effectively | By @LindseyMNSports
In the Vikings first game against the Bears this season, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky demonstrated an impressive mobility. He's improved his ability to extend plays with his legs since his rookie campaign in 2017 – and it hurt Minnesota in the Week 11 matchup.
In that game, Trubisky ran a career-high 10 times and racked up 43 yards on the ground. Thirty-seven of those yards, however, were accrued on six rushes in the first half. The Vikings defense stepped up and contained the second-year QB much more effectively in the third and fourth quarters.
In Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota will look to affect Trubisky early on and limit the plays he's able to make outside of the pocket.
"He's a very good quarterback, and he can run. We can't let that be the game this time around," Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph said earlier this week. "In year one when he first played against us, that was his first career start. Since his first game, and this will now be his third career game against us, he's picking it up. He's done a really good job of reading where he could run. We just have to stop him."
Ball security paramount | By @pcraigers
The Vikings were able to force three Bears turnovers in the teams' first meeting this season, but Minnesota also committed three against a Chicago squad that has an NFL-best 36 takeaways this season.
Protecting the football is harped on a lot in the media and the meeting rooms because losing the turnover margin can prove to be the difference between a win or a loss in a competitive league.
"They're number one in the league in turnovers, interceptions," Zimmer said Friday. "They've been great. They're very good in the back end at having eyes on the ball. Obviously, they're good in their rush."
In 79 regular-season games under Zimmer, the Vikings are 30-6 when they win the turnover battle. Minnesota is 7-7 when each team has the same number of turnovers in a game and 10-18-1 when losing the turnover battle.
Chicago is 6-2 this season when winning the turnover battle, 4-1 when both teams have the same number of turnovers and 1-1 when losing the important statistic.
— If the Vikings win Sunday and clinch a spot in the postseason, they will make their 30th overall playoff appearance in franchise history (58 seasons).
— Adam Thielen needs one touchdown catch and Stefon Diggs needs six catches and two touchdown catches to become the first pair of receiver teammates in NFL history to have at least 100 catches and 10 touchdowns in the same season.
— Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has recorded back-to-back games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his career. He has totaled 271 yards (209 rushing, 62 receiving) in wins over Miami and Detroit.
— The Vikings allowed no touchdowns (and just six field goals) in a season sweep of the Lions in 2018. Detroit had 432 combined yards of offense in those two games and converted just eight of 31 third-down tries.
"For us, it's just this one game, and then we'll worry about next week, next week. But this is just one game. We're not going to do anything different as far as, 'Oh, if we run this play this week, we can't run it next week.' All we're focused on is trying to win this one particular game."
— Zimmer on Sunday's mindset