EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings wrap up a wild and wacky season Sunday as they host the Bears at noon (CT) at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota, which started the season 5-0, is 7-8 and was eliminated from playoff contention with last weekend's loss in Green Bay.
The Vikings will look to end the year on a high note against Chicago, which is 3-12 including a win against Minnesota on Halloween. The Bears lost to Washington last week when quarterback Matt Barkley threw five interceptions.
This is the 112th all-time meeting between the Vikings and Bears.
On the airwaves: The game will be broadcast by FOX (KMSP FOX 9 in the Twin Cities). Dick Stockton, David Diehl and Kristina Pink will be on the call. The game also will be broadcast on KFAN 100.3-FM and across the Minnesota Vikings Radio Network by the team of Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, Ben Leber and Greg Coleman.
Three things to watch:
Finish with a win— Craig Peters
Minnesota's first season at U.S. Bank Stadium has featured ultimate highs and extreme lows, sometimes even in the same game. The Vikings christened the building with a 17-14 win over the Packers but lost Adrian Peterson to a torn meniscus for almost all of the season.
No one really predicted the Vikings would open 5-0 as more and more significant injuries struck the offense, but once they did, even fewer expected a four-game losing streak and late-season slide.
The Vikings also suffered heart-stomping defeats to the Lions by six in overtime and NFC-leading Cowboys by two points. "Lethargic" was the phrase most used by Zimmer to describe the Vikings most recent home game, a 34-6 loss to the Colts.
Players want to change that narrative this week and at least finish 5-3 at home this season, but they can't underestimate the Bears.
Chicago is winless on the road this season, but kept it close at Detroit on Dec. 11 before falling 20-17.
The Bears also pushed the Packers in Week 15 before losing 30-27 at home on a field goal as time expired.
The Bears are 1-6 in games decided by six or fewer points, and the Vikings are 2-4.
The Vikings finished their 2014 season with a win over the Bears and it gave the teams some positivity heading into 2015.
Dialing up the defense— Eric Smith
The Vikings biggest frustration over the past two weeks is that the team's playoff hopes went from slim to none. But perhaps a close second is the play of Minnesota's defense, a unit that has struggled mightily in back-to-back losses to Indianapolis and Green Bay.
"It's unlike us the way we've played these last couple weeks," said Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. "We look forward to getting back to being ourselves, playing hard, playing good football, getting off the field on third down and getting a win."
When the Vikings started the season with five straight wins, they took the ball away and rarely allowed opponents to score. Minnesota began the season by allowing 63 total points and grabbing a plus-11 turnover margin when it started 5-0.
But over the past two games, the Vikings have allowed 72 points and are minus-5 in turnover differential.
The Bears are on their third starting quarterback of the season in Barkley, and Chicago ranks 28th in the league with 17.9 points per game. If the Vikings can flash the playmaking ability they showed earlier in the season, the defense could go into the offseason on a high note.
Meeting milestones— Lindsey Young
While the playoffs are off the table for this season, the Vikings still have a reason to give it their all against the Bears, including a number of personal milestones within reach for individual players. Here are a few to watch for:
Quarterback Sam Bradford enters the game with a 71.3 completion percentage and can break the NFL single-season mark (71.2) currently held by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who accomplished the feat in 2011. Bradford can also break the Vikings franchise record (69.2) set by Daunte Culpepper.
Adam Thielen currently leads the Vikings in receiving yards with 960 and needs only 40 yards through the air against Chicago to hit the 1,000-yard mark. If Kyle Rudolph records 77 yards, the Vikings will have the first trio of players (Thielen, Diggs and Rudolph) with 800-plus receiving yards apiece since 1981.
On defense, second-year defensive end Danielle Hunter leads the team in sacks with 12, matching the mark of Everson Griffen's career best from 2014.
—Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford has a 71.3 completion percentage entering Sunday's game. He can break the NFL single-season record (71.2) and the Vikings single-season record (69.2) with a solid game against the Bears.
— The Vikings defense ranks second in the NFL in yards allowed per game (314.3) and is eight in points allowed per game (19.8).
— Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks had yet to get a sack in 2016 before he recorded 2.5 sacks last week against Green Bay.
— Minnesota's Cordarrelle Patterson leads the NFL with a kickoff return average of 31.5 yards per return. Patterson is aiming to lead the league in kickoff return average for a third time, which would be a league record.
"Everybody has injuries, I get it. Does it make it a little more difficult? Maybe. My feeling is that part of coaching is finding ways to do things and finding ways to overcome your deficiencies." — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on the toll injuries have taken on his team this season.
Worth a watch
Check out the season finale of '96 Questions' with Vikings defensive end Brian Robison.