Chicago Bears Early Look Week 17: Minnesota Vikings

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Dec 21, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks (94) chases Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) in the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. Miami defeated the Vikings 37-35. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Overview:  The 5-10 Chicago Bears will be travelling to Minneapolis this week to take on the 6-9 Minnesota Vikings in a matchup with very little at stake other than pride.  The Bears won the previous matchup between these two teams this season by a score of 21-13, but the Vikings have been steadily improving since then so I expect Chicago to have a harder time this go around.  While the Minnesota Vikings have lost their last two games, they were close fought battles against competitive opponents, having lost 16-14 to the division leading Detroit Lions and 37-35 to the 8-7 Miami Dolphins.  Prior to that, Minnesota put together 2 straight wins against the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets.  They have also scored at least 30 points in three of their last 4 matchups.  Neither of these team will be in the playoffs this year, but I still expect a hard-fought, close game between these two division rivals.

Injuries:  The Minnesota Vikings have a crowded injury report, but they appear to be mostly minor as very few players missed last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins.  Rookie first-round linebacker Anthony Barr will definitely miss the game against the Bears this week, as it was recently discovered that his knee will require surgery.  Starting left guard Charlie Johnson missed last week with an ankle injury and is worth monitoring this week.  His absence would further weaken an already shaky offensive line.  Tight end Kyle Rudolph also missed last week with an ankle injury, and his continued absence would be a major boon to the Bears.  Rudolph was expected by many to be heavily featured in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense this season, but has missed 7 games this year due to injuries.

Key Matchups:  I don’t really see too many problems for the Bears this week on a player by player matchup basis.  Nickel back Demontre Hurst will likely have his hand full with shifty Vikings slot receiver Jarius Wright, who has 210 yards and 2 touchdowns in the last 3 games, but I like how the Bears match up overall in this one.  If Chicago’s front 7 can play as well as they did last week against Detroit, they should be able to limit the Minnesota Vikings rushing attack and get plenty of pressure on rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.  Of course, who knows what we’ll see from the Bears offensively?  It sounds like Jay Cutler will be getting the start again this week since Jimmy Clausen suffered a concussion during last week’s loss to the Detroit Lions, so get ready for some turnovers.

The Way I See It:  I think this game could honestly go either way, but I hope the Bears lose.  I love the Bears, but this season is lost and the only way to salvage something out of it to me is to snag a high draft pick.  If the season were to end today, Chicago would be picking 7th overall.  If the Washington Redskins can somehow manage to upset the Dallas Cowboys this weekend, the Bears could even move up one spot to 6th.  Not a bad consolation prize.  If the Bears were to win this contest, however, they could find themselves picking as low as 12th.  That’s a relatively frightening differential.  Wouldn’t it be a perfectly horrible end to Jay Cutler’s tenure in Chicago if he came out and lit up the scoreboard against the Minnesota Vikings to screw the Bears out of being able to draft his replacement?

Draft pick or pride from the victory?  Let me know what you think in the Comments…