Coming off a shut out win against the Packers, the Vikings finish the regular season off at home against the 5-10 Chicago Bears. While the Bears are playing with house money at this point, the Vikings are looking to secure a first round bye with a win.
Let us take a look and see how the rosters compare.
Case Keenum versus Mitch Trubisky. Over the past few games, Trubisky has started to command more of the Bears offense, getting more passing calls and freedom in the offense. However, going against the statistical top defense in the NFL will be a challenge for the rookie. Keenum has played very well at home this season and this does not appear to change this weekend against the Bears defense.
Edge: Vikings. The crowd noise and defense will get to the rookie, and the Vikings will take full advantage of it. Keenum will end the regular season strong.
Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon have been quite the one-two punch for the Vikings this season as they offer a ton of versatility and different looks to throw at opponents. The Bears on the other side are lead by their bell cow running back Jordan Howard, who is one of the best in the league. Chicago is still trying to find ways to get Tarik Cohen the ball in space, but Howard is the main cog here for the Bears running game.
Edge: Bears. Murray and McKinnon have been great lately but Howard will be the best running back on the field come Sunday.
The duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs has been one of the best in the league. With the second seed in the NFC Playoffs on the line, I do not expect anything to change this week. The Bears passing game has been one of the worst this season and against the Minnesota defense it could be ugly.
Edge: Vikings. This one is clear and obvious.
Although Kyle Rudolph was quiet for the Vikings last week, he still remains one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. With the loss of Zach Miller, the Bears will rely on Adam Shaheen, who is questionable this week with a chest injury that kept him out the previous game.
Edge: Vikings. Rudolph continues to be one of the best red zones threats in the NFL. I expect the Vikings to look his way often.
After getting back Riley Reiff last week against the Packers, the Minnesota offense line seemed to be intact until Nick Easton went down. He will miss the rest of the season with a fractured ankle. The Bears have allowed 38 sacks on the year. With the way Minnesota likes to send pressure, it has the looks of a long day for Trubisky.
Edge: Vikings. Even with the loss of Easton, look for this group to flex their will on the Bears.
The Bears defensive line is lead by Akiem Hicks who has 8.5 sacks on the season. The Vikings offensive line is going to need to account for him on every snap. On the Vikings side, they are lead by Everson Griffin with 13 sacks and Danielle Hunter with seven.
Edge: Vikings. The front four of Minnesota is one of the best in the NFL with getting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run game.
The duo of Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks has been one of the best linebacking crews in football this season. Going against Howard and Cohen will make it important for these linebackers to fill their gaps and tackle in space as both running backs make a living off of big, explosive plays. Danny Trevathan and Christian Jones lead the way for the Bears linebacking crew as they both have over 80 tackles on the season.
Edge: Vikings. The Bears linebacking crew is underrated, but Barr and Kendricks have been elite this season.
Between Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith and even Trae Waynes, the Vikings defensive backs have been completely shutting down opposing teams. The ability to blanket opposing wide receivers have allowed for the front four to wreck havoc on quarterbacks all year. The Bears are lead by emerging star Eddie Jackson with two interceptions on the season.
Edge: Vikings. Jackson is very good, but it is close to impossible to pick against a secondary that has Rhodes and Smith.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been picking against Kai Forbath and the Minnesota special teams here, but he has seemed to get his act together after a midseason struggle. The Bears now have Mike Nugent kicking for them who has been pretty solid, but has been prone to some easy missed field goals and PATs in his career.
Edge: Vikings. Forbath has been great at home for Minnesota, and the crowd noise will have an effect on the Bears kicking game.
This game has all the making of a blow out as the Vikings want that second seed and a first round bye. Expect to see them come out early and put their foot on the gas. Ideally, the Vikings want to jump out to a big lead to get the starters out of the game in the second half to avoid injury.
Prediction: Vikings 31, Bears 10
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– Anthony Talanca writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Vikings. Follow him @atalanca.