4 Most Important Vikings in The Bears Matchup
Although the Minnesota Vikings may have little to play for when it comes to results this weekend, capping off the regular season with a victory can build momentum for the playoffs. It would be Kevin O’Connell’s first road win within the division, and Minnesota can immediately remove the sour taste from the Green Bay loss.
No place on the Vikings roster will be more scrutinized against the Chicago Bears than the offensive line. With both Austin Schlottmann and Brian O’Neill going down against Green Bay, a pair of backups (one being a third-stringer) will be on display.
Going into a home playoff game a week from Sunday, it may be how these guys look at Soldier Field that helps to determine if the Vikings can extend their season.
4 Most Important Vikings
Probably the most obvious place to start. Garrett Bradbury is going to miss his fifth straight game. There is optimism he can return for the playoffs, but a nagging back injury didn’t get better when he was involved in a car accident a couple weeks ago. With Schlottmann done for the season, Reed is making his first start at center in the NFL. He was awful when thrust into action against the Packers, but a week of practice has to have helped iron out some of those kinks. Seeing what level of chemistry is immediately formed with Reed and Cousins is something to monitor.
The Chicago Bears are not a good team, and that certainly filters down to the defense. Justin Jefferson was held to just a single catch for 15 yards last week against the Packers. He still needs 194 yards to surpass Calvin Johnson’s single-season yardage record, and while that’s unlikely, Jefferson did burn the Bears for 154 yards in the last matchup. Seeing a bounceback performance from him is a must, and in large part because it should be expected. Jefferson will be an integral part of Minnesota winning any playoff matchups, and quickly putting the poor result last time out behind him is a must.
Game flow did him no favors last week, but Cook put up one of the worst performances of his season. That now has happened in two of the past four weeks, and he’s looked more and more like a running back in decline. Cook roasted the Bears for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns when he saw them at U.S. Bank Stadium. He has just two 100-yard games this season, and while he may not play the whole game Sunday, looking like someone that can shoulder a big part of the offense is a must. Teams have worked to take away Jefferson and Minnesota’s passing game. If the Vikings need to run in the playoffs, especially doing so with a makeshift offensive line, they’ll need to have evidence that they can in fact do so.
Patrick Peterson has remained a consistent starting corner throughout the season for Minnesota. Chandon Sullivan has been uninspiring, but available on the year. Beyond that, it’s been a revolving door for Ed Donatell’s secondary. Akayleb Evans remains out. Andrew Booth Jr.’s season is done, and Shelley has drawn starts in three straight games because of that. Shelley spent the past three seasons in Chicago and would presumably enjoy a nice showing against his former organization.
Minnesota should not find themselves in a battle by any means during this one, and asserting dominance needs to be a focus. The four individuals above can help to push that narrative in a big way.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.