Preview: Vikings at Bears
First place in the NFC North is on the line Sunday night when the Minnesota Vikings invade Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears for a matchup between two of the hotter teams in the conference. The Vikings have won four of their last five games after getting past the Detroit Lions 24-9 two Sundays ago and then enjoying a bye week to watch the Bears defeat the Lions 34-22.
“It’s great to be able to be in a spot where your games truly matter and it means something,” Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters. “Whether you’re on our team and you’ve never been in this situation before, now you’ve got to know that the level picks up a little bit. That’s what I’m trying to make sure that these guys understand. This is an important game — get that, understand that.” Chicago is averaging 33 points during its winning streak and 34.3 over a six-game span behind blossoming quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who threw for over 300 yards four times in those six contests, including 355 with three touchdowns against Detroit. The 24-year-old ranks 10th in the NFL in passer rating (101.6), one spot behind Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins, who is geared up to face the top-ranked defense in the NFC (319.6 yards allowed per game) and star linebacker Khalil Mack. “I certainly would have loved for him to stay in the AFC,” Cousins told the media. “He’s a great player, and I want as many great players on opposing teams to be in the AFC, but you understand that no matter what your schedule is, there are going to be great players in every division, so we’ve got our hands full with him, but they’ve got a few other really good players on defense.”
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Bears -2.5. O/U: 45
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (5-3-1): Minnesota is wary of Chicago’s NFL-leading 16 interceptions and its second-ranked 24 total takeaways, making ball security a priority Sunday. “We’re going to have to do a great job of possessing the ball and keeping it, and making sure we do a good job with being patient in a lot of ways,” coach Mike Zimmer told the media. The return to form of running back Dalvin Cook (89 yards on 10 carries against the Lions) should help the offense click a bit more, and the team expects second-leading receiver Stefon Diggs to come back from a rib injury that kept him out of the last game.
ABOUT THE BEARS (6-3): Trubisky is playing like a quarterback who wants to be in the spotlight, and Sunday will be a test as to whether he’s ready for the big stage. “I think Mitch will be great,” right tackle Bobby Massie told reporters. “This is probably the biggest game Mitch has played in his career so far. I think he’s going to go out there and shine.” It might help to get a little more from a running game that has produced just 118 total yards over the last two games, and the team is hoping that kicker Cody Parkey can bounce back after missing two field goals and two extra points last week.
1. Mack returned from a two-game absence last week to record two sacks, giving him a team-leading seven.
2. Minnesota WR Adam Thielen, who was held under 100 yards for the first time this year against Detroit, is questionable due to back and calf issues.
3. Vikings DE Danielle Hunter had 3.5 sacks against the Lions and enters Week 11 ranked second in the NFL with 11.5.