The Chicago Bears will play their first primetime Sunday Night home game in over six years this week as they host the Minnesota Vikings.
First place of the NFC North will be at stake for the two teams as the Vikings are just one game behind the Bears for first place. It will be the most important game yet for many of the Bears given the magnitude and optics surrounding the game. A win would be crucial given the Bears upcoming opponents as win Sunday Night would give them some breathing room.
Here are five keys to a Bears victory against the Vikings.
Defensive needs to stand tall against the complete offense of the Vikings
One of the reasons as to why the Bears are currently on top of the NFC North is because of the revitalization of their defense this season. The Bears defense is ranked in the top 10 of most defensive categories including number one in takeaways with 27.
They will have their hands full against an explosive Vikings offense which may be the most complete offense they have faced all season. Minnesota’s offense can both pass and run the ball really well as they have a deep wide receiving corps, two quality running backs, a red zone tight ends, and a Pro-Bowl quarterback. Quarterback Kirk Cousins leads an offense that features Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, and Kyle Rudolph. Their offense has scored 20 or more points in eight of their nine games.
For the Bears, the key is to do what they do best which is consistent takeaways and pressuring the quarterback in hopes of limiting the Vikings of points.
Perfect situation for Leonard Floyd on Sunday Night
Linebacker Leonard Floyd has played the best games of his short career at home against the Vikings as both games have been played at night. In the two games at home against the Vikings, Floyd has recorded three sacks including a safety in last season’s game. With Khalil Mack back and healthy, Mack will now be the focus of Minnesota’s blocking game plan in which Floyd will need to step up.
Last week, he recorded his first sack of the season, and now with the pressure off, he could go on a streak of sacking the opposing quarterback which would be a tremendous boost for the defense.
Trubisky needs to show that he is ready for primetime
The other reason for Bears’ resurgence this season has been their explosive offense led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky received Offensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Detroit Lions which included 355 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown.
He has thrown 19 touchdowns and rushed for three this season and will be able to show the nation he has improved since week one. The Bears will need their second-year quarterback to perform the way he played last week if they hope to beat a Vikings defense that is currently ranked 11th in scoring defense and 11th in passing yards allowed. Another solid performance could change the national views about Trubisky which haven’t been positive, while a bad performance would only entrench those views.
Using all the weapons available on offense is key to putting up points.
Head coach Matt Nagy has overseen a Bears offense that has averaged 32 points per game in their last six games. Similar to the Vikings offense, the Bears have a deep list of talented players on offense that can be involved both rushing and passing the ball. On offense, the team has had five different players record 100-yard receiving games this season and have eight players who have scored a touchdown on offense this season. This has allows the Bears to keep opposing defenses guessing on who is going to get the ball.
The Vikings have struggled this season against deep offenses as they have surrendered 29 points or more against some of the league’s best versatile offenses including the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, and Green Bay Packers.
Parkey needs to kick off his struggles
The only negative of the Bears’ 34-22 win over the Lions last weekend was the struggles of kicker Cody Parkey who missed four attempts hitting the uprights each time. Much focus has been paid to Parkey who was signed to a big contract in the offseason to solve the Bears kicking struggles of the past two years.
That attention reached a climax Wednesday night as several Chicago news stations sent their helicopters to broadcast the Bears special teams unit practicing field goal attempts at Soldier Field. Points will be needed against the Vikings as even one missed attempt could be the difference a Chicago win or loss.
If Parkey misses in a crucial situation Sunday, he may be at home on Thanksgiving watching his former employer taking on the Detroit Lions.