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Bear Country: Week Four – Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

The Bears look to even their divisional record to 1-1 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings by Joe Bielawa is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bear Country: Week Four – Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears


Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The Chicago Bears have reached a key point in their season. With the Packers loss against the Eagles on Thursday night, the winner of this game will likely be tied for the division lead.

Both the Vikings and Bears are 0-1 in the division and face the possibility of falling into a two-game division hole.

Here’s some things to keep an eye on:

1. Will Akiem Hicks play?

Around 3pm CST on Saturday the Bears promoted defensive lineman Jonathan Harris from the practice squad. Akiem Hicks was placed on the injury report due to knee issues earlier in the week. This move hinted that the pro-bowl player may not play tomorrow.

This is a huge deal.

The Vikings are the perfect team to exploit this. The team recently hired Super Bowl-winning coach Gary Kubiak as an assistant. Minnesota is now running the ball down the opposing team’s throat and smartly keeping the game out of the hands of Kirk Cousins.

The results have been magnificent. Former second-round pick, Dalvin Cook has shined in the new offense leading the league in both yards per carry (6.6) and total rushing yards (375).

In Dalvin Cook’s two starts against the Bears, the team dominated Cook only allowing 20 carries for 51 yards. A huge part of this has been Hicks’ dominance up the middle.

Will his absence change the tide?

2. The Bears Offensive Line vs. The Vikings Defensive Line may decide this game.

One of the Bears largest issues to this date is their offensive line. Last season the unit was a stable of consistency and health. This year’s unit is hardly recognizable.

Outside of two long runs, running backs have been consistently stuffed at the line of scrimmage. Rookie David Montgomery looks like the best 5-yard runner in NFL history due to horrific blocking.

The pass protection has been awful, as well. The critics were harsh on Trubisky last game but never seemed to mention that Kyle Long was pushed into the QB about five times. On multiple plays, Trubisky never had a shot to follow through with his passes. A quarterback will never be accurate if his pocket is always collapsing.

On the other side of the ball, the Vikings defense has been dominant. They surrender only 16 points per game and have given up only 16 yards less per game than Chicago. The defense is led by stud defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter who should be in Trubisky’s face all night (Just as they were in Aaron Rodgers grill in week two). The Vikings should easily have the advantage.

The good news? Kyle Long isn’t expected to play. We likely won’t see a lineman completely whiffing on blocks, running into his own team and jumping on piles post-plays for no reason.

3. Coach Nagy’s play-calling may decide this game

Coach Nagy’s play calling really fell flat vs. Green Bay in the opener.

In the last two games, he made key changes in his approach. Last week we saw him brilliantly instill a hybrid no-huddle for a good chunk of his plays.

There were several plays last week where Mitch Trubisky hurried his team to the line right after the last play. Upon coming to the line, Mitch had about 15 seconds to hear Coach Nagy on his headset helping him better able to identify defensive formations. Mitch was now able to adjust receivers/backs to fit the correct play against the opposing defense.

Trubisky seemed to love this as well: “It’s more of a next-play mentality. So you really don’t have enough time to dwell on the last play or worry about what happened. You’re going fast. It’s just more of a sense of urgency to get going.”

Sean McVay operates out of the same type of system with Jared Goff for the Rams. It worked perfectly in the last game at Washington. Nagy was able to scheme open more receivers in this way via more slants, screens and passes to the flat which set the team up on early downs.

This has given fans more confidence that Matt Nagy can adjust and grow as a play-caller as the season progresses. Can coach Nagy pass the test this weekend against one of the top defenses in the league?

4. Will the Real Mitch Trubisky please stand up?

Last week Mitch Trubisky was bipolar. He had the best throw in the NFL and the worst.

You may remember this amazing throw to Taylor Gabriel at 5:12 into this video:

Mitch Trubisky did some good work on this play:

  • – He faded back to buy his receivers some time
  • – He stepped through the pocket to avoid a blitz as the line was breaking down
  • – He kept his eyes downfield to make a play
  • – He (finally) looked past his first read.
  • – He threw a beautiful “dime ball”

Once again, he finally looked past his first read!

The worst throw (at 8:30 in the above video) highlighted his deficiencies.

Mitch Trubisky admitted post-game, “I wish I had that one back.” A quarterback cannot predetermine a read that close to the goal line.
On one hand, Mitch has incrementally improved from game one due to Matt Nagy going back to his quarterback’s strengths.

On the other hand, Mitch has only been great vs. bad teams.

How will he perform against one of the league’s best?

5. Which Quarterback will make the most mistakes?

The game likely comes down to the quarterbacks.

Mitch Trubisky vs. Kirk Cousins.

Prime Time CBS afternoon game.

The quarterbacks have eerily similar stat lines to this point.

They both choke in big games.

They both fizzle against good defenses.

I have highlighted Mitch Trubisky’s weaknesses in previous articles. Kirk Cousins’ biggest issue? The inability to hold onto the ball. In his 67 starts since 2015, he has fumbled the ball 44 times. He already has 4 fumbles this year, and there is a large man on the Bears who leads the league in pressures.

Khalil Mack.

Mack is ready to terrorize Cousins’ soul.

Prediction:

This is a pick ‘em game, however. Both teams are evenly matched.

The game is in Chicago and that should sway the pick.

This is where it comes back to Hicks’ health.

Absent of Hicks, I think the Vikings should control the clock and win this game. People forget that they have a chip on their shoulder. They were 0-2 against the Bears last year and were knocked out of the playoffs at home vs. them in Week 17.

If Hicks plays, home-field advantage and dominant defense leads to the win.

One player is that important.

I don’t think he’s playing.

Vikings 16, Bears 13

I hope I’m wrong.

Tim is a grateful believer, husband to Kristin, Father to Isabelle living in Los Angeles as both an actor and Claims adjuster. He was born and grew up eight blocks from Wrigley Field and is a die hard Chicago fan (Especially Bears). He is incredibly grateful to The Turf for giving him a chance to pursue a passion of his.

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