After a dominating effort in Washington for the most part last week, the Bears will face a much more difficult challenge in week 4 against their division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Despite both of their 2-1 records, the two teams are tied for last in the NFC North behind the now 3-1 Green Bay Packers and the 2-0-1 Detroit Lions. In 2018, the Bears swept the season series. At Soldier Field, the Bears won 25-20 in a dominant defensive effort that opened the door for them to win the NFC North. In their week 17 match-up, the Bears once again controlled the tempo and ended the Vikings playoff dreams in a 24-10 victory

in Minnesota. Sunday will also mark the first time the Bears wear their centennial throwback uniforms from 1936.

The Vikings went into the past off-season looking to overhaul their offensive room. Changes were after an embarrassing week 14 loss to the Seahawks last season that resulted in the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. The Vikings then turned to quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski in the interim. Stefanski impressed the team enough in the tail end of last season that he was named their full time offensive coordinator. In unison with the Stefanski move, the Vikings brought in former Broncos and Texans head coach, Gary Kubiak. Kubiak, a four time Super Bowl champion, was brought in as an assistant head coach and offensive adviser in order to boost the 30th ranked run game in the league. So far in 2019, the Vikings plan has worked, as they currently are 2nd in the NFL in total rushing yards per game (193.7). 

Much of the Vikings success in the running game can be attributed to 3rd year running back Dalvin Cook. Cook has struggled with injuries throughout most of his NFL career thus far but he looks as healthy as ever through the first 3 weeks of the season as he leads the NFL in rushing with 375 yards and 4 touchdowns. Per Pro Football reference, in his only appearance against the Bears last season, Cook finished with 9 carries for 12 yards in their match-up at Soldier Field. While Cook has dominated so far in 2019, the Bears run defense ranks 5th in total rushing yards per game (68.7). However, the Bears defensive line depth will be tested as Akiem Hicks is shaping up to be a game time decision and Bilal Nichols will miss his 2nd straight game with a hand injury. It will be up to Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Williams to fill the potential void in the middle of the trenches on defense. 

If the Bears can find a way to slow down the rushing attack, it will force the struggling Kirk Cousins to try and open up the Vikings feeble passing game. Cousins was dominated by the Bears in 2018 and has had an incredibly rough start to the 2019 campaign. Through 3 games, Cousins has 502 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 4 fumbles. Cousins and the Vikings aren’t the only passing game that has struggled to open the season as Trubisky and the Bears have had their own struggles as well. While they seemed to get back on track versus Washington this past Monday night, the team will find themselves in a much more difficult situation versus Minnesota as their team is currently ranked 5th in total points allowed per game (15.5) and 11th in total passing yards allowed per game (225.7). The Vikings boast a plethora of talent that include former 1st team All Pros in the secondary in safety Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. In last year’s match-up against the Vikings, Trubisky finished 20/31 for 165 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions in their first match-up. In the second match-up, Trubisky played conservatively once more, finishing 18/26 with 163 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions. The Bears will also be short handed as Kyle Long suffered an injury on Friday making him a game time decision while Taylor Gabriel, the star of last week, will miss the game with a concussion he suffered on Monday night.

CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 18: at Soldier Field on November 18, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 25-20. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The key for the offense to generate some points against this Minnesota defense will be for Matt Nagy to generate a balanced run to pass ratio. If the run game can be effectively established similar to how the Packers did with Aaron Jones against Minnesota in week 2 (23 attempts, 116 yards and 1 touchdown), the Bears should be able to open up the field for guys like Anthony Miller and Tarik Cohen. Jump starting the running game will allow Nagy to fully utilize Mitchell Trubisky’s skill set by setting up play action and getting him out of the pocket.

Per Pro Football Reference, the Bears hold a 9-2 record versus the Vikings over the past 10 years when playing at Soldier Field. Since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach of the team, Minnesota is 2-3, winning 20-17 in 2017 and 23-20 in 2015. While past results argue that the Vikings have struggled in Chicago, Zimmer was dismissive of the home field advantage. “I don’t know. That’s what everybody told me when I got here, and then we won some games. I guess if you turn the ball over and create some dumb penalties and do dumb things, it’s a tough place to play.”  

 

PREDICTION:

This game will be an old fashioned NFC North slug fest. Both defenses are the primary strengths of these teams and pose a nightmare match-ups for both quarterbacks. Cousins stood no chance against the Bears in 2018 and I’ve seen nothing that tells me 2019 will be any different. The way the Vikings will have to move the ball will have to come from the way they have been doing it all season and that’s through the ground game. If Akiem Hicks misses the game, the Bears will be challenged greatly up front as Dalvin Cook has looked like the best running back in football this season. While it would be a great boost for morale for Bears fans if Trubisky came out and shredded the Minnesota defense, I just don’t see that as being realistic at this point in time. Overall, I think the Bears’ defense does enough to slow down the Vikings run game and get their biggest win of the season so far. Final Score: Bears 17, Vikings 16.

The Minnesota Vikings (2-1) will visit Soldier Field on Sunday to take on the Chicago Bears (2-1) at 3:25 CST on CBS. Per Pro Football Reference, the Vikings currently lead the all time series with a 53-60-2 record.