See You Next Week? Or Next Year?

NFC Game Of The Week

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Bears: 11-4. Who saw this coming? The Chicago Bears are playoff bound for the first time in eight years. This was a division that was gift-wrapped with a red bow on it for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, but even with him on the field, they struggled to remain consistent and the Bears were able to capitalize and never looked back. I really like the tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen at running back. I think this is the second best tandem of backs in the league behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. You have a guy that can get you the hard-fought yards and lower his shoulder in Jordan, then with Tarik, you have a guy that can create so many mismatches in open space. When I watch Cohen play, I’m often reminded of Darren Sproles and it isn’t because he’s little like Darren is, but they’re both used in the same type of capacity offensively and they’re both used on special teams. Offensively, this team will go as Mitchell Tribusky goes. Ever since that game against the Rams in week 15, he’s done a much better job at taking care of the football. I’ll admit that I thought he was inconsistent at times, but he’s impressed me as of late. Although the division is clinched already, the Bears are playing for one more thing: A first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. They end the regular season against the Minnesota Vikings.

Vikings: After losing two straight games at the beginning of December, the Vikings made the decision to fire John DeFilippo, the guy they hired to be the team’s offensive coordinator after the offense was struggling to generate any production. Since then, the Vikings offense has been better, and the play-calling has made a difference. Under DeFilippo, Kirk Cousins looked extremely timid when stepping back to throw the football. Now, he’s let the ball unwind down the field and their offense looks more explosive. They have also made more of an effort to run the football. Dalvin Cook is a vital piece of this offense and when you feed him the ball consistently, good things will happen, and it will open things up down the field for Cousins and the passing game. It’s been a different year for the Vikings compared to the 2017 season. Around this time last year, they had the NFC North division title and the two-seed in the NFC playoff picture locked up. They were a strong Super Bowl contender to some. This year, it’s been a different story. They’ve shown some inconsistencies at times, so it’s been difficult for me or anyone to take them seriously. The defense has also played better as of late. To be honest, I’m shocked they’ve struggled the way they have this year because they have a unit that can match up with any offenses. Their defense consists of an aggressive defensive line, a group of linebackers that can cover and stop the run and the secondary can cover. They need the Eagles to lose on Sunday in order to make the playoffs. This is their most important game of the year.

Bears Player To Watch: Eddie Goldman– He’s the anchor of the Bears defensive line. He can stop the run and get to the quarterback all from the interior of the defensive line. I followed him during his time at Florida State and he’s made a nice name for himself in the NFL.

Vikings Player To Watch: Latavius Murray– The two-headed monster in the running game is a good thing for teams today. Dalvin is your sprinter, Murray is the guy that can get you the hard-fought yards on short yardage situations.

Final Analysis: This is a big game for both teams. With a Rams loss and a Bears win, Chicago will have a week off in the playoffs and will be locked into the two seed in the NFC. I didn’t like the way they looked on Sunday in San Francisco and prior to that game, I stated the 49ers would give them everything they could handle. I’m curious to see how Nagy will get his team to regroup. When they met the last time, Cousins had a difficult time holding onto the ball and the Bears defense imposed their will. This is a different Vikings offense the Bears defense will see this time around. It’s key for the Bears to tighten things up in all phases of the game. The Vikings must limit the play of Tarik Cohen, especially as a receiver out the backfield.

Prediction: Vikings 21 Bears 14