Four keys for Bears success in Minnesota

The Chicago Bears get a playoff preview when they face the Minnesota Vikings Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

In a game that resembles as close to a post-season atmosphere as there could be, the Bears seek to finish strong, stay healthy, and possibly eliminate the Vikings from playoff consideration. With a little help from San Francisco combined with a Chicago victory, the Bears would land a coveted first-round bye.

Ahead of the kick, here are four keys to a Bears win:
1. Protect Mitch Trubisky…Although the Bears did a respectable job in the first meeting, Minnesota will be fueled by the home crowd in a must-win game. Tasckles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie have played solidly, but are prone to occasional breakdowns. The Vikings Danielle Hunter (14.5 sacks   enjoyed a breakout year and combines speed with power.

2. Stop the run…The Vikings have undergone a bit of a retooling offensively since the dismissal of former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Interim oc Kevin Stefanski, the longest tenured coach on the Minnesota staff in his 13th season, turned the focus to running back Dalvin Cook and less reliance on quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cook’s youthful legs give the Vikes better overall balance and keep the pressure off Cousins and a suspect Minnesota offensive line.

3. Make a play on special teams…In the midst of the Bears resurgent season, one area that has lagged behind is special teams. Kicker Cody Parkey’s struggles have been well-documented, but coverage units and kickoff returns show opportunities for improvement. Tarik Cohen’s punt returns are adventureous, but he gives Chicago a home-run threat.

4. Become more efficient in the red zone…The Bears 14-9 close-shave win over San Francisco could have been avoided if not for a few breakdowns at key times. The Bears moved the ball well and enjoyed a solid advantage statistically, but they’ll need to put the ball in the endzone a few times to outlast a desperate Vikings club.

Chain Movers: Minnesota leads the all-time series 60-52-2 and has won three of the last four meetings….Five Bears players were elected to the Pro Bowl. The Vikings had four players named… Trubisky completed 25 of 29 (careerhigh 86.2 pct.) for 246 yards with 1 TD vs. 0 INTs for 113.5 rating in Week 16. In his past 3 vs. NFC North, has completed 63 of 89 (70.8 pct.) for 755 yards (251.7 per game) with 6 pass TDs vs. 2 INTs for 109.5 rating & rush TD. Is 1 of 2 QBs in 2018 (DESHAUN WATSON) with 400+ rush yards (405) & 95+ rating (96). .. RB Jordan Howard rushed for 53 yards & TD last week. Aims for his 3rd in row with rush TD… RB Tarik Cohen is 1 of 3 players (CHRISTIAN MC CAFFREY & EMMANUEL SANDERS) with rush TD (2), TD catch (5) & pass TD (1) this season. Has 1,137 scrimmage yards in 2018, his 1st-career 1,000-yard season. .. WR Allen Robinson, doubtful this week with a rib injury, led team with 6 receptions for 85 yards last week. Has team-high 754 rec. yards in 2018… Rookie WR Anthony Miller had TD catch last week. Has TD in 4 of his past 7. .. LB Khalil Mack has 4.5 sacks & FF in his past 4. Had sack, FF & FR in his last meeting. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Min. with sack. Leads team with 12.5 sacks this season, his 4th consecutive season with 10+ sacks… Rookie LB Roquan Smith had 9 tackles & sack in Week 16. In 5 career games vs. division, has 41 tackles & 3 sacks….Robinson, S Eddie Jackson, and OLB Aaron Lynch are unlikely to suit up after missing practice all week.

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