Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears faced the Cowboys during Thursday Night Football last night at Soldier Field in front of a large and very amped crowd in Chicago. The same Cowboys team that gave the Vikings a run for their money a few weeks ago, was trampled by the bears which should at minimum put the Vikings and their fans on notice.the Bears, who were considered by many to be an afterthought as recent as a week-or-two ago, aren’t going to be the “Easy Win” many considered (for the Vikings or the Packers), and aren’t dead yet (in terms of even the NFC Playoff picture).
The Bears have won three straight games now, bringing their once 4-6 record to a respectable 7-6. That’s without their Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Akiem Hicks, who should return just in time for their final playoff push. Thursday Night’s win puts the Bears a game back from the sixth seed in the NFC, a seed that is currently occupied by the Vikings. If there’s any good news is that the Bears have a tougher final stretch than the guys in purple, facing the Kansas City Chiefs (in addition to the Packers and Vikings to close out the 2019 regular season).
The Vikings, on the other hand, are coming off of a humiliating defensive effort from their own prime time game, Monday Night in Seattle. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Vikes now are (or at least should be) feeling the pressure from both the Bears and the Rams, who are eyeing that juicy sixth playoff spot. Fortunately for the Vikings, they control their own destiny and should they be able to beat the Bears Week 17, they might even get help from the Bears in terms of winning the NFC North.
The Bears face the Packers in Green Bay next Sunday. Should the Packers lose that game (and the Vikings beat the Lions this Sunday), they’d come into US Bank Stadium tied with the Vikings in terms of overall record but not in terms of tie-breakers, thanks to the Week 2 blunder in Lambeau that was objectively the worst game of this season for the otherwise great Kirk Cousins. So, we could look at the Bears late season resurgence as a positive, but considering the fact that the Vikings already lost to this Bears team this season without Hicks or their quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, it’s hard not to get a bit concerned about these developments.
Beyond that, the way that this Vikings defense has been playing these past couple weeks should raise some red flags as well. For the most part it’s been the secondary that has been the issue for these Vikings. Initially they had just been giving up a lot of yards but no points in bend-don’t-break fashion. Monday night, however, they were essentially a break-and-break unit with no help from the sixth ranked rushing defense, a unit that gave up almost 220 yards on the ground and allowed three rushing touchdowns on the night.
Point being, this Vikings team needs to bounce back HARD against the Detroit Lions on Sunday and do so in convincing fashion. That might be a big ask despite the fact that the Lions will be without Matthew Stafford and the fact that it’s a home game (where the Vikings are undefeated this season). The Zimmer era Vikings have struggled against the Lions though, and they’ve also had issues playing against back up quarterbacks, as well. But the reality is that the Vikings will need to win at least three of their final four games to make the postseason (despite their apparent 87% probability of making the postseason). However, if they don’t get their ducks in a row and win out in the process, they might not make it far into the playoffs anyway, considering they will most likely play every playoff game on the road.
We have seen Wild Card teams get hot in past seasons and make a run through the playoffs and into football immortality by winning a Super Bowl, but the issues that this Vikings team has aren’t necessarily things that you can fix this late in the season. Hopefully, though, they’re able to find a solution at corner and that it will be enough, though, because as we saw Monday Night this team is a few self-inflicted issues away from not only being one of the best teams in the NFC, but the best team in the NFC period.
There weren’t many positives to take away from last week’s game , but the fact that the Vikings lost by seven-points (and were down by four with a chance to win on what ended up being the final drive) after the mistakes that they made in the second half, shows that this team is capable of doing great things. But, as Vikings fans, we’ve all seen what a big ask that is and unfortunately at this point it feels like that’ll end up being the story of the 2019 post season as well. That is, of course, if they make it to the playoffs at all as the Bears have not only beat the Vikes in their last three contests, but they’ve embarrassed them and effectively ended their 2018 season in the process.