How the Minnesota Vikings can beat the Chicago Bears in Week 17

The Minnesota Vikings go into Sunday playing for pride, if anything. The Chicago Bears won’t be a pushover opponent, but the Vikings win if they want it more.

There’s a lot the Minnesota Vikings need to do in order to beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday. As bad as things have been for the Vikings this season, we shouldn’t forget the Bears aren’t any better. Injuries have also decimated much of Chicago’s offense. The Bears’ coaching staff may be looking for new jobs come Monday.  Winning the game would actually be counterproductive to their draft class.

Regardless, the Vikings should expect the Bears to come into Minnesota on Sunday and play like there’s no tomorrow.

Chicago likely has a different-looking roster next year and players like Matt Barkley are still campaigning to be on it. The good news is the Vikings also have nothing to lose tomorrow. Many key injuries remain, thus opening the door to some reserves to make an impact. Additionally, the Vikings have generally played better a home in 2016.

There’s a few areas the Minnesota Vikings will need to excel in to avoid a losing season.

Protect the Quarterback

Protecting Sam Bradford on Sunday is pretty obvious. It’s also something much easier said than done in 2016. The protection was especially putrid in their first meeting with Chicago. Bradford was sacked five times and pressured all game long. It was the first of many games in which Bradford made habit of throwing short of the marker on 3rd downs.

The Vikings won’t have Alex Boone on Sunday but they hardly had him on the field in Week 7 anyways.

The good news is Chicago didn’t post a sack or turnover against the Redskins in Week 16. The bad news is the Bears’ defense didn’t look overly terrible either. They held Kirk Cousins in check and didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher. Nothing about Washington’s 41 points was appeasing, but the Bears’ defense could only do so much with the offense turning the ball over five times.

Stop Jordan Howard

At the time, Jordan Howard’s 26 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown in Week 7 was a career best. Howard hasn’t slowed down since then, averaging over five yards per carry over 1,178 yards for the season.

The Minnesota Vikings should be much better prepared to line up across from Howard in Week 17. If I were Mike Zimmer, I’m already having Anthony Barr watch Howard’s highlights throughout the week. Barr isn’t the best run-stuffing linebacker, but he’s the most athletic and best-suited to shadow Howard. Minnesota can’t lose sight of the Bears’ running back on passing plays or he’ll make them pay.

Howard doesn’t catch more than 3-4 passes per game, but his receptions always seem to happen on crucial downs.

There’s little doubt Chicago looks to establish the run early on Sunday. Stuff Howard and Matt Barkley will be forced to go to the air. Again, forcing the Bears to pass didn’t work out too well for them in Week 16 vs the Redskins.

Play with a purpose

It was on the Bears’ 2nd drive of Week 7 when Jordan Howard took a handoff 69-yards for a touchdown. Howard ran right past Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen on the play. Both looked as if they were at half-speed. Even worse was the missed tackles within the second level of the Vikings’ defense.

It was at that moment some within Vikings Nation realized something wasn’t right.

I hate to keep going back to Week 7, but it was a microcosm of the entire 2016 Vikings’ season. There was still a lot of optimism back when. The Vikings came into Chicago 5-1, Norv Turner was still offensive coordinator, and as far we knew, the loss to Washington was post-bye week “rust”.

Little did we all realize at the time the spiral Minnesota was heading down.

We’ve witnessed plenty of examples of a lack of effort from Minnesota players in recent weeks. Things have been so bad recently that even the defense has looked pedestrian. It’s tough to hold the defense accountable due to the offensive struggles. Then again, these men in purple are paid handsomely to play a game for a living.

If the Minnesota Vikings can do us any favors on Sunday, it’s play with a purpose. Moreover, if players love Mike Zimmer so much, they’ll do him justice by playing for the 8-8 season.

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