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2023 NFL season: Four things to watch for in Bears-Vikings on Monday night

Week 12 is bookended by NFC North rivalries, with the Bears and Vikings taking their turn Monday night.

Both teams will be looking to mend some heartbreak from last week.

The Vikings, currently 6-5 and in the No. 6 spot in the playoff picture, just saw their five-game winning streak snapped by the Broncos and Russell Wilson on a touchdown with 1:03 remaining.

The 3-8 Bears might have had it even worse. They held a 12-point lead over the division-leading Lions with 4:15 to play before two Detroit touchdowns and a safety turned a shocking upset into an all-too-familiar 31-26 loss.

History is unfortunately stacked high against Chicago's chances at rebounding in Minnesota.

The Bears currently hold a 12-game losing streak versus divisional opponents and a 16-game losing streak versus opponents with a winning record, per NFL Research, the longest active streaks in the NFL by seven and nine games, respectively.

If the Vikings thwart them once again, Minnesota will bolster its playoff position and add to a run of its own. A win would make it six straight over Chicago -- tied for a longest winning streak by either team in the soon-to-be 126-game history.

Here are four things to watch for when the Bears visit the Vikings on Monday night:

Chicago Bears
2023 · 3-8-0
Minnesota Vikings
2023 · 6-5-0
  • WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium (Minneapolis)
  • WHEN: 8:15 p.m. ET | ABC, ESPN, ESPN Deportes, NFL+

  1. How does Justin Fields look in his second game back? Fields played more than well enough to win last week in his first action since dislocating his thumb in Week 6. He was fearless running the ball on a season-high 18 carries and eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the first time all year. And although he only threw for 169 yards, his 39-yard touchdown dart to DJ Moore couldn’t have been placed better. The thumb didn’t look to be a problem, especially on that throw, and he’ll look to continue that progress against Minnesota. It’s notable that Fields sustained the injury that knocked him out for a month the last time he faced the Vikings, a 19-13 loss. He was having an abysmal performance in that one, with 58 passing yards and an interception before exiting in the third quarter. The easiest route to revenge is finding Moore, the team’s leading receiver across the board with 59 catches for 889 receiving yards and six touchdowns. If the Vikings shut him down as they did last time, though -- Moore had one catch for seven yards and was the target on Fields’ INT before his QB departed -- the ascending Cole Kmet might have to step up as the primary target. If all else false, there’s also the threat of Fields going crazy on the ground once again.
  2. Game four of the Joshua Dobbs experience. Six weeks ago, any reasonable Vikings fan would have bet their Gjallarhorn that the season was all but over if you told them they’d still be waiting on Justin Jefferson (questionable for MNF) and would lose Kirk Cousins to a torn Achilles by Nov. 27, the next time they played the Bears. Just FYI, they'd lose that Gjallarhorn. The Week 6 game against Chicago kicked off the 1-4 Vikings' five-game winning streak. Now, with Dobbs in his fourth game under center following Cousins’ Week 8 injury, Minnesota has a chance to begin another run. The journeyman QB has sparked a confidence in the Vikings since joining them from Arizona at the trade deadline. He’s gone 2-1 with 647 passing yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and he’s been a menace with his legs for another 131 yards and three scores. Even still learning the offense, he’s shown chemistry with multiple weapons -- especially tight end T.J. Hockenson, who has 22 catches for 258 yards and a touchdown from Dobbs. Still, there’s a looming weakness to Dobbs’ game that could diminish the feel-good story in his first career Monday Night Football start. He’s already fumbled seven times in three games as a Viking, and he leads the league in 2023 with 14 fumbles overall. The Bears know this coming in, and they’ll do their best to exploit it.
  3. Can Bears shake close-game woes? Chicago spent a good portion of the early season with clarity that it was the lesser team in a majority of matchups. Four of its first six losses came by double digits (18, 10, 31 and 17). That’s not been the case lately. The Bears' last three games have all been one-possession results, with a 1-2 record and just a -9 point differential since Week 9. The more problematic element in those matchups has been that Chicago entered the fourth quarter tied or leading in each of them. This is an issue that has plagued the team for years. The Bears are 8-7 in games in which they’ve led by 10-plus points since 2021, the worst winning percentage in the league during that span, according to NFL Research. Part of that falls on the defense, as seen in last week’s meltdown, but the unit has also tightened overall since a woeful first month of the season. After surrendering 34.3 points per game through four weeks, the Bears have given up 21.3 points per game across their last seven contests. Chicago’s offense -- even with its best scoring rank (18th) since 2018 -- has been guilty other times of lapsing for crucial stretches. These two rivals played close a month and a half ago, and it's entirely likely the rematch follows suit. The Bears will need a complete game to ensure they finish this one out.
  4. Vikings’ purple blitzing machine. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores has his squad blitzing more than any team since the 2019 Ravens (60.2 percent blitz rate). Minnesota is currently blitzing at a rate of 54.8 percent, making them the only defense this year to hover above 50. It hasn’t necessarily paid dividends. The Vikings are relatively average, sitting at 15th in points allowed, 16th in passing yards allowed and tied for 13th with 29 sacks despite the aggressiveness. However, Justin Fields’ effectiveness drops ever so slightly against extra rushers. While he is currently enjoying career highs in completion percentage (62.7), passing yards per game (195.7) and passer rating (93.3), his completion percentage slides from 65.0 without a blitz to 58.8 percent against the blitz, and his passer rating falls from 95.9 to 88.8. It's not massive, but division games, especially, are won in the margins. He’s also taken 117 career sacks, the second most in the NFL since entering the league in 2021. The Vikings certainly won’t turn down the heat after finding results against him earlier this year. Minnesota sacked Fields four times through two quarters and some change in Week 6. Danielle Hunter, who trails only the Browns' Myles Garrett with 12 sacks this year, had two. He’ll likely lead the charge again.

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