The Chicago Bears (1-6) will take on the Minnesota Vikings (5-1) this evening on Monday Night Football.
The Bears will playing in their fourth and final primetime game of the season against a tough NFC North opponent, a team many believe is one of the best in the NFL.
The Vikings are coming off their first defeat of the season, a 21-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7, while the Bears have lost three straight.
Despite the disparity in the win-loss columns, the Bears may not be as bad as as their record suggests, and against a division opponent at Soldier Field, there's a chance Chicago fans might get a surprise win on Halloween.
A number of things have to happen in order for the Bears to pull off the upset victory. Let's start by taking a look at the matchup on paper.
|BEARS (Rank)||VIKINGS (Rank)|
|15.9 (32)||Points Scored||21.5 (18)|
|348.6 (16t)||Total Offense||299.2 (31)|
|87.9 (25)||Rushing Offense||74.3 (31)|
|260.7 (11)||Passing Offense||224.8 (26)|
|24.1 (20)||Points Allowed||14.0 (1t)|
|350.4 (12)||Total Defense||279.5 (1)|
|107.0 (17)||Rushing Defense||81.7 (3)|
|253.4 (16)||Passing Defense||197.8 (4)|
|-2 (19t)||Turnover Ratio||11 (1)|
-Bears head coach John Fox is 2-0 in his career against Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, with both losses coming last season.
-As the head-to-head comparison shows, the Vikings are led by the best defense in the NFL. They have the top overall defense and they've allowed the fewest points in the league.
-Minnesota's 19 total sacks are 9th most in the NFL, while they've applied pressure on opposing quarterbacks at a 17.1 percent rate, per Football Outsiders (FO), which is 14th best in the league. Their pass rush isn't dominated by one great player, as four Vikings have 3.0 or more sacks through their first six games: DE Danielle Hunter (4.0), DE Everson Griffen (4.0), DE Brian Robison (4.0) and DT Linval Joseph (3.0).
-Griffen has been Minnesota's most consistent edge rusher. Per FO, he has 8.0 total pass pressure this year, which is Top 20 (18th) in the league.
-The combination of Griffen, Robison and Hunter off the edges will put a lot of pressure on Bears offensive tackle Bobby Massie and Charles Leno. Massie is one of the league leaders in total QB pressures allowed.
-Fortunately for QB Jay Cutler, Chicago's offensive line has been outstanding in pass protection the past five weeks. The Bears currently rank 5th in the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate (4.7 percent), according to FO, while the front five's 14.0 percent pressure rate is ranked 10th best in the league.
-Keeping Cutler upright will be crucial. If he gets happy feet in the pocket and starts forcing balls into coverage, Minnesota's top-notch defense is going to make him pay.
-CB Xavier Rhodes, a former first-round pick, is the Viking's biggest cornerback (6-1, 215) and he already has a career-high 2 interceptions this season. That said, Rhodes has struggled against WR Alshon Jeffery, who has yet to score a touchdown this season. In his last two homes games against Rhodes, Jeffery has totaled 21 catches for 241 yards and 2 TDs. Expect Cutler to test Rhodes with plenty of deep balls to Jeffery.
-If Rhodes struggles, the Vikings won't hesitate to place Terrance Newman on Jeffery. Despite being the oldest cornerback in the NFL, Newman has been stellar. Per FO, he's allowing just 2.9 yards per pass attempt, which is 11th best in the NFL. He's allowed just 14 catches on 33 targets and none of his receptions have been for more than 12 yards. He's also been a perfect tackler and hasn't allowed single yard after the catch.
-The Vikings have an NFC-high 9 interceptions.
-RB Jeremy Langford could return from an ankle injury this week, which would further muddle Chicago's crowded backfield. Rookie Jordan Howard rushed for 100 or more yards in his first two starts but has been outpaced by Ka'Deem Carey the past two weeks. If Langford plays, it could signal the start of a three-headed backfield.
-In order to run the ball, the Bears must know where NT Shamar Stephen is on every snap. Stephen (6-6, 313) has been one of the best run stoppers in the league this year.
-Minnesota has struggled on offense, despite solid play from interim QB Sam Bradford. Through six starts, Bradford has completed 67.5 percent of his passes, with 7 TDs and just 1 INT, good for a 100.3 QB rating.
-With Adrian Peterson on IR, the Viking's run game has not been able to find its rhythm. That will be made harder this week with Jerick McKinon, the team's leading rusher, on the shelf. That will leave Matt Asiata to carry the heavy rushing load, with Ronnie Hillman expected to see more snaps on offense. Asiata is averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season.
-The Vikings rely heavily on play-action passes. They currently use play fakes on 23.7 percent of their offensive snaps, 4th most in the NFL. Minnesota is averaging 8.7 yards per play-action pass (12th ranked), while the Bears are allowing just 6.9 yards per play-action pass (8th ranked).
-The Eagles did a great job last week of pressuring the Eagles by use of the blitz. Bradford was hit 18 times, sacked six times and recovered two of his strip-sack fumbles. Expect the Bears to follow suit, deploying rookie OLB Leonard Floyd all over the field. If Floyd and Willie Young, who leads the team with 6.0 sacks, can collapse the pocket, the Vikings will struggle to move the ball through the air.
-Chicago's run defense has steadily improved the past month, despite the absence of NT Eddie Goldman. The Bears ranked 31st in rushing defense following the Week 3 loss to the Cowboys. Since then, Chicago's run defense rank has improved each week and now ranks 17th in the NFL.
-Much of the success of the run defense is due to ILB Jerrell Freeman, who came into Week 7 ranked 5th in the NFL in total tackles (65).
-Freeman has always been known for his downhill ability against the run but he's also been very good in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he's one of the league leaders at his position in limiting YAC. That will be huge against Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph, who has cooled off of late after a hot start.
-Bears CBs Tracy Porter (knee) and Bryce Callahan (hamstring) are listed as questionable, although both are expected to play. Porter has been rock solid against opposing No. 1 receivers and held Jordy Nelson to just 3 catches for 33 yards last week. He'll likely line up across from WR Stefon Diggs, who leads the Vikings with 390 receiving yards.
-The gem of Chicago's secondary recently has been nickelback CreVon Le'Blanc. Per FO, he leads all Bears corners with 4.9 yards allowed per pass attempt, he's shutting down opposing receivers 57 percent of the time and he's yet to allow any yards after the catch.
-The Vikings recently signed OT Jake Long and he was horrible against the Eagles. Minnesota is expected to table that experiment, meaning T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles will start on the edges. Neither was much better than Long last week, which should give Floyd, Young and potentially Pernell McPhee, who looked rusty in his season debut against the Packers, plenty of opportunities to get after Bradford.