The Minnesota Vikings head into their game with the Chicago Bears Sunday with the two teams heading in two different directions. Coming off a last-second loss to Buffalo to drop the Vikings to 2-5, they’ve won their last two games and are looking to even their season slate at 5-5.
The Vikings have been fighting adversity all season without Adrian Peterson for all but the season opener and losing Matt Cassel, Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Fusco along the way. But, as they head to Chicago, the Vikings are a team with renewed enthusiasm as the defense has shown improvement and Teddy Bridgewater has gained valuable experience in the starting lineup.
On the other hand, the Bears are coming into Sunday with a much different approach. They’ve allowed more than 100 points in their last two games and are reeling on both sides of the ball.
Over the course of a season, there are statement games that say a lot about how the fortunes of a team will play themselves out. After losing to Buffalo, the Vikings were on the ropes and needed to string together wins in order to save a season on the verge of collapse.
They have found a way to win games late and impose their will – what all successful football teams do. Considering that most NFL analysts viewed the Vikings as a team that would lose double-digit games, the fact they have the opportunity to get to .500 with six more games to play, the team is overachieving in many respects – especially given the series of offensive losses the team has endured.
Chicago was expected to provide the Packers with their most legitimate challenge to Green Bay’s stranglehold on the NFC North title. Instead, it’s Detroit providing the opposition and the Bears at 3-6 and in the position of having to run the table to have a shot at the playoffs. With a team that is largely old in key positions, the realization that their season is going to end in Week 17 could have a divisive effect.
Expect to see the best the Bears have to offer on Sunday. They know the odds. They’re going to have five of their next six games at home and the playoffs have technically already begun for them. In the NFC in 2014, it would appear six losses might get you into the playoffs. Unless you’re in the NFC South, seven losses isn’t going to get the job done.
It’s go big or go home for the Bears and, considering they haven’t won at Soldier Field all season, going home won’t take long if they lose again Sunday. Teams don’t make the playoffs that lose consistently at home. Because of their poor start, the Bears have their backs to the wall, knowing that a loss to the Vikings effectively ends their season.
One thing is certain. A loss doesn’t end the Vikings season on Sunday, but it puts them on life support. A win for the Vikings not only keeps them very much in the potential postseason discussion, but it simultaneously kills Chicago’s hopes of realizing the playoff expectations that were so heavily placed upon them prior to the start of the season.
To the national media, a 4-5 team playing a 3-6 team doesn’t have all that much cache, but for the teams involved, it’s going to be a playoff game Sunday.
Sunday a survival game for Bears
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