With each passing week, winning becomes more important, regardless of what players or coaches may say about treating games the same throughout the season. While a win or a loss in Week 5 counts the same as one in Week 15, the implications of a win or loss today will be greatly magnified.
Thanks to Tampa Bay’s loss Thursday, there isn’t another playoff contender for the wild card chasing the Minnesota Vikings that has a record better than 6-7. If the Vikings win their next two games at home, they clinch a playoff berth regardless of what anyone else does.
While the Vikings play their next two games at home, the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers play their next two games on the road – at Oakland and at Arizona. If the Vikings win today over Chicago and Green Bay loses to the Raiders, standings-wise it won’t matter what either team does next week. The Week 17 game will be for the NFC North title.
At this point, it looks very likely that not only are both the Vikings and Packers going to make the playoffs, but it seems just as likely that they will meet two weeks in a row with the rematch in the first round of the playoffs, just as they did in 2012.
Players can say that Sunday’s game is no more important than the game against the Chiefs or the Seahawks or the Chargers, but they know better. So do we. Today’s game is going to be critical and, if the Vikings are in fact a team with legitimate postseason ability, it’s time to show it by beating a team in which there is some pressure and real implications.
VIKINGS-BEARS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Vikings have the 30th-ranked offense (5th rushing, 31st passing) and the 14th-ranked defense (20th rushing, 8th passing).
- The Bears have the 17th-ranked offense (15th rushing, 20th passing) and the 12th-ranked defense (26th rushing, 2nd passing).
- Chicago is averaging 350 yards a game (237 passing, 113 rushing). Minnesota is averaging 322 yards a game (190 passing, 132 rushing).
- The Vikings are allowing 346 yards a game (232 passing, 114 rushing). The Bears are allowing 342 yards a game (216 passing, 126 rushing).
- Minnesota is tied for 14th in takeaway/giveaway ratio at even (15 takeaways, 15 giveaways).
- Chicago is tied for 22nd in takeaway/giveaway ratio at minus-2 (14 takeaways, 16 giveaways).
- Chicago is 25th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 20 of 42 possessions (47.6 percent). Minnesota is 27th at 46.6 percent (15 touchdowns on 33 possessions).
- Only San Francisco (13) has fewer red zone touchdowns than the Vikings offense.
- The Vikings are fourth in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 16 of 36 possessions (44.4 percent). Chicago is 14th at 54.1 percent (20 touchdowns on 37 possessions).
- Only three teams – the Jets (10), Seattle (13) and Cincinnati (14) – have allowed fewer red zone touchdowns than the Vikings.
- The Bears are 12th in the league in third-down offense, converting on 75 of 180 opportunities (41.7 percent). The Vikings are 20th at 37.5 percent (60 of 160). The league average is 38.8 percent.
- Defensively, Minnesota is 12th on third downs, allowing conversions on 63 of 168 opportunities (37.5 percent). Chicago is 28th at 43.9 percent (75 of 171).
- The Vikings are first in the league in average starting position following kickoffs at the 25.3-yard line, well ahead of the league average of the 21.6-yard line. Chicago is 15th with an average starting position of the 21.5-yard line.
- Jay Cutler has three 300-yard passing games. Teddy Bridgewater has one.
- The Vikings have allowed two 300-yard passers. The Bears have allowed just one.
- The Bears have seven 100-yard receiving games – four from Alshon Jeffery and one each from Jeremy Langford, Zach Miller and Marquess Wilson. The Vikings have three – two from Stefon Diggs and one from Kyle Rudolph.
- Both Minnesota and Chicago have allowed four 100-yard receiving games this season.
- Adrian Peterson leads the league with six 100-yard rushing games. Matt Forte has one, the only 100-yard game for the Bears this season.
- Minnesota has allowed four 100-yard rushers. Chicago has allowed three.
- Cutler is 18th in pass attempts (396), 20th in completions (248), 18th in completion percentage (62.6), 19th in yards (3,027), 21st in touchdown passes (16), 6th in interceptions (7) and 17th in passer rating (92.2).
- Bridgewater is 22nd in pass attempts (383), 19th in completions (250), 8th in completion percentage (65.3), 23rd in yards (2,733), tied for 28th in touchdown passes (9), 13th in interceptions (8) and 26th in passer rating (85.3).
- Cutler is 21st in fourth-quarter passer rating at 89.2. Bridgewater is 24th at 85.9.
- Cutler is sixth in third-down passer rating at 102.8. Bridgewater is 13th at 92.5.
- Peterson entered Week 15 as the league’s leading rusher with 1,251 yards. He was passed Thursday by Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, who gained 91 yards to give him 1,305 yards, temporarily passing Peterson. Despite missing three full games and half of another, Forte is still 17th in rushing with 721 yards.
- Jeffery is tied for 43rd in receptions with 53. Rudolph leads the Vikings with 45 receptions, which ties him for 61st.
- Jeffery leads the Bears in receiving yards with 797, which places him 27th in the league. Diggs leads the Vikings with 638 yards, which ranks him 48th.
- Peterson is tied for 10th in scoring among non-kickers with 54 points (nine touchdowns). Langford leads the Bears with 44 points (six touchdowns and one 2-point conversion).
- Peterson leads the league in yards from scrimmage with 1,457 (1,251 rushing, 206 receiving). Forte leads the Bears with 996 scrimmage yards (721 rushing, 275 receiving).
- Chicago punter Pat O’Donnell is 23rd in punting average at 44.3 yards. Jeff Locke is last with a 41.9 average.
- O’Donnell is 15th in net punting average at 39.7 yards. Locke is 28th with a net average of 38.1 yards.
- Marcus Sherels is 11th in punt return average at 9.8 yards. Marc Mariani of the Bears is 21st with an average of 6.8 yards.
- Only 14 players have enough kick returns to qualify for the league lead. Cordarrelle Patterson leads the league with a 31.1-yard average. Nobody from the Bears has enough returns to qualify.
- Terence Newman is tied for 16th in the league with three interceptions. No Bear has more than two interceptions.
- Everson Griffen is 10th in the league in sacks with 8½. Lamarr Houston Jr. leads the Bears with six sacks, which ties him for 29th.