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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Position-by-position: How do the Vikings match up with the Bears?

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1) head to Soldier Field on Sunday night to take on the Chicago Bears (6-3) in a matchup that could ultimately determine the NFC North. Here’s how the two teams match up, position by position (all stats from Pro Football Focus and Pro-Football Reference)

Quarterbacks

Should Kirk Cousins be more aggressive?

Vikings starter: Kirk Cousins

The first nine games of the Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota have been a roller coaster. From incredible passes to turnovers, from a shocking loss to Buffalo to a big win in Philadelphia to a Sunday night meltdown by the Vikings against the Saints. NFL NextGen stats tell the story on Cousins’ ability to make impressive throws: He is No. 2 in the NFL in completion percentage versus expected completion percentage — meaning that many of his passes would normally be high-difficulty. However, turnovers and rough situational football have plagued him. He has eight fumbles, five interceptions. The Vikings rank 24th on percentage of drives with points, 18th on third down and Cousins ranks 18th in yards per attempt on third-and-long.

Bears starter: Mitch Trubisky

Can Mitch Trubisky handle the Vikings’ blitzes?

Chicago’s top 2017 draft pick is a fascinating case. His traditional stats give the impression that the former North Carolina quarterback has taken a Jared Goff-like step in Year 2. Trubisky has a 101.2 quarterback rating, averages 7.9 yards per attempt and has 19 touchdowns in nine games, nearly triple his rookie year total. However, Trubisky’s Pro Football Focus grades suggest he’s left a lot on the table. He ranks 27th of 29th in his PFF grade, which scores each throw. Issues with inaccuracy, especially when blitzed, have plagued Trubisky throughout the season. Still his ability to run — 320 yards on 41 carries — combined with playmakers abound and Matt Nagy’s system have helped boost the Bears’ offense to one of the best in the NFL despite some ups and downs from the QB position.

Advantage: Vikings

Running backs

Vikings starter: Dalvin Cook

It didn’t take very long for Cook to show that the Vikings’ offense is simply more dangerous with him in the lineup. In his return against the Lions, Cook bolted to a 70-yard touchdown run and set the mark for the fastest speed with the ball reached by any NFL player this year. He also caught four passes and came close to breaking a big gain off an early screen. Latavius Murray will still be a factor, but he can’t offer the same dynamic element as Cook. With Chicago’s pass rush mauling opponents, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cook get a number of targets on Sunday night.

Bears starter: Tarik Cohen

Both teams have impressive running back duos. Jordan Howard is the Bears’ leading rusher, but only averages 3.4 yards per carry. Cohen is much more of a hybrid playmaker with 244 yards rushing and 435 receiving. He has been remarkably efficient in the passing game, averaging 11.8 yards per catch while Trubisky has a 74.0 percent completion percentage when targeting Cohen.

Advantage: Slight edge to Vikings

Wide receiver/tight ends

Vikings starters: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Kyle Rudolph

With Diggs out of the lineup last week, Thielen totaled just 22 yards, but the Vikings found other ways to take advantage of the lowly Lions. This week, Diggs will be back to 100 percent — though Thielen was on the injury report as “limited” in practice. Combined they have 136 receptions for 1,531 yards. Despite the fact every team knows the Vikings are going to throw their way, Cousins’ completion percentage is 76.5 percent when targeting Thielen and 74.4 percent throwing in Diggs’ direction. Rudolph hasn’t come away with huge catch totals, but Cousins has a 118.4 rating when throwing to him. The Vikings also may have found some secondary options in Aldrick Robinson and Chad Beebe (though it’s unclear if Beebe remains active with Diggs returning).

Bears starters: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton

This offseason, the Bears completely revamped their group of weapons, paying out top dollar for Robinson, who has 31 receptions in seven games for 13.5 yards per catch. Chicago drafted Miller and quickly threw him into the mix. The former Memphis standout has emerged recently, making 10 catches for 171 yards over the last two weeks. Burton offers a unique threat as a tight end with his speed and quickness. He has lived up to expectations with 33 catches and a team-high five touchdowns.

Advantage: Even

Offensive lines

Vikings starters: Riley Reiff – Tom Compton (?) – Pat Elflein – Mike Remmers (?) – Brian O’Neill

How will the Vikings slow down Khalil Mack?

With two offensive linemen questionable, the Vikings could have their hands full with Chicago’s monstrous front seven. Getting Reiff back to full health after the bye will will be important a he battled a foot injury throughout the first half of the year. He and rookie Brian O’Neill will each get to see their fair share of Khalil Mack. Against the Saints, O’Neill struggled against Cameron Jordan, but did not give up a sack. He is likely to get plenty of help from tight ends and running backs on Mack.

Bears starters: Charles Leno Jr. – James Daniels – Cody Whitehair – Bryan Witzmann – Bobby Masse

Chicago’s offensive line has struggled to run block for Howard and Cohen this year — and that is unlikely to improve against Minnesota with Witzmann now starting for Kyle Long. They have, however, done a good job of protecting their inexperienced quarterback. Leno Jr. will have quite the challenge with rejuvenated Everson Griffen lining up across from him, but thus far, he has been the Bears’ rock on the O-line, allowing just two sacks all year. Massie has only given up one sack. That could change as he goes up against league leader Danielle Hunter.

Advantage: Slight edge to Bears

Defensive lines

Vikings starters: Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph, Danielle Hunter

Griffen’s return made a massive difference against the Lions. He had two sacks and tied for the team lead with six pressures. With him back, the Vikings now have an incredibly deep defensive line that can mix in Tom Johnson and Stephen Weatherly to give their stars a rest. Hunter is at the top of the NFL in sacks and Richardson is top 10 in pressures by an interior defensive linemen. Unsurprisingly the Vikings are a top run-stuffing defense with Joseph in the middle.

Bears starters: Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack

Nobody in Minnesota will be writing thank-you letters to Jon Gruden for trading Khalil Mack to the NFC North. He has been every bit as dominant as the Bears hoped when they made the deal, picking up seven sacks in seven games with 30 pressures in just 210 pass rush snaps. Hicks is an under appreciated superstar. He has 27 QB pressures and has given the Vikings’ O-line nightmares in the pat.

Advantage: Slight edge to Vikings

Linebackers

Vikings starters: Anthony Barr (?), Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon

The Vikings have survived Barr’s absence over the past two games, but against a team filled with playmakers, they could use him back in the lineup. Last year’s game at Soldier Field was arguably Barr’s best of the 2017 season — the Vikings could use a performance like that again. Kendricks will also be important when it comes to defending against a complex offense that uses the slot receiver and tight ends routinely.

Bears starters: Danny Trevathan, Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd

Chicago’s top draft pick has added another element to a team that was already stacked in their front seven. Floyd has been a thorn in the Vikings’ side in the past and Trevathan is capable of rushing the passer and excelling in coverage.

Advantage: Bears

Defensive backs

Vikings starters: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris

Overall the Vikings’ group of defensive backs have not put up a similar performance to 2017 — though there have been more injuries. Mostly healthy now, we are likely to see Rhodes lock up on Allen Robinson. Alexander’s assignments won’t be easy with the Bears switching up formations and personnel to work the middle of the field. Harris has done a terrific job filling in for injured Andrew Sendejo. He’s only allowed one completion against in 95 coverage snaps.

Bears starters: Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, Bryce Callahan, Adrian Amos Jr., Eddie Jackson

The Bears’ reputation as a turnover machine is fueled by a terrific secondary. All five starting defensive backs are allowing a passer rating below 80 when they are targeted. Jackson has become a dangerous playmaker and the Bears have not regretted matching an offer sheet for Callahan this offseason.

Advantage: Even

The post Position-by-position: How do the Vikings match up with the Bears? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Sheldon Richardson loves a good football story

By Matthew Coller

EAGAN, Minn. — Players on the Minnesota Vikings know they have it pretty good when there’s a casual lounge area connected to their spacious locker room. If you forgot from early media coverage of TCO Performance Center, has two fireplaces, multiple televisions and large pleather couches in the middle.

Inside the lounge within a lounge — which is right around the corner from the smoothie bar — is two more big TVs, more couches, some with extended cushions to allow for full relaxation. Sheldon Richardson makes himself at home on one of those, strokes his beard and starts talkin’ football.

Midway through his first sentence, wide receiver Adam Thielen walks by and shouts, “are you telling him about your days as a tight end?”

Richardson has apparently told this one before.

So indeed the Vikings’ defensive tackle explains that he played everywhere in high school and loved it.

“The only thing I didn’t play in high school was probably corner,” he says proudly. “I played safety a few plays. If they had a big guy who wasn’t fast, they’d say ‘if he comes across the middle you got him.’ Anything to do to win, I was all for it. It was fun.”

Rivals rated him as the No. 1 defensive tackle prospect and the fourth best recruit in the country. Unfortunately his days as an Alge Crumpler wannabe came to an end when he registered 19 sacks and scored six defensive touchdowns and it was clear he’d be on the defensive side of the ball for the rest of his playing career. After all, those are some Deacon Jones numbers.

We know Richardson now as a guy on a one-year deal with the Vikings fighting to prove he deserves to be named along with some of the best defensive tackles in the game a la Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox, Akiem Hicks — and in turn pushing to prove he deserves a long-term contract.

We know him as the player who dominated early in his career and then wore out his welcome with the New York Jets after a handful of off-field issues in a short period of time. And as the player who didn’t quite put up the same numbers you’d expect with Seattle — though the team and stat analysts will argue he was better than his sack stats suggested.

But during his days in Missouri at Gateway Institute of Technology, where he was an All-American high school football player, Richardson was an unexpected star from a magnet school of 1,200 that has rarely produced professional sports stars. At that time he was a kid who loved learning about the history of football from his dad and taking in everything he could about the superstars of the NFL on Sundays.

Kids of the 1970s might have emulated Roberto Clemente or Mickey Mantle’s battling stances. For Richardson, on any given play he would attempt to mimic a Richard Seymour pass rush move or try to read the play like Ray Lewis, stuff a run like Tony Siragusa or play with the intensity of Brian Dawkins. When he got the ball he wanted to run like Jerome Bettis. And Crumpler was his favorite tight end.

“I love the way he’d take a hit,” Richardson said. “Across the middle, safety blowing his chest up and he still holding the ball, throwing it at ‘em like ‘I’ll sign it for you next,’ stuff like that. It was just fun.”

No matter the question, Richardson has an answer that is layered with NFL player references from both back in day and when he was a teenager. The Deacon Jones shoutout came from his dad, who was a high school and a semi-pro football player.

“I never really had a favorite team, I always liked players,” he says. “You come across cats that you’ve heard about. Deacon Jones had 40 sacks in one season. They blocked different with their elbows back in the day, but still you have to go back there and get it. Dominance like that. Javon Kearse, ‘The Freak,’ Leonard Little, all those guys, I’ve been a history buff for awhile now.”

Coincidentally Richardson now plays with Kearse’s nephew, Jayron.

There’s no hesitation in the defensive lineman’s voice when he’s name dropping. He doesn’t have to look anything up on his phone or struggle to recall names, positions or backgrounds. You might bet Richardson knows more Pro Bowlers from ’02 than ’17. It’s like Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity, except for a distinct period of NFL history.

“There’s all types of cats, it might be just one play and then I would research them,” Richardson said. “Just look where they came from, what schools they went to, what types of D-line coaches that coached them up and how they play the way they play.”

If you know something about a star player from the early 2000s, the soon-to-be 28-year-old wants to hear it. When he played for the Jets, the former 13th overall pick watched the moving NFL Films “A Football Life” documentary on Curtis Martin. He respected the way Laveranues Coles went over the middle. The best part was coming across factoids about how the player rose to the top of the game and some of the lore surrounding the greats.

“Ray Lewis…I heard someone say he could tell by the sound of the shoulder pads that it’s a play-action pass because he’d hear hands instead of helmets colliding with his linemen,” Richardson says. “There’s a whole bunch of stuff you’d come across.”

It was pretty wild for the Vikings’ starting three-technique when Hall of Famer Warren Sapp bristled at comparisons between the two in 2014.

“As soon as that kid gets off the ‘I think I was better and should have been drafted in a different position,’ maybe he’ll see his future,” Sapp told the Daily News. “Let’s not anoint this kid the next best thing since sliced bread yet.”

That’s like writing a hit song and then having Paul McCartney say, “what have you done?”

“Can’t take away from him though I might not like the guy he is, he had some negative things to say about me and my grind, but even still, his work shows,” said Richardson, who had tried to copy Sapp’s swim move as a teenager.

Sheldon has takes, too.

Joe Montana is the GOAT to him because back then quarterbacks had to be tough. Montana had to get up from being a crumpled ball underneath Lawrence Taylor — though he offers no disrespect to Tom Brady and his rings.

Getting fined $20,000 earlier this year for a hit on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t seem to annoy him as much as mediocre QBs putting up Montana numbers.

“[Toughness] was a big deal because you got hit!” he said. “You can be average Joe Schmo and be soft, mentally, physically and they will still try to hype you up as a dominant QB.”

There’s a joy in Richardson’s voice when he shares back-in-the-day stories that you rarely hear in an interview with an NFL player. About 15 minutes into the chat, he was supposed to wrap things up for another interview, but instead he opted to keep the conversation going.

“It’s all good, we’re done when we’re done,” he says.

It’s hard to explain the rarity of this event.

The conversation reaches a different type of place with him than questions about, say, matching up with James Daniels and Cody Whitehair of the Bears — though he might just drop Olin Kreutz’s name on you in that case. Regardless, he says his passion for the game goes back to his earliest memories.

“I first got my love for the game is when I was five,” Richardson says. “It was when I hit my first dummy bag and I was the youngest cat on the team because I started playing football even before I went to school. My birthday is in November and if your birthday isn’t before the school year starts, you have to wait until you are six. I was literally like punishing kids, like they were crying and stuff and I was like, yeah, this is something I need, this is fun.”

“It wasn’t too long after that I started being a student of the game.”

It’s a feeling still exists within Richardson, but in different ways. He doesn’t watch his peers on YouTube because those are folks he’s competing with every Sunday. That passion gets redirected into his profession.

“I’ve been really impressed with Sheldon,” head coach Mike Zimmer said in mid-October. “And not just his play, but the way he’s come in here and tried to learn the techniques we’re trying to teach him, his professionalism, (and) how he handles himself in the meetings.”

But Richardson thinks about the old days a lot. The excitement of being a highly-recruited player and young football fan. He seems to feel about football how you might feel about your first crush. He says he wants to help more kids from his area experience that type of relationship with the game as a coach or mentor when he’s done playing.

“It was a great feeling, I want other kids to experience that feeling,” he says. “Some kids don’t ever leave the city that they are in and they just see it on TV and think that’s a pipe dream. I tell them, anything in life, you can achieve it, it’s just going to be hard…. People think football players are crazy…or that they do it for money, but there’s more to it than that because there’s nothing in life that’s given. Pretty sure where you are at right now, it was hard as hell…you take that work and you appreciate it, you hold value.

Because he’s having a great season, it might be easy to say Minnesota has helped him recapture some of his football glee. Richardson picked a heckuva good situation to help re-shape his image and enjoy his time in the North — and not just because of the smoothie bar and lounges. Not only do the Vikings have Pro Bowlers across the D-line, they have a strong organizational infrastructure with a long-time GM, five-year head coach and one of the most highly respected D-line coaches in the game in Andre Patterson.

“He’s been really good with everything,” Zimmer added. “There’s been some plays that a lot of people don’t recognize that I see on tape and I’m like, ‘that’s a heck of a play.’ Everybody sees the sacks and the hits on the quarterback. But they don’t see sometimes when you split the double team and you make a tackle or you run 20 yards down the field and make a tackle. Those things are impressive to me.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Richardson ranks ninth in the NFL among interior defensive linemen in QB pressures with 32 and third in QB hits.

“Sheldon has been an ultimate pro since he’s been here, with his work habits and the things that he brings to the table with his skill set,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He’s bought in to what we’re trying to get accomplished defensively, and he really has helped us a lot inside. Against the run game, he’s very stout against the run, you’re not going to move him off the ball. In the passing game he’s getting push in the pocket. I know his sack numbers aren’t as high as he’d like them to be right now, but I can tell you that he’s right there and the quarterback feels his push inside.”

There isn’t much debate about how good Richardson can be. The elephant in the room is whether he will continue to play at an elite level inside over the course of a long-term contract and whether he can avoid any suspension-worthy incidents like the ones that caused the Jets to move along.

Richardson, as one would, says he’s grown up and is playing for his daughter these days — and the sample size of him fulfilling potential is growing.

“I want to be great,” he says. “I want to win a ring. I want to win a ring. That’s something I really want to do. Yeah, I want to get paid but I really, really want to win a ring more. I really want to win a ring.”

So maybe now with a lot of noise removed, his focus is closer than it’s been in a long time to youthful appreciation for the game. And if he does get that ring, he might very well be one of the players whose story football-crazy kids are telling years later.

The post Sheldon Richardson loves a good football story appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Bears activate 2017 second-round pick Adam Shaheen

By Michael David Smith The Bears used the 45th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft on tight end Adam Shaheen, but so far he hasn’t done a lot in his NFL career. Chicago can see if that changes starting on Sunday night. Shaheen has been activated from injured reserve, making him eligible to play tomorrow night against the [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

NFL, Microsoft Team Up To Find Future Sports Tech Experts

By Vikings – WCCO | CBS Minnesota

nfl pro experience sports technology NFL, Microsoft Team Up To Find Future Sports Tech Experts

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is about sports, with a different angle. NFL Alumni and Microsoft have come together to encourage students to look for careers in sports that don’t require athletic ability — but a focus on technology.

We all know what goes on in high school sports. For most, this is where their athletic career ends. But it doesn’t mean their sports career is over.

A group of NFL alumni have teamed with Microsoft and others to create a Pro Experience Day. It is a seminar that introduces high school students to think about sports beyond between the lines.

“Started out there was going to be some activities and some Microsoft involvement where the kids, if they wanted to be in sports, weren’t the athletes, to be involved in sports in other avenues. And then there was going to be my expertise, combine-type drills on the field,” said former Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Tice. “It has evolved to no football-related drills on the field, and all mental, head stuff.”

And so they now bring it on the road; a one-day exposure to how technology and sports are married.

(credit: CBS)

“We see huge opportunities. We see from sportsmanship, you know, we talk about it, to collaboration, teamwork, resilience and everything from the football players and other athletes,” said Chun Lu, Microsoft senior business program manager. “And at the same time, we see the technology part is going to be integrating everybody’s life.”

Take kids that have had success and teach them there is something else that can captivate a new thought process.

“I have a torn ACL right now, and over there he said that GPS would like know that I have that based on what I do with my movements and everything,” said Cooper High School center Cedric Williams.

Much of it has to do with teaching safety tools through technology. In other words, the market place is looking at health factors.

“I always wanted to be a mechanical engineer, so just thinking of all the things, like the things they’re building was pretty amazing, and I want to be part of the people that build those things for all the players,” said Osseo High School senior Ellise Elomangstose.

But the only way to do that is to make sure you stimulate the audience.

“Our first group we did a few weeks back, we had 50 students at the Microsoft workshop, and at the beginning of the 50 students, three of them raised their hand when asked the question, “Would you ever think about, you know, a career in technology,’” said Dean Dalton, co-founder Pro Day Experience. “After the workshop, 38 out of 50 raised their hands and said, ‘Absolutely.’”

So they are constantly trying to invigorate, to use video gaming as a tool to whet an appetite.

“Fun is the number-one priority [laughs]!” Lu said.

Because as they much as they enjoy the big game, technology is where the direction of a possible future. Marry the two and you have something special.

“The future is technology, right, and we all know it,” Dalton said. “You and I didn’t use to carry around a computer in our pocket and make calls and do all those things, so that’s the future. So we’re using sports as the attraction, and we’re showing technology used in sports, but we’re also using technology to show STEM education and other opportunities, and open up all these career paths.”

Source:: CBS Minnesota

Alan Page Receives Presidential Medal Of Freedom

By Vikings – WCCO | CBS Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and former Vikings player Alan Page has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump honored Page and six other recipients with the highest civilian honor in the nation.

The honor for Page, who lives in Minneapolis, comes just weeks after the loss of his wife, Diane. Page and Diane launched the Page Education Foundation in 1988. It has helped young people of color attend college for more than 30 years.

“Meeting Alan Page himself and having a chance to work with him, it’s a very fortunate thing for me,” said Anel Braziel, a current Page Scholar attending Metropolitan State University.

She says Alan and Diane Page push scholars to foster positive mentor relationships, as well as serve as role models for children.

Anel says watching her hero be honored at the White House is encouraging, but Justice Page says this recognition is not about him.

“It’s about the things Diane and I have worked to accomplish, trying to ensure educational opportunities for all children, particularly children of color,” Page said. “It is about fighting for equal justice.”

Anel says she’s thankful for Alan Page’s words of wisdom.

“What sticks with me is when he told me what you give to the world, you will receive back,” she said.

The Page Education Foundation is responsible for $15 million in education assistance for more than 7,000 students over 30 years.

Justice Page will share the Presidential Medal of Freedom with students at the middle school that is named in his honor on Monday.

Page played for the Vikings from 1967 until 1978, and was a member of the legendary “Purple People Eaters”. He was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1972, the first defensive player to earn the honor.

He also served on the state’s Supreme Court for 22 years.

WATCH FULL CEREMONY HERE:

The other recipients include doctor and philanthropist Miriam Adelson, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Roger Staubach, the Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Posthumous honors were granted to Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth and Antonin Scalia.

Source:: CBS Minnesota

Mychal Kendricks rejoined Seahawks on Friday

By Charean Williams Linebacker Mychal Kendricks rejoined the Seahawks on Friday, coach Pete Carroll told reporters. Kendricks will return to practice next week but remains ineligible to play until Dec. 10 against Minnesota. The NFL suspended Kendricks eight games under its Personal Conduct Policy for his guilty plea to federal insider trading changes. When the league announced the [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

Week 11 injury report roundup

By Josh Alper Week 11 of the 2018 NFL season kicked off on Thursday with a Seahawks win and it continues with 11 more games on Sunday, which means that the 22 teams in those games submitted their final injury reports of the week on Friday. Questionable players are uncertain to play, doubtful players are unlikely to play [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

Zulgad: Bears will provide big-time test for Vikings’ fumble-prone Cousins

By Judd Zulgad

Kirk Cousins has done plenty of positive and productive things in the first season of his three-year, $84 million contract with the Vikings.

The quarterback is seventh in the NFL in passing yards (2,685), third in completion percentage (71.4) and ninth in passer rating (102.2). But as has been the case since Cousins became starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins in 2015, he has continued to be plagued by one very important thing — fumbles.

Cousins has lost an NFL-high six of eight fumbles this season, or five more than Case Keenum lost in 15 games and 14 starts for the Vikings last year. That brings Cousins’ fumble total to 39 with 17 lost in his past 57 games. This season, Cousins have 11 turnovers, including five interceptions, in nine games.

There are some who want to ignore Cousins’ turnovers, pointing to the fact the Vikings’ faulty offensive line is more at fault than the quarterback and that, for whatever reason, any criticism of Cousins is unfair. This, of course, makes no sense. Cousins needs to limit the turnovers if the Vikings are going to win the NFC North for the second consecutive season and secure a home playoff game.

Sunday night in Soldier Field would be a good time to start.

The Bears (6-3) are currently sitting in first place in the NFC North ahead of the Vikings (5-3-1) but a Minnesota victory would change that. The difficult part about this is that Chicago is so good at forcing turnovers. A defense that added outstanding linebacker Khalil Mack just before the season is second in the NFL with 24 takeaways, including eight on fumble recoveries. Mack is tied for the NFL lead with four forced fumbles and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks has forced three.

The Bears are fifth in the NFL with 30 sacks — one behind the Vikings — and Mack has a team-leading seven of them.

It’s not realistic to think that the Bears are going to get to Cousins a few times on Sunday — right guard Mike Remmers is questionable because of a lower back injury and left guard Tom Compton continues to battle a knee issue and is questionable — but he will go into the game fully aware of how dangerous the Bears can be. The important thing will be what Cousins does when the pocket collapses and the pressure means making a play is no longer possible.

On one hand, Cousins is being paid big money to help the Vikings win games and take them a step beyond where Keenum led them, which was the NFC title game. On the other, Cousins has to be smart about how he accomplishes this and trying to be a hero in certain situations will only lead to bad things.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer often mentioned his concerns about Keenum, but he has gone the kid gloves route with Cousins. Asked about the importance of ball security against the Bears, Zimmer said: “Their points off turnovers are huge. I think second in the league. We are going to have to do a great job of possessing the ball and keeping it. Making sure that we do a good job with being patient in a lot of ways.”

It’s not hard to figure out that when Zimmer says “we” he is referring to Cousins.

Coming off their bye week the Vikings aren’t facing a must-win Sunday, but it’s an incredibly important game that figures to set the tone for the remainder of the season. The Lions (3-6) are back to being a dumpster fire. The Packers (4-5-1) are coming off a Thursday night loss at Seattle and it appears they might be very close to hitting the reset button after the season and firing coach Mike McCarthy.

That leaves the Vikings and Bears to battle it out for the NFC North title, and while Chicago is a much-improved team under first-year head coach Matt Nagy it’s the Vikings who should be the class of this division. Minnesota has won the North two of the past three years and has a great chance to make that three of four. The Vikings’ seven remaining opponents have a .527 winning percentage, while the Bears’ remaining seven foes are at .464.

Minnesota is entering a four-game stretch in which it will play at Chicago, play host to Green Bay on Sunday night, then play at New England and at Seattle in a Monday night game. Getting back-to-back victories over the Bears and Packers would be huge and although Minnesota is 4-14 on the road against the Bears since 2000, the Vikings have won two of the past three at Soldier Field.

The test on Sunday night will be even more difficult considering the Bears’ improvement, but if Cousins can hold onto the ball and play a smart game, and Minnesota’s defense can continue to play as well as it has in recent weeks, there’s no reason the Vikings shouldn’t depart Chicago holding first place in the division.

The post Zulgad: Bears will provide big-time test for Vikings’ fumble-prone Cousins appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Purple FTW! Podcast: Vikings-Bears Preview feat. Darren Wolfson + Jordan Reid! (ep. 663)

By Andy Carlson

The Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings look to retake the NFC North Sunday night as they invade The Windy City to take down the Creepy Chicago Bears. Darren “Doogie” Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) of The Scoop Podcast stops in to chat injuries. Plus Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) of Inside The Pylon swings by to breakdown the Bears.

All that and more “Third City” chatter on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

A Carlson Digital Joint

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Listen to the Episode Below!


Dedicated to the Pain AND Pleasure that is the Minnesota Vikings.

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The post Purple FTW! Podcast: Vikings-Bears Preview feat. Darren Wolfson + Jordan Reid! (ep. 663) appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Anthony Barr questionable, Adam Thielen off injury report

By Josh Alper The Vikings may get linebacker Anthony Barr back in the lineup on Sunday night. Barr has missed the last two games due to a hamstring injury, but the bye week gave him time to heal and he returned to practice on a limited basis this week. Barr has been listed as questionable for the matchup [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk