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Bleacher Report – Vikings

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

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings (12-3) have an opportunity to clinch the No. 2 seed with a win over the Chicago Bears (5-10) at US Bank Stadium. Over the last two weeks, the Vikings have handily defeated teams with nothing to play for, but the Bears could offer a different challenge. Chicago has won two of their last three and is playing with their future in mind. How do they match up against the Vikings? Let’s have a look…

Quarterback

Chicago: Mitchell Trubisky

A look at Mitchell Trubisky’s arm, improvement and rookie moments

Over the past few weeks, the Bears have taken the training wheels off Trubisky and allowed him to work the ball downfield more often. No longer just dink-and-dunk, Trubisky has the same Air Yards per Completion as Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers. As you can see from the NFL Next Generation chart for his game against the Lions, the No. 2 overall pick distributed the ball all over.

In doing so, there have been good and bad moments. As you’ll see, there are several completions of more than 15 yards, but two interceptions down field as well. Trubisky has flashed arm strength and accuracy, but has also made questionable decisions, as you would expect from a rookie. He’s improved since the last time the Vikings saw him, but there’s still a good chance he struggles against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

Minnesota: Case Keenum

The Vikings’ quarterback is coming off a rough night in Green Bay in which he threw for just 139 yards and saw several passes nearly result in interceptions. While the Bears aren’t a great team overall, they offer a good final tune up before the playoffs for Keenum. Chicago ranks in the top 10 in passing defense and averages just 6.9 yards per attempt allowed. The challenge could be made more difficult by the fact that the Vikings will not have two key linemen in Pat Elflein and Nick Easton. However, at US Bank Stadium, Keenum has been terrific this year posting a 99.9 rating.

Advantage: Vikings

Running back

Chicago: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen

Bears Jordan Howard a rare RB who has had success against the Vikings

Chicago has a similar 1-2 punch in the backfield to Minnesota. Jordan Howard is a pure runner, while Tarik Cohen is a much bigger receiving threat. Howard has performed well in his three appearances against the Vikings, gaining 364 yards on just 68 carries (5.3 yards per attempt). Cohen was a late-round gem just like Howard. While he’s tiny at 5-foot-6, his receiving skill and big-play potential will be a concern for the Vikings, though they held him to just one catch and 13 rushing yards back in Week 5. The Bears like to mix in Benny Cunningham in the passing game now and then. He’s made 19 catches and averages 12.3 yards per reception.

Minnesota: Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon

Vikings’ first matchup with Bears kicked off strong season for Jerick McKinnon

The Vikings’ backfield has been at the center of their offensive success. McKinnon has grown into one of the NFL’s top receiving running backs with 51 catches for 421 yards and Murray has both pounded away at opposing defenses and broken off explosive runs. And not to be overlooked, both are ranked positively in pass protection. Changes on the offensive line could impact the effectiveness of both players. With Elflein out against Carolina, Murray gained just 14 yards on nine carries and McKinnon was restricted to two catches for nine yards.

Advantage: Even

Wide receiver/tight end

Chicago: Kendall Wright, Dontrelle Inman, Josh Bellamy, Dion Sims

The focus of the Bears’ offseason should be finding Trubisky more weapons. Kendall Wright has been effective, picking up 54 catches on 83 targets, but the rest of Chicago’s receivers haven’t offered much support. Zach Miller’s severe knee injury made matters worse as the Bears have been forced to turn to underwhelming tight end Dion Sims. Miller had 20 catches in eight games, Sims has 15 catches in 13 games. Neither Dontrelle Inman or Josh Bellamy have been impressive overall, but the Bears will occasionally hit Bellamy deep. He averages 15.0 yards per catch.

Minnesota: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph

Stefon Diggs reminded everyone against Green Bay that he’s still one of the best receivers in the NFL. Heading into Week 17, Pro Football Focus rates Diggs and Adam Thielen almost identically. Diggs is rated as the 12th best receiver in the NFL and Thielen is ninth. When opposing teams are forced to pay attention to the run, neither receiver can be stopped 1-on-1. Combined, they have 143 catches for 1,999 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kyle Rudolph has been playing dinged up, but says he’s feeling better than in weeks past. The Vikings’ tight end rates seventh in the NFL by PFF (No. 2 TE David Morgan is eighth best run blocker). Jarius Wright has established himself as a go-to guy on third down, catching 72.0 percent of passes his way this year.

Advantage: Vikings

Offensive line

Chicago: Charles Leno, Bradley Sowell, Cody Whitehair, Hroniss Grasu, Cameron Lee

When the Chicago Bears are healthy, they have a solid offensive line. Right now, they are not healthy and do not have a good offensive line. Leno has improved his PFF grade each year in the NFL and Whitehair is a top young offensive lineman, but Sowell, Grasu and Lee are well below average players, which could lead to a dominating performance up front for the Vikings’ defense.

Minnesota: Riley Reiff, Jeremiah Sirles, Joe Berger, Mike Remmers, Rashod Hill

One valuable element of the Vikings’ offensive line is their versatility. Berger will fill in at center, where he was very good center last season, for injured Pat Elflein. It appears Mike Remmers will move inside to guard and Rashod Hill will start at right tackle. Hill has been a valuable piece for the Vikings, filling in admirably when Remmers was out. This version of the Vikings’ offensive line is a lot less speedy, which may impact the screen game but they will have size and power up the middle.

Advantage: Vikings

Defensive line

Chicago: Jonathan Bullard, Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks

In Hicks, the Bears have one of the best 3-4 defensive linemen in the NFL. He’s rated as the 15th best defensive end, but often lines up over the guards, where he can use his size, strength and quickness to create penetration against the run and pass. Hicks leads the Bears with 8.5 sacks. Goldman is a solid young nose tackle, but the Bears are missing Mitch Mitch Unrein, their top run stuffer.

Minnesota: Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Danielle Hunter

How does the Vikings’ No. 1 ranked defense compare to (recent) history’s best?

Two of the Vikings’ four defensive lineman rank in the top-15 (Griffen, Joseph) by PFF metrics and Hunter has put together a strong second half. Tom Johnson doesn’t get enough credit for his adjustment to full-time starter. He’s been solid against the run and has 23 pressures on opposing QBs according to Football Outsiders. That’s more than Akiem Hicks has this year. With Chicago’s offensive line dinged up, the Vikings’ D-line has a great chance to shut down the run and force Trubisky to throw under pressure all day.

Advantage: Vikings

Linebackers

Chicago: Danny Trevathin, Nick Kwaitkoski, Sam Acho, Lamarr Houston

With Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee healthy, the Bears have a strong pass rush, but both players will be inactive for Sunday’s game. Instead the less effective Sam Acho and and Lamarr Houston get the nod. Trevathin and Kwaitkoski are a terrific combination inside, especially in coverage. They rank 10th and 16th, respectively, among inside LBs by PFF rankings. They could be a tough matchup for Jerick McKinnon as Football Outsiders ranks Chicago 13th against running backs in the passing game.

Minnesota: Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Ben Gedeon

Barr may have had his best game of the season against the Bears, blowing up run plays and tracking down screens to Chicago’s running backs. His

Secondary

Chicago: Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Prince Amukamara, Adrian Amos, Eddie Jackson

Chicago has a fantastic secondary. The only safety ranked higher by PFF than Amos is Harrison Smith. He’s strong in coverage, blows up run plays and is known as a high-intelligence player. Eddie Jackson is an exciting playmaking rookie who has scored two defensive touchdowns this season. And all three cornerbacks are ranked in the top 30 in the NFL. Fuller has an outstanding 22 passes defended.

Minnesota: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo

Harrison Smith didn’t need any motivation, but he may have taken out any annoyance about being snubbed for the Pro Bowl on the Green Bay Packers last week. He scored a 99.9 rating by PFF measures, the highest mark possible. Smith not only picked a pass at the goal line, he blew up screen passes, giving the Packers no chance to establish a short passing game. He’ll aim to do the same against the Bears as they try to use Cohen and Cunningham out of the backfield. Rhodes appears to be healthy again after battling a calf issue. He completely shut down Green Bay’s receivers last season and is one week away from completing an incredible season. He’s given up just 6.1 yards per attempt this year despite facing many of the league’s best receivers.

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

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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