Bears vs. Vikings — What to Watch 4

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson leads the NFL with 124 receptions for 1,771 yards, with eight touchdowns. He faces a banged-up Bears secondary — Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor, Jaylon Jones and Josh Blackwell are out and Kyler Gordon (groin) is questionable.

SHARE Bears vs. Vikings — What to Watch 4
merlin_108837057.jpg

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18, making a catch in front of Bears’ cornerback Kindle Vildor) had 12 receptions for 154 yards in a 29-22 victory over the Bears on Oct. 9 at U.S. Bank Stadium

David Berding, Getty

Key matchup

The Vikings are expected to play their starters Sunday with a chance for the No. 2 seed in the NFC, but also to get back on track after a 41-17 loss to the Packers last week. That starts with quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson — the most prolific pass-catch connection in the NFL this season.

Jefferson’s spectacular season (124 receptions, 1,771 yards, eight touchdowns) started with a dominant performance against the Packers — nine catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. But he was shut down by the Packers in the rematch last week — just one catch for 15 yards as Cousins had a season-low 49.2 passer rating (one touchdown, three interceptions).

Jefferson burned the Bears with 12 receptions for 154 yards (12.8 average) on 13 targets in Week 5 at U.S. Bank Stadium — including 10 catches for 138 yards in the first half.

The Bears were without Jaylon Johnson in that game and will be again Sunday. Rookie Kyler Gordon, finishing strong with interceptions against the Eagles and Bills, is questionable with a groin injury.

With Kindle Vildor, Josh Blackwell and Jaylon Jones also out with injuries, the Bears are down to former Vikings fifth-round pick Harrison Hand, journeyman Breon Borders and former Broncos third-round pick Michael Ojemudia as their cornerbacks to battle Jefferson.

Trending

The Bears have lost nine consecutive games, the longest losing streak in franchise history. And their short-handed defense — missing five Week 1 starters, including linebacker Roquan Smith, safety Eddie Jackson and Johnson — is fading fast.

The Bears are 28th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (369.3) and 32nd and last in points allowed per game (27.1). But in the last five games, they’ve allowed an average of 434.6 yards per game (last in the NFL) and 32.0 points per game (31st) — including 504 yards and 41 points in a 41-10 loss to the Lions last week at Ford Field.

The Vikings, though, also are struggling defensively. In the last six weeks, they’ve allowed an average of 410 yards (31st in the NFL) and 30.5 points (30th).

Player to watch

Bears rookie Velus Jones had one of the few highlights in the debacle against the Lions last week — a 63-yard kickoff return at the end of the first half.

After a difficult rookie season marred by two muffed punts and a critical fumble on an end-around, Jones has shown some spunk lately. He had 40-yard kickoff returns against the Packers and Bills and a 44-yard reception against the Bills.

X-factor

There is more value in losing than winning for the Bears. With a chance to solidify the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 draft — and possibly getting the No. 1 pick — the Bears made an unusually quick decision to sit quarterback Justin Fields and start Nathan Peterman. The offseason can’t start soon enough for them.

The Latest
Now that the Hawks’ season is over, Bedard plans to play for Canada in the World Championships, then head home to Vancouver to work on his speed and explosiveness.
She accepted the jewelry from her longtime BFF to provide strength during her cancer battle, but that turned out to be a lie as well.
Young entrepreneurs and supportive patrons can meet each other halfway on this. Here are some thoughts on how to do that.
Psychologist Sylvia Perry studied conversations between white parents and their school-aged children to understand prejudice.
Father of Checker Taxi murder victim takes vengeance after delay in trial