NFL Wire News

Week 17 Preview: Bears at Vikings

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Chicago Bears (5-10) at Minnesota Vikings (6-9)

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, at TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis – TV: FOX

*TV announcers: Dick Stockton, Brady Quinn, Kristina Pink

*Keys to the game: Jay Cutler is back at the controls for the Bears following an unsolicited week off to watch Jimmy Clausen move the offense against the Detroit Lions. Cutler’s success against the Vikings and last week’s benching should be the foundation for Chicago’s game plan.

Cutler, who has 20 touchdowns in eight games (7-1) against the Vikings, must focus on efficiency. TE Martellus Bennett and RB Matt Forte are dangerous options when used effectively — and not as last-second ripcords with the pocket melting. Forte leads the team with 94 receptions.

The Vikings are getting to the quarterback with regularity and will be on the attack hoping to capitalize on Cutler’s penchant for picks. He leads the NFL in turnovers.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is playing like a seasoned pro behind a protection scheme that is hit and miss. His passer rating in the last four games is 105.7.

The Vikings were 2 of 11 on third down in the first meeting with Chicago this season. More production from the running game against the Bears’ 30th-ranked rush defense should only boost Bridgewater’s chances.

*Matchup to watch – Bears DE Jared Allen vs. Vikings LT Matt Kalil: In what could be the final game of Allen’s career, the NFL leader in sacks since (2004) should get a warm sendoff from Vikings fans who cheered his six seasons with 10-plus sacks. Kalil is having a down year, and allowed a sack of Bridgewater in the first meeting.

*Player spotlight – Bears WR Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery is the lead option with Brandon Marshall on injured reserve. In the past two meetings, Jeffery has 23 catches for 384 yards (192 per game) and three touchdowns.

*Fast facts: The Vikings need a win to avoid their fourth 10-loss season since 2009. … The Bears missed the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

Teddy Bridgewater is more than competent, and Chicago’s defense has been user-friendly in a season packed with drama and punctuated with uncertainty, while the Vikings are banking on building for the future.

*Our pick: Vikings 25-17


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