It’s games like this that leave me wondering if Bears Nation understands just how improved its team is and how much better and deeper the talent has become.
Here’s something I wrote on my Bears-Vikings game preview prior to their meeting on New Years Eve to close the 2017 season:
“As much as I’d love to give you a unit-by-by unit series of matchups analyzing the Bears' chances of an upset, it is a waste of time. The Bears are going to get beat, and the only thing that will keep it short of beat badly is if the Vikings get up by enough early to start resting people.”
I was right, but what a difference 10 ½ months can make.
The Vikes made Kirk Cousins the then-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL during the offseason, and I’d think long and hard about taking Mitch Trubisky if I were choosing my franchise guy.
Adam Thielen is perhaps the best receiver in the NFL, and Stefon Diggs is a Pro Bowl-level pass catcher.
Allen Robinson can play with both of them, and I might argue the Bears are deeper when you plug in Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and what Tarik Cohen brings when he lines up out of the backfield.
The Vikings have the best 4-3 defensive line in the NFL. When the Bears go to their "40" front in sub packages, they are just as dangerous.
The Bears are better than the Vikings at linebacker right now, and Roquan Smith is still just scratching the surface.
When Mike Hughes is healthy, Minnesota has the best CB depth chart in football, and Harrison Smith may be the best safety in the game.
The way Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan and Eddie Jackson are playing, it’s unclear which secondary is better.
Both coaching staffs are excellent.
The only truly meaningful edge either team can claim in this matchup is Minnesota is far more experienced and has won games like this, while the Bears will be plowing new ground in prime time Sunday night.
The stats won’t help you, either. Minnesota is 12th in total offense, 28th running the football, 8th throwing it and 15th in points scored, while the Bears' offense is 16th overall, 12th running the ball, 20th throwing it and 5th in points scored — although the Bears' scoring includes four TDs from the defense, while Minnesota’s has kicked in three.
One irony here to watch is although the Bears are 12th rushing and Minnesota 28th, Chicago's numbers are heavily padded by Mitch Trubisky scrambles, and the Vikings are probably more dangerous right now running between the tackles than the Bears, with Dalvin Cook finally healthy and Latavius Murray a nice complement.
On defense, Minnesota is 5th in total defense, 3rd against the run, 11th versus the pass and 11th in points allowed, while Chicago is 4th overall, 2nd vs. the run, 12th vs. the pass and 4th in points allowed.
Scoring ‘D’ could be adjusted for the 38 and 30 Minnesota allowed to the Rams and Saints, respectively, while the only offensive juggernaut the Bears have faced is New England — which scored 38 at Soldier Field.
The Vikings entered Week 11 in a four-way tie for the NFL sack lead with 31, while the Bears are one back at 30.
The Bears are 11th in sacks allowed; the Vikes rank 14th in the same department. What’s a handicapper to do?
The Bears are healthier, with only Dion Sims out and Bilal Nichols possibly limited, while the Vikings will be without starting S Andrew Sendejo, and starting LB Anthony Barr and both starting OGs Mike Remmers and Tom Compton are questionable.
What the Bears do to help Bobby Massie with the NFL’s second-leading sack artist, Danielle Hunter (11 ½), and without their best blocking tight end in Sims remains to be seen.
On the other hand, as good as CBs Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are, how they handle the Bears' big edge in speed at receiver will be interesting.
We can go on and on, but the only safe bet here appears to be the team that has the ball last will probably win.