Three Keys: Vikings at Bears

It’s an understatement to say that the Minnesota Vikings need to get a win at Soldier Field. At 3-5, the Vikings actually have a decent shot at making the playoffs. Losing on Monday night, though, would certainly take the wind out of Minnesota’s sails. To keep playoff hopes alive, Kirk Cousins will need to play well on Monday Night Football, Minnesota’s OL will need to be strong against Chicago’s front seven, and Mike Zimmer will need to outsmart Matt Nagy.

Key #1: Kirk Cousins vs. Monday Night Football

Over at Vikings Territory, The Morning Joes Podcast recently discussed Cousins’ success. For the most part, Joe2 believe that Cousins gets a bad rap when it comes to Monday Night Football. In many ways, their arguments are totally legitimate. Kirk Cousins has performed admirably on several occasions, so he shouldn’t be held solely responsible for his 0-9 record on Monday Night Football.

Nevertheless, the 0-9 record is ugly, and he has struggled against Chicago. As we’ve previously indicated, Cousins has been underwhelming against Chicago on the road. His 2018 game (a must-win to make the playoffs) resulted in 132 passing yards and one lonely touchdown pass whereas his 2019 game resulted in 233 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Cousins’ gigantic contract comes with a certain set of expectations, foremost among them being able to win big games. Fair or unfair, Cousins will need to confront – and overcome – the MNF curse.

Key #2: Minnesota’s OL vs. Chicago’s Front Seven

We’re tempting fate, but we’ll reiterate a surprising, encouraging reality: the Minnesota Vikings’ OL is playing reasonably well. Ezra Cleveland has been solid (even though we may have suggested that he’d struggle). Brian O’Neill and Riley Reiff give the Vikings a strong tandem at tackle. Garrett Bradbury has taken a sizeable step forward. In the past two road games against Chicago, Dalvin Cook has really struggled. He had 11 carries for 39 yards in 2018. In 2019, Cook had 14 carries for 35 yards. The OL needs to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Chicago’s defense will present a formidable challenge. Led by Khalil Mack, Chicago’s front seven rightly strikes fear in opposing offenses. Mack is the big name, but there is a ton of talent up front for Chicago. Akiem Hicks will give our interior all they can handle, and Roquan Smith has made improvement. Gary Kubiak will need to help our OL be successful. Expect quick passes, screens, and plenty of effort to change the snap count. We don’t want Mack getting too comfortable firing off the line of scrimmage.

Key #3: Mike Zimmer vs. Matt Nagy

Last week, we identified Mike Zimmer vs. Matt Patricia as a key to success, writing, “Matt Patricia shouldn’t be scaring anyone. Vikings fans certainly have their concerns about Mike Zimmer (some justified, most unjustified), but he is far, far better than Patricia.” For the most part, these words proved true.

No one can argue that Nagy is as incompetent as Patricia. Nevertheless, Nagy has been struggling, so the coaching advantage definitely leans purple. Zimmer needs to ensure Nagy continues to struggle to get the most out of his offense. If Zim can get a third-straight strong defensive performance, then it might be time for fans to start believing.

The Crystal Ball

Through eight weeks, our weekly tradition has mostly consisted of offering excuses for our less-than-stellar prediction record. Last week, we snagged a W; no excuses needed, folks. Perhaps foolishly, we’re choosing the good guys over the bad guys. Vikings get a big win at Soldier Field on MNF (rejoicing ensues).

Offseason Prediction: Bears 17 – Vikings 9

Updated Prediction: Vikings 17 – Bears 9

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