Your Minnesota Vikings are approximately 24 hours away from lining up against the 3-8 Chicago Bears at US Bank Stadium and, as always the case this time of the year, the games are starting to mean just that much more with the playoff picture coming into focus.
Obviously, not for the Bears, who will be trying to play spoiler the rest of their season.
The Vikings are currently in the 6th of 7 playoff spots, tied with the Seattle Seahawks at 6-5, who hold the 7th spot.
The Packers and Saints hold 5-6 records and are each 2 games out of the playoffs. The spot is far from clinched for the Vikings, but it isn’t too early for the Purple and Gold faithful to be talking playoffs. If the season ended today, Minnesota would travel to Santa Clara to face the 49ers in the wildcard round with the Philadelphia Eagles getting the first round bye.
The Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers, both have an opportunity to deal a setback to their rivals in the north. You can ask the Detroit Lions how much those two teams want to muck things up for their rivals.
Let’s take a look at who will be leading each offense onto the US Bank Stadium turf tomorrow night.
Dobbs v Fields
This is a much different story than the week 6 matchup in Chicago, which ended with Tyson Bagent going up against Kirk Cousins. Fields played through the first half of that one but had to leave due to a wrist injury.
Before leaving, Fields was having a tough time in the office anyway, finishing his time in the contest going 6-10 with 58 yards and 0 TDs, 1 INT, 4 sacks (for 18 lost yards), and a 36.7 rating. It was not a good day for the Fields.
Cousins also had a good-not-great day in an overall sorry excuse for a football game. He finished going 21-31 with 181 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 2 sacks (for 7 yards lost), 2 fumbles (1 lost) and a 93.7 rating.
Dobbs will present a much different problem for Chicago’s 4th-worst (by points allowed) defense than Cousins did. In his 3 games with the Vikings Dobbs’ performances have been solid, all things considered, but his last performance in Denver was a return back to earth.
One thing that might limit Dobbs is that Chicago has been objectively good against the run having only allowed 100+ rush yards 3 times this year - most recently against the Lions. The other side of that coin is that Chicago has been horrible against the pass, only limiting teams to less than 200 yards 3 times.
Chicago’s offense has been worse than average but not as bad as their reputation suggests as they sit 18th in the NFL for points scored.
Fields did have an ‘alright’ game against the Detroit Lions in his return, throwing for 16 completions on 23 attempts with 169 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 2 sacks (for 18 yards lost), and a 105.2 rating. Fields also had 104 yards rushing against a very good Lions defense.
On Monday night Fields will be throwing to TE Cole Kmet, who is quietly having one of his better seasons with 5 TDs, well on pace to set a career high. He’s also missed only 12 targets so far this year.
DJ Moore has been by far the most targeted WR of the Bears, putting up a stat line of 59 catches on 80 targets with 889 yards, 15.1 yards/reception, and 6 TDs. In addition to Kmet and Moore, Fields will also be throwing to WR Darnell Mooney and RBs Roschon Johnson and Khalil Herbert, who have similar receiving stats to each other this season.
Dobbs will be throwing to the formidable corps of WRs Jordan Addison and KJ Osborne, TE TJ Hockenson, and RBs Ty Chandler and Alexander Mattison. Addison is the star of the show in the absence of Justin Jefferson, who is listed as questionable but is not likely to play before the bye.
The Vikings ran a pretty balanced rush/pass split in Denver, throwing the ball 32 times and rushing it 36 times. The rushing game did not have a good night, putting up alright numbers (36 attempts, 175 yards, 1 TD) but not coming through when the game needed a big play and seeing a reemergence in turnovers (4 fumbles, 2 lost - one from Dobbs and one from Mattison).
Look for KOC to dial up a pass-heavy game plan with Chicago’s pass defense struggling immensely. With Dobbs’ ability to scramble, most of the weight will be put on Chicago’s secondary, which has not looked at all impressive this year.
It all depends if Dobbs can find his groove again, but I’ll bet that he has a bounce-back game against a not-great divisional opponent at home in primetime.