The Chicago Bears (3-13) will face the Minnesota Vikings (12-4) on Sunday, where Chicago is looking to close out the 2022 season on a positive note.
After a 41-10 blowout loss to the Detroit Lions, the Bears will face a Vikings team contending for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Meanwhile, Chicago has a chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. If the Bears lose and the Houston Texans win, Chicago would lock up that top selection.
Before the game, we caught up with managing editor Tyler Forness of Vikings Wire to get the scoop on the Bears’ Week 18 opponent.
Here are six questions with Vikings Wire:
The Vikings have a chance to lock down the No. 2 seed this weekend. Looking ahead to the playoffs, how far can the Vikings go? Are they frauds or the real deal?
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Tyler Forness: Fraud is such a dirty word. I don’t think it’s fair to call a team that has won 12 games, including a sweep of the AFC East. Are they a great team that won 12 games? That is a fair question and I think the answer is no. This team has exceeded expectations and after winning a couple of games before the bye with some luck, their luck has leveled out. Even the game against the Buffalo Bills where Josh Allen fumbled inside the one for a Vikings touchdown had a lucky stop on a quarterback sneed from the one-foot line.
Someone else said it best and I think it holds true: this Vikings team is either winning the Super Bowl or getting embarrassed in the playoffs. That’s how their season has gone and I think the inexperience of Kevin O’Connell has been a major factor in that. He hasn’t been able to make quick adjustments when they are necessary.
Is Kirk Cousins the long-term answer at quarterback for the Vikings?
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TF: It depends on what your answer of long-term is. Cousins will be 35 at the start of next season and history will tell you that his abilities will start to decline. Yes, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have not seen a drastic decline in their abilities, but they are anomalies. Look at Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers. They saw their arms come close to being jello. Will that happen to Cousins? Who’s to say, but it does give credence to not investing heavily into him being your future.
They do have Cousins under contract through 2023 which could be the perfect timeframe for him and this team. They get to maximize the back end of Cousins’ prime with this offense and can hand the keys to the next guy. That could come in the 2023 NFL draft, but I think they only make that move if they choose to trade Cousins this off-season. That will be tricky because he has a no-trade clause. All of this is to say I don’t think he will be the quarterback of this team for more than 2-3 more seasons.
What’s your evaluation of how HC Kevin O’Connell and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have fared in their first year?
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TF: Considering the limitations that were given to both individuals, it’s hard not to give them excellent reviews. Adofo-Mensah’s draft class has been sub-par. Three of his top five selections were in the secondary and all of them are currently on injured reserve but you can’t judge a draft class on their first season. He is trying to shape this team in his image and it will take some time with the salary cap constraints that Rick Spielman put on this team.
With O’Connell, he has had moments that have shown he is a true rookie head coach, but the offense that he brought in has been tremendous. Justin Jefferson has had a record-setting season and Cousins has been excellent. They are driving the ball down the field and have made some incredible comebacks. Having an offseason where they aren’t installing the offense will help them take the next step.
Do you think the Vikings are in a good position to be long-term contenders in the NFC North?
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TF: With the leadership they have in place, I truly think so. It’s going to depend on getting the quarterback position right. Once they have that in place, I think the intelligence of both O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah will catapult them to the top of the NFC North. That is a big if though, as we’ve seen multiple times in this division teams miss on a quarterback, including both the Vikings and Bears.
The Vikings traded for TE TJ Hockenson this season. Has Hockenson paid off for Minnesota?
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TF: He’s been a huge addition for the Vikings. At the trade deadline, the objective was to improve their weapons and not just do so for this season, but plan ahead. That’s how Adofo-Mensah has handled all of the player trades he has executed. The idea behind acquiring Hockenson instead of Brandin Cooks or Jerry Jeudy was that he would be significantly cheaper. Hockenson will make a shade over $9 million next year and is the prototype tight end for this offense.
Who wins and why?
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TF: We haven’t gotten word as to how the Vikings will approach this game. How much will the starters play, especially Cousins and Jefferson. I would think that with the two seed still in play, we will see the starters play but also rotate in backups to get some reps and rest up your star players, something that the Vikings haven’t done a lot this season. I think the Vikings will stymie Nathan Peterman and find a way to have their second one-score victory of the season. Vikings 27, Bears 16