NFL

What to watch for in Vikings-Bears on 'Monday Night Football'

A myriad of factors contributed to this stat, but it’s one that bears repeating: Kirk Cousins is 0-9 on Monday Night Football.

Know what else merits a second mention? The fact that the Vikings quarterback has yet to conquer Khalil Mack and the Bears in any of their three meetings since arriving in Minneapolis.

Chicago (5-4) is looking to use the Week 10 finale to end its slump while Minnesota (3-5) is seeking to continue its rise. Given the stakes and players involved, this contest should pack the punch commonly associated with matchups featuring division rivals.

Here are three storylines to watch for when the Bears host the Vikings on MNF (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN):

Will Dalvin keep cooking against Chicago’s frontline?

Mack and Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith, oh my! These three have been key to the Bears’ stout run defense and, a week removed from holding “King” Derrick Henry to 68 yards, they’ll attempt to contain Dalvin Cook. How about that for a follow-up? Following the Vikings’ Week 7 bye, the 25-year-old RB has gone berserk, exploding for a combined 369 rush yards and five TDs. He leads the league with 12 rush TDs and his 122.6 YPG (858 total) are the most since Adrian Peterson’s 2012 MVP campaign (131.1), per NFL Research. His game-breaking playmaking makes him a focal point for defenses on a weekly basis. That extra attention allows Cousins to utilize play-action to sustain drives and score, which he’s done efficiently dating back to 2019. Minny is 3-1 in 2020 when Cook tops 100 yards rushing. His history versus the Bears gives them an edge (28.7 rush YPG in three games), so it’ll be exciting to see if Cook can get going and go off. And if he doesn’t? Well, Alexander Mattison and his 4.7 YPC are certainly nothing to sneeze at.

How will the Bears offense fare amid big changes?

Nick Foles will attempt to lead a group still struggling to find its identity with two interesting changes looming overhead: the absence of David Montgomery and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor assuming play-calling duties from Matt Nagy. Unlike its opponent’s, Chicago’s bottom-ranked run game has been far from explosive, but the second-year RB’s dependability — Week 10 is his first career DNP — and ability to turn dump offs into gains will be missed. In his place, Lazor will rely on a former Pro Bowler who hasn’t seen action in two years (Lamar Miller) and players with a combined two career carries (Artavis Pierce and Ryan Nall) . Veteran Cordarrelle Patterson could also see some time in the backfield; he owns 29 carries for 88 yards in 2020. With things shaping up to again be a non-factor on the ground, it’ll be imperative for Foles to find success against the Vikes’ generous secondary (287.9 YPG). Here’s looking at you, Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller.

Two teams on differing paths set for a pivotal collision

The Bears are in the midst of a three-game skid after beginning the season 5-1. A lot of weight has been placed on the defense’s collective shoulders and, while it’s held up well to the pressure, the offense has folded more than once under it. The Bears are scoring 16.7 PPG and allowing 24.7 PPG during their slide; those averages were 21.3 and 19.3, respectively, before Week 7. The Vikings, on the other hand, are starting to surge, thanks to a two-game win streak. In addition to doing a better job of maintaining leads after squandering several before the bye, Minnesota has also won the turnover battle. The defense has nearly forced more TOs the past two games (4) than it had in the previous six (5) while Cousins and Co. have not turned the ball over since Week 6. The Packers reign supreme over the NFC North, but a Bears loss would make things very interesting as we go further into the second half of the season and the playoff conversation starts to heat up.

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