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NFL: Bears game offers Vikings chance to boost playoff chances

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The Minnesota Vikings will look to bolster their chances of making the playoffs when they visit the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

Minnesota (6-7) is among a crowded group of NFC teams that are chasing potential wild-card berths. The Vikings are coming off a 36-28 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and have three victories in their past five games.

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook needs only 22 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard milestone for the third season in a row. He is averaging 119.7 yards from scrimmage (97.8 rushing, 21.9 receiving) in 10 games this season.

“It’s a tough defense we’re going against, I can tell you that,” Cook said. “Their system they run, the guys they bring in, fits what they’re trying to do. We’ve got to be ready for a tough task on Monday, and I know that we’re putting in the work with these extra days that we’ve got (following a Dec. 9 game).”

Chicago (4-9) is hoping for a bright spot in what has been a dreary season. The Bears have lost two games in a row and seven of their past eight.

Rookie quarterback Justin Fields has offered glimpses of his potential, but he also has endured growing pains in his first season out of Ohio State. Fields has a 69.3 passer rating on the season while throwing for 1,585 yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also has rushed for 385 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

David Montgomery leads the Bears with 801 yards from scrimmage (608 rushing, 193 receiving) but sometimes has had to take on less of a role with Chicago playing from behind.

Montgomery is dealing with an illness that kept him out of Thursday’s practice. Chicago did not have 19 players available because of injuries or illness, and all three of the team’s coordinators — Bill Lazor (offense), Sean Desai (defense) and Chris Tabor (special teams) — were forced to stay away as part of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“It’s the next-man-up mentality, not just for the players, but for coaches, too, is the way that I look at it,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “In these types of moments, what you’ve got to do is try to stay really positive, take care of your body, stay together and realize that we’re not the only ones right now in that.”

The Vikings also are facing uncertainty with COVID-19 cases on the rise once again. Minnesota put Alexander Mattison, Dede Westbrook and Dan Chisena on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins will try to maintain his recent success away from home. Cousins has thrown at least two touchdown passes in nine straight road games, and on Monday he will try to become the sixth signal-caller in NFL history to do it in 10 consecutive road games.

Cousins’ top target, Justin Jefferson, also is looking to put his name in the history books. Jefferson needs 68 receiving yards to surpass Odell Beckham Jr. (2,755 receiving yards) for the most ever by a receiver in his first two seasons.

The Bears have won five of their last six games against Minnesota, but the Vikings lead the all-time series 61-56-2.

–Field Level Media

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