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Vikings Keys to the Game: Week 18 vs. Chicago

The 7-9 Minnesota Vikings will try to end the season on a winning note when they host the 6-10 Chicago Bears Sunday.
Credit: AP
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

WHO: Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 9 at 12 p.m. CT
WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN.

MINNEAPOLIS – The 7-9 Minnesota Vikings will try to end the season on a winning note when they host the 6-10 Chicago Bears Sunday at noon. It's a disappointing finish to a once promising season that will lead to much uncertainty with the team's future leadership headed into the offseason.

The end is near. The Vikings were eliminated from playoff contention after the loss to the Green Bay Packers last week, and will finish with a losing record for the second straight year. While questions swirl about whether or not Mike Zimmer or Kirk Cousins will return to Minnesota next season, there is still one more game to be played, thanks to the NFL's new 18 week schedule.

The last time the Vikings played the Bears, it was a wild and wacky ride, resulting in a Minnesota win at Soldier Field. Cousins returns to the starting lineup after missing the last game following a positive COVID test, and rookie Justin Fields will get the start for the Bears after missing time with injury.

Here are three keys to the game for Sunday:

Let it rip, Kirk Cousins. The Vikings signal caller did not want to talk about whether Sunday would be his last game in a purple uniform, but also affirmed his intention to finish his career in Minnesota. However, this is the NFL and we know how quickly things can change in the offseason. With that in mind, Cousins should be aggressive and air it out, when given the opportunity, to leave the fans with a lasting memory at the Bank. He only passed for 87 yards in the last match up with the Bears. As inconsistent as he's been during the second half of the season, he still ranks fifth in the NFL with a 101.3 passer rating. Justin Jefferson only needs 124 yards to break Hall of Famer Randy Moss' franchise record in single-season receiving yards. Feed the man, Kirk. What else do you have to lose? Watch out for Robert Quinn though, who is second in the league with 18 sacks this season.

Chase Fields down. Minnesota's defense ranks sixth in the NFL with 44 sacks. They had been at the top, but they haven't recorded a sack in the last two games. It's not a coincidence that those games resulted in two losses to dim their playoff light. Justin Fields hasn't played in a game since the December 20th game against the Vikings due to an ankle injury, and the Bears have lost his last seven starts. In that last match up, he passed for 285 yards and a touchdown as time expired. The Vikings defense only allowed him to run for 35 yards. This would be the perfect time to get after him and make a statement as both teams head into the offseason. 

Just have fun. It's the last game until September. Some may argue there's nothing to play for, but players get paid to play. Coaches get paid to coach. So it's another opportunity to do their jobs to the best of their ability one more time, and there's pride in that. Dalvin Cook said, "A game in the NFL is never meaningless. It's a trial every time you go out. You can't put bad film out there, that's just not good for anybody. Guys know that. We're going to do our same thing to go get ready for a football game and win a football game. That's our mindset." Translation: they're playing to win. So why not have some fun while doing it. Most will (and should) be disappointed that it all ends on Sunday and postseason play is unattainable, but it doesn't have to affect the team's effort. Go out there and play loose. Run the score up if you please. Leave it all out there. Don't cry because it's about to be over. Smile while it's happening. Or however the saying goes.

We will have all your game day coverage Sunday on KARE 11. I'll be live tweeting (@ReggieWilsonTV). Make sure to stay up for the Vikings Extra and watch us put a bow on the game and season after Sunday Night Football.

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