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Vikings seek to regain momentum against struggling Bears

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs after a catch against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

A month of inconsistency has clouded the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff outlook.

With one game remaining before the postseason, the Vikings will hope to bag some momentum — and improved vibes — as they visit the struggling Chicago Bears on Sunday afternoon.

Minnesota (12-4) clinched the NFC North last month but since has fallen to the third seed in the NFC playoff bracket. A 41-17 loss to the host Green Bay Packers last week coupled with a San Francisco 49ers victory against the Las Vegas Raiders ousted Minnesota from the second seed.

The Vikings can return to the No. 2 slot in the conference with a win against the Bears plus a 49ers loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell said the team would use its starters in Chicago.

“We still have a lot to play for just from a momentum standpoint (for) a football team that’s kind of had some highs this year, for sure, and then one of our low moments of the season (in Green Bay), where you’d like to be able to rely on a lot of things we built here to come back together and make sure we rectify some of the issues,” O’Connell said.

Minnesota edged the visiting Bears 29-22 in Week 5, the Vikings’ third straight victory in what proved a stretch of seven wins in a row.

Justin Jefferson had 12 receptions for 154 yards in the game for the Vikings, and he will aim to come closer to that performance after catching just one pass for 15 yards against the Packers. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins passed for one touchdown and threw three interceptions at Green Bay.

The Bears (3-13) enter on a franchise-worst, nine-game losing streak. Week 17 brought the most lopsided defeat in that skid, 41-10 against the host Detroit Lions. Chicago will sit quarterback Justin Fields for the finale as the second-year pro deals with a hip strain.

Fields will finish 64 yards away from establishing the NFL single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson set the mark of 1,206 yards in 2019.

Bears backup Nathan Peterman will get the call under center in his first start since 2018, when he played for the Buffalo Bills.

“It’s an awesome opportunity,” Peterman said. “It’s been a few years. Still have gotten to play a lot of football in preseason or whatnot, but obviously a regular-season game is an amazing opportunity and I’m looking forward to it.

“It’s been a lot of hard work putting into this season and a lot of ups and downs, obviously, but to go out on a great note, have some fun and just go out and play football is going to be a good thing.”

Whereas the Vikings are jockeying for playoff seeding, the Bears still stand a chance of earning the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. A loss to Minnesota coupled with a Houston Texans win against the Indianapolis Colts would get them there.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus said draft positioning didn’t impact the decision to rule Fields out for the game.

Minnesota swept two games against Chicago last season, the Vikings’ first season sweep of the Bears since 2017.

–Field Level Media