The Chicago Bears are in an interesting position on Sunday as they take on the Minnesota Vikings, as their playoff seeding is largely out of their hands.
The Bears, who are locked into at least the third seed in the NFC, could jump up to the second seed, but that would require a Los Angeles Rams loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon. To make matters more complicated, the games are being played at the same time, so the Bears won’t have the ability to rest starters if the Rams end up winning the game and clinching a first round playoff bye.
Despite that uncertainty, the Bears seem ready to roll most of their starters out and make a strong attempt to win the game over the Vikings, and here are five players that fans should keep an eye on as the game gets underway.
With Eddie Jackson likely out for a second straight week, the Bears will need some strong play over the top in their secondary, and that’s where Amos comes in.
The safety had an interception against Kirk Cousins in Week 11, and with the Vikings trying to clinch a playoff berth, it’s a fair bet that the quarterback will once again hurl the ball deep to receiving threats Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
The Vikings had a tough time stopping the run against the Bears in Week 11, and Howard had one of his best games of the season in that contest.
With the Bears likely looking to keep Mitchell Trubisky out of harm’s way on Sunday, Howard could see an increased workload, and if he can pick up some good yardage in the process, then he could help the Bears milk the clock and keep the Vikings’ potent offense off the field.
Long is expected to make his return from injured reserve in this game, and although it’s not clear how many snaps he’ll be on the field for, it will be interesting to see how his surgically repaired foot holds up as he participates in a playoff tune-up.
Allen Robinson likely won’t play for the Bears Sunday as he deals with a rib injury, and that could mean plenty of looks underneath for Miller.
The rookie receiver, who has seven touchdowns on the season, could see some more deep balls in this game if the Bears try to open up their passing attack, but even if they don’t, he should get plenty of work underneath as the Bears tend to go with shorter passes to get Trubisky into a rhythm.
Nichols has been limited when the Bears have worked on field turf in the last few weeks of practice, and although they wouldn’t have to play on turf again until at least the NFC Championship Game, the Bears will be looking to see what impact, if any, the artificial surface will have on Nichols’ pass rushing ability.