The Bears (4-10) will look to snap a three-game losing streak when they visit the Seahawks (5-9) Sunday in Seattle. Here are four storylines to follow in the game:
(1) How will the Bears offense perform with Nick Foles starting at quarterback?
With rookie Justin Fields (ankle) and veteran Andy Dalton (groin) dealing with injuries, Foles, the third-string quarterback, will get his first start of the year. Foles is an experienced veteran who has made 55 starts over nine NFL seasons, most notably leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship in 2017 and being named the game's MVP after beating Tom Brady and the Patriots.
"There's not a lot of teams that in this situation can go to a quarterback like Nick to be able to help you win a football game and feel really good about it," said coach Matt Nagy.
Foles was acquired by the Bears last year in a trade with the Jaguars. He lost a training camp competition with Mitchell Trubisky for the starting position. But Foles replaced Trubisky in the second half of the third game of the season and threw three touchdown passes in the final 6:20 of the fourth quarter to lead the Bears to a 30-26 comeback win over the Falcons. Foles finished the campaign having appeared in nine games with seven starts, passing for 1,852 yards with 10 touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 80.8 passer rating.
"I know he's a competitor and I know that he understands this is a great opportunity for him, too, on a personal level to be able to help our team out and help him out," Nagy said. "So, I think that's where in this situation, it ends up being good for us and good for him."
(2) Will the Bears make the most of their red-zone opportunities?
The Bears compiled 370 total yards and 24 first downs in Monday night's 17-9 loss to the Vikings, but didn't score their only touchdown until the game's final play long after the outcome had been decided. The inability to get into the end zone has been a season-long problem that obviously must be corrected.
On their first four possessions inside Minnesota's 20, the Bears lost a fumble, settled for a field goal and turned the ball over twice on downs. They turned the ball over on downs a third time at the 21, just short of the red zone. So, the offense produced just three points on possessions that reached the Vikings 10, 16, 21, 9 and 14. This season the Bears rank 29th in the NFL in red-zone offense, scoring TDs on 48.6 of their possessions inside the 20 (18 of 37).
Getting into the end zone Sunday in Seattle isn't going to be easy. While the Seahawks defense ranks 31st in the league in total yards, the unit is fourth in points allowed and fifth in red-zone efficiency. Seattle's defense is led by inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, who this week was named to his eighth straight Pro Bowl.
(3) Will a depleted Bears defense build on its performance against the Vikings?
Despite having its entire starting secondary on the COVID-19 list Monday night, the Bears defense allowed its fewest total yards (193) and first downs (13) of the season against the Vikings, limiting Kirk Cousins to his lowest output (87 yards) in 118 career NFL starts while recording four sacks.
The defense is hoping for a repeat performance Sunday against a Seahawks offense that has struggled this season. Seattle entered Week 16 ranked 24th in points, 30th in total yards, 23rd in rushing yards, 27th in passing yards and 30th in third downs. Quarterback Russell Wilson is experiencing his first losing season after leading the Seahawks to winning records in each of his first nine NFL campaigns. This season, the seven-time Pro Bowler has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,458 yards with 16 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 99.0 passer rating that ranks ninth in the league while missing three games with a finger injury.
Wilson will face a Bears pass rush led by the red-hot Robert Quinn, whose 16.0 sacks are second most in the NFL and just 1.5 behind Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent's franchise record of 17.5 set in 1984.
(4) Will rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins continue to grow?
Penalties continued to be a problem Monday night for the second-round pick, who drew three more flags against the Vikings, including a 15-yarder for retaliating against a Minnesota defender who had hit Fields near the sideline. Jenkins has been flagged for three false starts in two games and will try to eliminate those mistakes Sunday at Lumen Field, which is arguably the NFL's loudest outdoor stadium.
The good news is that Jenkins, who sat out the first 12 games following back surgery in mid-August, showed signs of progress in his first NFL start versus Minnesota. "I would highlight his pass blocking technique and production," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. "We also had questions about Teven after the game before, and so I think everyone should be excited. I think if you just highlighted the technique he used and the production he had in his pass pro, I think everyone should be excited about what they saw happen."
The final three games of the season will be crucial for Jenkins' development; the experience he gains against the Seahawks, Giants and Vikings no doubt will be beneficial as he heads into his first full offseason with the Bears.