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4 things to watch in Bears-Vikings game


The Bears (7-8) will look to close the season on a winning note Sunday when they visit the Vikings (10-5) at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota. Here are four storylines to monitor in the game:

(1) Will the Bears play with better focus than they did last Sunday night in a 26-3 loss to the Chiefs?

In their first game after being eliminated from playoff contention, the Bears suffered their most lopsided loss in Matt Nagy's two seasons as coach. Nagy blamed the sloppy play—which included two costly penalties that sustained Kansas City touchdown drives—on a lack of focus.

"Focus" was a buzzword at Halas Hall all week as the Bears prepared for what will be a meaningless game for both teams Sunday in Minnesota. The Vikings enter Week 17 locked into the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs.

"The biggest message for our team and for us is continuing to discuss what we've talked about all year long," Nagy said early in the week. "It's not easy, but [we have] to stay mentally focused knowing it's our obligation. There's a pride element I think for all of us, so that's what we'll be looking for."

(2) Will quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense rebound from two straight disappointing performances?

The Bears scored nine offensive touchdowns during a three-game winning streak against the Giants, Lions and Cowboys. But they've mustered just one TD in losing their last two contests to the Packers and Chiefs.

Trubisky helped the Bears win four of five games from Nov. 10-Dec. 5 by producing 13 touchdowns (11 passing and two rushing). In back-to-back victories over the Lions and Cowboys, he threw three touchdown passes in both contests while posting passer ratings of 118.1 and 115.5. But in the two games since, Trubisky has produced just one touchdown and recorded passer ratings of 64.4 and 65.4 in losses to the Packers and Chiefs.

The offense's ineffectiveness has been an issue throughout the season. The Bears enter Week 17 ranked 30th in the NFL in scoring at 17.3 points per game, ahead of only the Redskins (16.7) and Bengals (16.4). Last year the Bears ranked 10th in the league at 25.6 points per game.

(3) Will the Bears defense end its takeaway drought?

After leading the NFL with 36 takeaways last season, the Bears have been stuck on 16 this year, having failed to force a turnover in each of their last three games.

As a result, the offense is rarely being given short fields. In their last four games, the Bears have started only one of 43 possessions in their opponents' territory—and that was after they recovered an onside kick to seal a win over the Cowboys with :07 left in the game. The Bears have scored 54 points off turnovers this season after tallying 107 last year.

The Bears could have some opportunities to generate takeaways Sunday against a Vikings offense that is expected to rest several of its key players. With Minnesota locked into the sixth seed in the NFC playoffs, inexperienced backup Sean Mannion likely will make his second career start at quarterback in place of Kirk Cousins. 

(4) How many players will be playing in their final game with the Bears?

There are roster changes from season-to-season every year in the NFL and it will be no different for the Bears.

Among those who are due to become unrestricted free agents in March are offensive linemen Ted Larsen and Cornelius Lucas; defensive linemen Nick Williams and Brent Urban; outside linebacker Aaron Lynch; linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis; safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Deon Bush and DeAndre Houston-Carson; and long-snapper Patrick Scales.

Others who are set to become unrestricted free agents include quarterback Chase Daniel, linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety Sherrick McManis.

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