Based on what he's seen in practice this week, Bears coach Matt Nagy likes his team's mindset heading into Sunday night's first-place clash with the Vikings.
"I don't think you're going to see tightness within our guys," Nagy said Friday. "There's no need for that. That's my job to make sure that we're prepared, coaches and players, and from what I've seen in practice, there's certainly not tightness.
"Guys are in a good mood, good spirit. They realize the importance of this game and the details of being smart and playing hard."
Last season the Vikings won the NFC North with a 13-3 record and stunned the Saints in the divisional playoffs with a miraculous Stefon Diggs touchdown as time expired. Minnesota then lost the NFC Championship Game to the Eagles.
The Bears, meanwhile, haven't played a game as meaningful as Sunday night's contest at Soldier Field since the 2013 season finale when they lost the division championship to the Packers on a late touchdown.
"Kind of like going into the first game of the season," Nagy said, "we'll see how our guys respond to this style of game, meaning a night game, Sunday night game at home in the middle of the season when you're in a good position. I've been trying to make sure they understand that it is important, but don't make it so crazy-important to where you don't play the way you've been playing that got you to this point."
A win Sunday night would enable the Bears (6-3) to extend their division lead over Minnesota (5-3-1) to a game-and-a-half. A loss would drop the Bears into second place, a half-game behind the Vikings. The two teams are scheduled to meet again in the season finale Dec. 30 in Minnesota.
While there's obviously a lot at stake, Nagy wants his players to embrace the opportunity.
"If you're not enjoying the moment, then why are you playing?" he said. "I like to have fun when I coach. I like our players to have fun when they play. You've got to know where that line is at and when you are crossing the line. We're now in a position to be able to play at home in front of our great fans, to have some fun in a game that means something."
Nagy knows when to have fun—like installing a two-quarterback formation or employing a disco ball in the locker room to celebrate wins—and when it's time to get down to business.
"One of my strengths I feel is keeping a pulse on the team," Nagy said. "How do you do that? Well, if there's a practice [that gets sloppy with] dropped balls, missed assignments, repeated plays, and that thing continues within a practice, now it's time to let them know.
"If I need to crack the whip or I have to get on these guys or let them know that they need to be checked, I'll check them. But if I see that they're handling business, they take care of business and they're doing things the right way, let's have fun."
While the Bears are considered a surprise team by many, Nagy started to see something special brewing in training camp—and it's only continued throughout the season.
"As I've seen us grow over the last several weeks, that trust level just goes up," Nagy said. "The players start really trusting the coaches. The coaches start trusting the players, and that bond just keeps getting stronger and stronger.
"Now we're at a good point in that this thing can just take off, but you have to make sure that you do the right things every single day. No complacency. Details. Shirts tucked in. Everything that we talked about in training camp, don't lose that right now.
"Where my mentor, coach [Andy] Reid, has taught me the best is you never look ahead. You always just prepare daily, and regardless of whether you're on a win streak or a loss streak, you don't change how you do things. You just focus on what you can control."