The Bears (3-6) return home to Soldier Field on Sunday for their second consecutive game versus a division rival, as they face the Minnesota Vikings (4-5). Here's a look at the Week 11 opponent:
What's new: The Vikings have long been one of the NFL's premier rushing teams, with All-Pro Adrian Peterson racking up major yardage on the ground since entering the league in 2007. However this season, with Peterson being held out because of off-field issues, the cast of characters has changed and two new running backs have stepped up to carry the load. Rookie Jerrick McKinnon and third-year vet Matt Asiata have developed into the league's top rushing tandems, with Minnesota ranking seventh by averaging 4.51 rushing yards per play. McKinnon, the speedster of the duo, leads the team with 446 yards. Asiata is the power back, scoring six touchdowns on the year despite having no run go longer than 12 yards.
What's old:** Minnesota's reputation for a hard-hitting defense was restored when the franchise hired Mike Zimmer as head coach in January. Zimmer, a longtime NFL defensive coordinator, has put his immediate imprint on things, but the leaders of the Vikings defense from years past are still making an impact. On all three levels of the field, Minnesota has veteran playmakers. Defensive end Everson Griffen is the team's key man along the line with nine sacks on the year, second-most in the NFC. Linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Chad Greenway patrols the middle of the field, with each racking up 45 tackles. And on the back end, safeties Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton are both strong tacklers versus the run and have combined for four interceptions.
Last time out: Following their bye week, the Vikings will look to pick up where they left off. Minnesota has won two straight games, the first time they have strung together consecutive victories since the final four games of the 2012 season. Against Washington on November 2, Asiata ran for three touchdowns – including two in the fourth quarter – to lead Minnesota to a 29-26 home win. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had one of the best games of his young career, throwing for 268 yards and a touchdown.
Series history: The Bears and Vikings began playing one another in 1961. Minnesota holds a slight edge all-time, going 54-50-2. Home-field advantage has paid off in recent years in this rivalry. The home team has won 20 of the last 24 games in this series, with Chicago winning the past six years at Soldier Field. In the last matchup between the teams, on December 1, 2013 at the now-demolished Metrodome, the Vikings won 23-20 in overtime despite 249 receiving yards from Alshon Jeffery.
Ex-factor: It wasn't a trade, but the Bears and Vikings wound up swapping defensive ends over the offseason. Chicago signed Jared Allen, who played in the purple and gold from 2008-2013. During that span, Allen recorded 88.5 sacks and was twice named the team's defensive MVP. In response, Minnesota agreed to a deal with Corey Wootton, Chicago's fourth-round pick in 2010. Wootton had 10 sacks in four years with the Bears. His most-memorable play in a Bears uniform came on his first-career sack, when he body-slammed Vikings quarterback Brett Favre on a Monday night game in Minneapolis.
Injury report: Coming off the bye, Minnesota is hoping to add one of its top offensive players back into the lineup. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has been out since Week 3 because of an abdominal injury that required double hernia surgery, is expected to return to action on Sunday. Rudolph had 10 receptions for 96 yards in the three games he played before being hurt and should once again be a top target for Bridgewater.
Did you know?: The Bears-Vikings matchup takes on a special meaning for the team's head coaches, Marc Trestman and Mike Zimmer, because both of them grew up rooting for the team they will be facing.
Trestman, who grew up in the Twin Cities suburb of St. Louis Park, Minn., was a fan of the local team and even coached for Minnesota at two different points in his career, first as the running backs coach and then instructing quarterbacks. Zimmer, who hails from Lockport, Ill., told local reporters he used to watch Bears games closely in his younger days and even went to training camp a few times to study the coaching style of former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.