It's a big stage for Mitchell Trubisky's first career NFL start. The No. 2 overall draft pick out of North Carolina gets to show the nation on "Monday Night Football" what he's made out of, and hopefully interject some life into Chicago's offense.
Trubisky had a completion percentage of nearly 68 percent in the preseason to go with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He takes over after Mike Glennon had another lackluster performance last Thursday against the Packers. Perhaps it's good timing for head coach John Fox, who had some extra time to craft a game plan that his rookie signal-caller can handle. Trubisky's wide receiver and tight end mix is not exactly going to scare anyone so that makes running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen even more important. The Bears' run game has kept teams honest with Howard doing the dirty work and Cohen being the pass catcher.
For Minnesota, whether it's Case Keenum or Sam Bradford at quarterback, the offense has to perform better then it did last week at home against the Lions. The team managed less then 300 total yards and lost running back Dalvin Cook to a torn ACL. Prior to trading up to get Cook in the second round of this year's draft, the Vikings had already signed former Oakland starting running back Latavius Murray in free agency. He's still not 100 percent recovered from offseason ankle surgery, but it will be up to him and Jerick McKinnon, who also got hurt last week, to try and replace Cook's production.
Last year the home team won each matchup, although Chicago outgained Minnesota on the ground in both games. The Vikings have home games with the Packers and Ravens after this week, and need a win tonight to remain in a second-place tie in the NFC North with the Lions and just a game behind Green Bay. A win for the Bears would at least keep them in the conversation while a loss would put them in a 1-4 hole overall and 0-2 in the division.
Minnesota at Chicago
Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Vikings -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Ground game is the key
The team that establishes its running game will win this contest on Monday night. Neither squad is averaging more than 20 points per game so a shootout doesn't benefit one side more than another. With a rookie QB starting, the running attack is probably more important for the Bears. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen are finding holes despite teams stacking the box. Minnesota is allowing just 71.2 rushing yards per game. But for the Vikings' offense, the question is who is going to run the ball and how healthy will they be? Chicago's front seven quietly is allowing just 85.5 yards on the ground per game. People don't talk about the Bears, who will be without Danny Trevathan, suspended for his hellacious hit on Davante Adams last Thursday. With Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman out, Chicago's linebacker corps is thin and you wonder if this will impact the defense's run-stopping efforts.
2. Home field and focus
The Vikings come into this one with a home game against the Packers up next. I don't think they'd overlook a division opponent who beat them at home last year, but there's always the small chance that they have their eyes more on Green Bay. It's a short week to prep considering the Monday night affair. Minnesota has won just eight of its last 17 road games while the Bears should be 2-0 at home. Chicago nearly knocked off Atlanta at Solider Field in Week 1 and took care of Pittsburgh in overtime in Week 3. The extra time off following Week 4's Thursday nighter has to be a factor in the Bears' favor and there's the unknown factor that the Vikings must contend with since Mitchell Trubisky is making his first career NFL start.
3. Walking wounded
Both sides come into this one with plenty of injuries that will affect how each team plays. We've touched on the Dalvin Cook injury already, and Sam Bradford also has missed the past two games because of a knee issue. There's a chance he will be back under center, but it doesn't mean his knee is completely healed and there's also the question of rust. Minnesota does get Michael Floyd back from suspension, while Chicago's defense will miss its top two linebackers in Freeman (injury) and Trevathan (suspension). Trubiskt also wont' have either Cameron Meredith or Kevin White to throw to, adding to the degree of difficulty facing him in his first NFL start.
Despite the 1-3 record, Chicago has been a tough out at home. The Bears have covered six of their last seven as an underdog of between a field goal and a touchdown at Solider Field. Mitchell Trubisky is going to give this offense a much-needed jolt as the extra preparation time will end up being the difference in his first start. In a game that features a lot of field goals, Chicago is able to get the key stop when it needs it. The Bears continue their solid play at home, while Minnesota's offense struggles without having Dalvin Cook in the backfield.
Prediction: Bears 22, Vikings 16
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.