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Where Bears Can Play to an Advantage

The Minnesota Vikings beat Green Bay and are tied for the NFC North lead but have shown flaws in some places where the Bears will have a matchup advantage.

One of the strengths the Bears have is their ability to play at a higher level late in games.

It didn't work out last week in terms of production as they seemed befuddled by the Giants' bootlegs on defense all game, and couldn't stop the pass rush up the middle as they were forced to alter their offensive line midstream due to Cody Whitehair's injury.

However, their defense still hasn't allowed a touchdown in the second half and their offense continues to run the ball effectively, except near the goal line.

They'll find weaknesses to exploit in a Vikings defense that has struggled with a scheme switch and has mis-fitting pieces for a 3-4 scheme. 

The Vikings defense starts five players 30 years or older, ranks 26th against the pass and 23rd against the run and is 27th in defending the red zone.

Look for the Bears to try to press these advantages in matchups.

Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler

Mooney has found his bearings in the offense, it seems, with his 56-yard catch and 94 receiving yards last week. The video of him getting wide open deep but going totally unnoticed by Justin Fields should get attention from defenses, too. Expect teams to start giving him more underneath if he's going to beat them deep and then the passing connection from Fields to Mooney can open up even more. Dantzler has been a promising cornerback for two years and last year enjoyed a strong second season with three TD passes allowed and a 74.7 passer rating against, to go with a 54.1% completion percentage. The Vikings switched schemes and he's not adjusting in Ed Donatell's scheme quickly. He has given up a passer rating of 97.0 and 76.9% completions in 26 targets. Dantzler never was considered fast but is more crafty. He ran a 4.64-second 40 coming into the NFL but is 6-foot-2 and has a 34-inch vertical.

Bears WR Velus Jones Jr. vs. Vikings CB Chandon Sullivan

Sullivan is currently in the midst of struggling. He had a poor game last week against the Lions and has a passer rating allowed of 106.0 this season as he tried to adjust to playing in Minnesota as the slot cornerback. Sullivan, an undrafted player, was undrafted out of Georgia State and was an extra in Green Bay who performed adequately as a part of a good defense. Now, in an aging and pieced-together defense, he's more easily exposed. Jones didn't get on the field for a single offensive play last week as the Bears tried working him back from a hamstring injury slowly. He muffed the last punt, which cost the Bears a final chance at a tie. He was only on the field 11 special teams plays and made it through without aggravating his injury. So expect the Bears to expand his role moving forward. His 4.31-second 40 speed was the selling point coming out of Tennessee and expect to see the Bears try to take advantage of this facing a secondary that has struggled and is ranked 26th against the pass. 

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Bears G Lucas Patrick vs. Vikings DE Jonathan Bullard

Patrick had a poor game last week when moved from right guard to left guard after Cody Whitehair's injury but hadn't practiced the position. He's normally an effective blocker wherever he lines up and with a week of work at the spot should be fine. He's not necessarily a power blocker and a bigger defensive end in a 3-4 has an edge but he's not facing that type of player when he has Bullard lining up at end in the 3-4. Bullard's name should be familiar to Bears fans. They drafted him in 2018 in the third round and he never worked out, eventually getting replaced by Bilal Nichols. At 290, he's not a fit for this 3-4. Since the Bears cut him before the 2019 season, Bullard has started 12 games and hasn't played in more than nine for a season with Arizona, Seattle, Atlanta and now the Vikings. He has 3 1/2 sacks in seven seasons.

DT Justin Jones vs. Vikings G Ezra Cleveland

Jones has been hit or miss, making big plays but leaving the gap exposed a times in his first four games officially as a 4-3 three technique. He has a sack and five tackles for loss to go with 19 tackles and three pressures. Cleveland was originally drafted as a tackle and wound up finding a spot at guard. The 6-foot-6, 312-pounder hasn't excelled as a pass blocker this year, and owns a 51.8 grade from Pro Football Focus in this area. He has allowed two sacks, 11 pressures and three QB hits.

QB Justin Fields vs. Vikings LB Jordan Hicks

The passing of the Bears offense might not scare the Vikings, but their two 30-something inside linebackers, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks, had trouble tracking Jalen Hurts against the Eagles in a 24-7 loss, as he ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Keeping up with the scrambling of Fields should be a problem for the Vikings unless they go with dime coverage all game. 

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