As many Bears fans wish the team keeps "trending" as it has since their third win four weeks ago against the 49ers (in order to secure the third overall pick), we'll repeat: those who do end up suiting up for both teams want nothing to do with putting the franchise in that position. The effort they show stays on tape, whether they're a starter risking losing their grip on that status, or fringe players trying to remain in the league to cash a pretty nice paycheck.
As we await the playing status of the likes of Pernell McPhee, Willie Young and Bryce Callahan (you can all but scratch Leonard Floyd) for the Bears and Alex Boone and Stefon Diggs for the home team, 2017 auditions have been going on for quite some time for both of these injury-ravaged teams. For those so interested as they come out of their New Year's Eve celebration fog, keep a roster handy, as the thick clouds from a lost 2016 season blow over, with more questions than we wanted two years into this regime still need answering in the months ahead.
1. START LIKE YOU GOT A GOOD NIGHT'S REST
... which will be more than many of us out here can say. But seriously, the Bears have lost six of seven since these team's first meeting (and their best game of the year). The Vikings have dropped eight of ten since their 5-0 start, with some players blowing off their coach's gameplan to start last week's loss in Green Bay. As much as the aforementioned effort is important, how will one team handle a couple of quick scores by the other out of the gate?
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
2. COMMIT TO THE INDIANA ALUM
At least to get Jordan Howard his 61 yards to set a new franchise rookie rushing record. Then see how things are going. But I'd like to see Dowell Loggains and the offensive line accept the challenge of how Minnesota will certainly defend the Bears with what's still a very talented defense missing a couple of parts. Howard gets better the more he's fed, and Charles Leno Jr., Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Ted Larsen and Bobby Massie (along with a fullback or second tight end) should accept that challenge eagerly. Now, I'm not certain if I want Howard to gain much more than that. If I'm running the show, I might get Howard out of there once he gets the record. The last thing I want to see is another key player for 2017 having to spend his offseason in rehab. Once Howard gets it, see if Jeremy Langford can end a disappointing sophomore season on a good note.
That's how many yards per game the Vikings have averaged on the ground this season. 217. That's the average number of yards the Bears defense has generously offered Green Bay's and Washington's ground games the past two weeks. With Diggs likely out, the Bears' biggest concerns in the passing game are Kyle Rudolph and Adam Thielen (who's turned into a legitimate, undrafted threat this season, just 40 yards away from 1,000 yards). But with a key member of Sam Bradford's receiving corps absent, can the Bears manage to keep Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata close to that league-worst rushing average?
**Be sure to join Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller on CSN at 11 a.m. Sunday morning as the three ex-Bears and Chris Boden get you ready for kickoff on Bears Pregame Live. The guys offer their thoughts on what the Bears need to do in the offseason with so much uncertainty and decisions to be made. As soon as the second quarter ends, log on here on CSNChicago.com as Miller and Boden break down the first 30 minutes and go over adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Then, right after the game ends on Fox, switch back to CSN as the guys get back together for 90 minutes of game reaction, analysis, live press conferences, locker room interviews, and more "big picture" conversation and debate about moving forward into 2017 on Bears Postgame Live.**