Kirk Cousins

Bears 2020 schedule: Can Kirk Cousins take Minnesota Vikings to next level?

Bears 2020 schedule: Can Kirk Cousins take Minnesota Vikings to next level?

The games
The Bears will face their longtime division rival twice in six weeks in the second half of the season, facing off in Chicago on Monday Night Football in Week 10 before heading up to Minneapolis in Week 15. Chicago beat the Vikings in both matchups last year by a combined 12 points, and Matt Nagy is 4-0 against Minnesota in his time as Bears head coach. 

Player to watch
Dalvin Cook made a leap last season toward becoming one of the top backs in the league, rushing for a career-high 1,135 yards in 14 games and scoring 13 touchdowns. Even with the weapons Minnesota has in its passing game, a healthy Cook remains the focal point of this offense, and new OC Gary Kubiak will undoubtedly feed him plenty of touches. If Cook can continue his upward trajectory, he’ll be a problem for everyone the Vikings face.

Additions and subtractions
The Vikings made headlines earlier this offseason when they traded star wideout Stefon Diggs after an up-and-down 2019 season. Adam Thielen will certainly help pick up some slack, but Minnesota drafted Justin Jefferson out of LSU to help replace the departed Diggs.

The Vikings also had some longtime defensive starters leave town, with Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen all walking in free agency. Former Raven Michael Pierce will help replace Joseph on the defensive line, and GM Rick Spielman used two of his top four picks to select CBs Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler to help bolster the secondary.

Key storyline
As has been the case since the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins two offseasons ago, the big question is whether their QB (who signed a two-year extension in March worth $66 million guaranteed) can get them over the postseason hump. He won his first playoff game when the Vikings upset the Saints last January, but doubts remain over his ability to consistently win games in big spots.

If Cousins can rise to the occasion in concert with their elite running game, headlined by Cook, and the Danielle Hunter-led defense, the Vikings will likely be playing in January again for the fourth time in six seasons.

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Where does Nick Foles rank among NFC North quarterbacks

Where does Nick Foles rank among NFC North quarterbacks

The Chicago Bears traded for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles on Wednesday, and he’ll likely be the new starting quarterback on Week 1.

Mitch Trubisky will be given a fair chance to keep his job, but after three seasons of uninspired play, Foles is the favorite at QB1 once the regular season rolls around.

Foles will join an NFC North with an impressive quarterback fraternity. Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins routinely finish near the top of most statistical categories every season.

So where does Foles rank in the hierarchy of NFC North passers?

We can't base this assessment on accumulated statistics. Foles has played the least amount of games (58) by a wide margin. But if we break down the numbers on a per-game and per-throw basis, it doesn’t look great for Foles. 

Foles' completion percentage, 61.9%, ranks last in the division. His career yards per attempt (6.26) also ranks last. Essentially, Foles completes fewer passes for fewer yards per pass than the other three quarterbacks in the division. Not great.

His career 1.2 touchdown passes per game is the worst rate in the division, and his 205.2 yards per game is the NFC North's lowest total. But there’s some context required. Foles has the fewest attempts per game (29.3) out of the bunch, which is nearly 10 fewer passes than Stafford throws every week. That's a big gap, which leads to an even bigger gap in production.

RELATED: Why did the Bears choose Foles over other QB options?

Now, we look at what really matters: the playoffs.

Foles' four playoff wins are second only to Rodgers, and his 68.1% completion percentage in the postseason is the best in the North. His 7.8 yards per attempt in the playoffs is tied for first in the division, too. 

Stafford and Cousins have played the same number of postseason games (combined) as Foles. They're 1-5. Foles is 4-2.

Speaking of postseason success, Foles and Rodgers are the only quarterbacks in the division to win a Super Bowl. He won it with the Eagles in 2017 in one of the most memorable quarterbacking seasons in modern NFL history.

If we're ranking Foles against the NFC North in the regular season, he's an obvious fourth. But do Bears fans really care? He's money when the games matter most. And if we're ranking the division based on who we want as a starter in January, he's only second to Rodgers.

Is it crazy to rank Foles as the second-best quarterback in the NFC North? Not if you care about winning championships. If that's your standard, then:

NFC North Quarterback Rankings:

1) Aaron Rodgers
2) Nick Foles (!!!)
3) Kirk Cousins
4) Matthew Stafford

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The Bears will see plenty of Vikings' QB Kirk Cousins over the next three seasons

The Bears will see plenty of Vikings' QB Kirk Cousins over the next three seasons

Kirk Cousins got paid! Again! 

The Bears are officially the last NFC North team with QB questions – although Detroit certainly seems like they're not far off – after the extension. In five career games against Chicago, Cousins is 2-3 with a 89.6 rating, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He's 0-3 against them in the Matt Nagy era, however. 

On a whole, Cousins is coming off one of the strongest seasons in his career, throwing for 3603 yards and less than 10 interceptions (6) for the first time as a full-time starter. His 107.4 Quarterback Rating was far and away the highest of his career, and finally winning a playoff game certainly didn't hurt. 

There you have it, Bears fans. Kirk Cousins is sticking around!