Monday night, the Chicago Bears get their first crack at the Minnesota Vikings this season. While the Bears are essentially out of the NFC playoff race, the Vikings are very much alive.
Minnesota sits at 6-7 and currently in the ninth seed, with the same record as the Washington Football Team. With the New Orleans Saints beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, pulling their record to 7-7, the Vikings have to beat Chicago to keep pace.
One of the ways Minnesota has been able to stay in the thick of the playoff picture is due to the play of second-year wide receiver Justin Jefferson. After the Vikings’ loss to Baltimore back in Week 9, the team made a conscious effort to get Jefferson more involved.
The result? Jefferson has been on a tear since then, and the Bears could be in huge trouble Monday night.
The Chicago Bears could be without their entire starting secondary, leaving Justin Jefferson to feast.
Since that verbal commitment to Jefferson in Week 9, the former LSU standout has caught 39 passes for 656 yards and four touchdowns. That is an average of 131.2 yards per game for Jefferson.
The Bears, meanwhile, are depleted in their secondary. Cornerbacks Artie Burns and Duke Shelley, along with safety Eddie Jackson, had already been on the COVID-19/reserve list going into Sunday.
Then, in addition to those guys, the Bears added safety Tashaun Gipson and cornerback Jaylon Johnson to the list. That now means the Bears will likely suit up without their entire starting secondary against the Vikings.
With Marqui Christian, Xavier Crawford and DeAndre Houston-Carson out, Chicago could have only four members of the active roster in their secondary against Minnesota. They will have to end up calling some members of the practice squad to add depth.
Jefferson will likely draw Kindle Vildor Monday night, which is bad news for Chicago. Heck, even if it’s not Vildor, it will end up being Teez Tabor. Those are the top two corners currently available to the Bears — and neither one will keep up with Jefferson.
The young wideout is well on his way to a Pro Bowl bid and potentially an All Pro selection, depending upon how the year shakes out. He’s playing at that type of level, and is one of the sole reasons Minnesota’s offense has been able to put up some points over the past few weeks.
With this being such a pivotal game for Minnesota and their playoff chase, expect a flurry of targets for Jefferson. Along with that, expect it to be an ugly night for the Bears’ secondary. It’s going to be on the shoulders of Robert Quinn and that defensive line to make sure Kirk Cousins doesn’t get many clear opportunities.