We’ve already revisited the Vikings and previewed the game. Now it’s time to take a deeper look at this season finale. Listen as Will DeWitt goes through his weekly five matchups and three keys that you must pay attention to on Sunday.
First up, let’s analyze the five critical matchups.
1. Mitchell Trubisky vs Harrison Smith
In Trubisky’s first start, I had this exact matchup heading into it. Nothing has changed as it’s still my top matchup to pay attention to in this week’s game, and the logic remains relatively the same as these two signal callers will continue their cat and mouse affair from the last meeting that ended with Smith having the upper hand.
Smith has been arguably the best safety in the league this season. He is the anchor on the backend of the most feared defense in the NFL. He has 72 tackles and five interceptions this season and is coming off his first career multi-interception game. Don’t let that 72 tackles numbers fool you. That may not be a ton (to compare Eddie Jackson has 62) but he also doesn’t have to make many tackles due to the tremendous front seven in front of him.
For Trubisky, his task remains the same as it was last time he played the Vikings. It’ll be imperative for the rookie to know where Smith is at all times. He needs to ensure he properly reads the coverage and doesn’t get baited into certain throws like he was on the final drive last time.
Trubisky admitted that he knew he shouldn’t have thrown that interception to Smith as soon as it left his hands. This week he has a chance to put his development on display and to avoid making the same mistake twice.
Edge: Harrison Smith
2. Kyle Fuller vs Stefon Diggs
Fuller’s overall solid season is nearing its end, and he has one more chance to prove to not only the Bears, but to other NFL teams that he is capable of being a lock-down corner. The former first round pick is coming off a game in which he was targeted 10 times, only allowed one catch, and had an interception. But again, it was Kizer who was slinging the rock last week. So I must take it for what it is.
I’ve seen lots of talk about how he will stack up against Adam Thielen this week, but to be honest, that confuses me. Why? Well, we talked about it on the game preview podcast that Thielen lines up everywhere and can make defenses pay in a variety of ways. And then there’s Stefon Diggs who primarily makes his living along Fuller’s right sideline.
Out of Diggs’ 58 catches this season, 30 have come on the right side of the field. Furthermore, 60 percent of his yardage on the year (470 of 784) comes from the right sideline. Lastly, five of his six touchdowns come in that area of the field. I think you get my point, when Diggs does damage it comes where Fuller will be in coverage.
Diggs does have touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, but he hasn’t topped 66 yards in seven weeks. We’ll see which Fuller shows up this week, but when lined up across from Diggs, I expect him to hold his own.
Edge: Kyle Fuller
3. Prince Amukamara (and Bryce Callahan) vs Adam Thielen
Going up against a wideout that has 85 catches for over 1200 yards, he’s going to garnish a ton of attention. As I mentioned, he is someone who you can expect to line up along both sidelines as well as in the slot. His numbers are very well rounded across the board, and not one area of the field sticks out compared to others, but he does average nearly 20 yards per catch on 35 receptions on the left side of the field.
Let’s start with the slot. When healthy, Bryce Callahan has been a very strong nickel corner this season. He’s only allowing a passer rating of 78.4 when targeted. He doesn’t get picked on often, which is a sign of respect. He’s only allowing a catch once in every 14.5 cover snaps, which is the second-best mark for nickel corners this season.
And on the outside, Amukamara has been holding his own as well. He doesn’t see many balls thrown his way, but when he does give up a catch it’s a 12 yard gain on average, which isn’t ideal. It’s also well documented that Amukamara has struggled with penalties this season. He has the second-most on the team (7) and has given up the most penalty yards (99).
Edge: Adam Theilen (and Bryce Callahan)
4. Danny Trevathan vs Jerick McKinnon
Trevathan has had a decent season, but one area of his game that is one I’d consider a struggle is pass coverage. He’s allowed catches on 34 of 40 balls thrown his way this season. Trevathan has also been credited with allowing 260 yards after the catch on those receptions. Last week, Trevathan gave up three catches for 51 yards and will have a bigger test in McKinnon this week.
McKinnon is the Vikings’ fourth-leading receiver. He has 51 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns coming out of the backfield. In the previous meeting, he tore apart the Bears defense. He had 95 rushing yards and added 51 more as a receiver.
To his credit, Trevathan was not playing in that game so we can’t fault him. But that doesn’t mean his job will be easy by any means this week. I guess this game will be a good benchmark to see how large the “Danny Trevathan Effect” is.
McKinnon is only two weeks removed from his best game as a receiver as he put up 114 yards against the Bengals. He doesn’t need those type of numbers to make a difference though. Most of his catches come either behind the line of scrimmage or within 10 yards. If he turns one or two of those into big gains that either flip field position or put points on the board for Minnesota, that’s enough to win this matchup.
Edge: Jerick McKinnon
5. Charles Leno Jr vs Everson Griffen
This is the weekly (and final) matchup to watch in the trenches, and is another matchup that was highlighted before the prior meeting.
Last time, Leno Jr did a fairly decent job on Griffen as he only allowed one sack, which was the only pressure he allowed all game long. Trust me, it could’ve been worse.
In the second bout between these two heavyweights, I expect yet another dogfight through and through. According to PFF, Leno Jr boasts the eighth-best pass blocking efficiency rating, and only three sacks this season.
On the other hand, Griffen has been an absolute terror, especially going against left tackles as 11 of his 13 sacks have come against them. He’s also generated 52 total pressures on that side, which is the second-most in the NFL.
To say Leno Jr will have his hands full is an understatement. Griffen does only have one sack and five total tackles this month, and with the playoffs ahead, he may not put forth his complete and total effort. The Vikings may have more favorable matchups going against the Bears battered offensive line, but this will be the most relentless battle up front in this game.
Edge: Charles Leno Jr