Cousins, Vikings tune up for playoffs with finale at Chicago

VIKINGS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Kirk Cousins. Coming off a season-worst 49.2 passer rating in the loss to the Packers, Cousins and the entire offense could use a clean and productive performance against the Bears. He has thrown a career-high 14 interceptions this season, but the 12 wins are the most of his career and his 4,322 passing yards are the second-most in a single season in Vikings history.

BEARS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB David Montgomery. He’s in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract and could be playing his last game for Chicago. A third-round draft pick in 2019, he has run for 3,588 yards and 26 touchdowns in four seasons. He has 780 yards and five TDs this year.

KEY MATCHUP: Minnesota’s defensive line against Chicago’s running backs. The Bears will be without their biggest threat, with the team holding Justin Fields out of the game, ending his bid to break the NFL single-season rushing record for a QB. But they still have two ball-carrying threats in Montgomery and RB Khalil Herbert.

KEY INJURIES: The Vikings lost standout RT Brian O’Neill and backup C Austin Schlottman to season-ending injuries last week. Regular C Garrett Bradbury has been progressing, but has missed the last four games with a back injury. Chris Reed filled in at C and Oli Udoh took over at RT against the Packers. … The Bears announced Wednesday that Fields (strained hip) will miss the game. … WR Dante Pettis was cleared from the concussion protocol after leaving last week’s game. … OGs Michael Schofield III (knee) and Teven Jenkins (neck) were placed on injured reserve, as was DB Josh Blackwell.

SERIES NOTES: The Vikings have won three straight and four of five against Chicago. The teams will play in the final regular season game for the sixth time in seven years, but this is the first of those last-week matchups in Chicago during this stretch. The Vikings have not played the Bears on the road in a regular-season finale since 1971.

STATS AND STUFF: The Vikings won the NFC North and secured a home game in the playoffs. … WR Justin Jefferson leads the NFL in receptions (124) and yards receiving (1,771). Those totals are the ninth and seventh highest, respectively, on the league’s all-time lists. … T.J. Hockenson has 59 receptions, the eighth-most by a TE in Vikings history. He has done so in just nine games. … The Vikings are third in the NFL with 78 passes defensed. … Josh Metellus has blocked a punt in each of the last two weeks for the Vikings, the first NFL player to do so in consecutive games since Anthony Marshall for the Bears in 1995. … The Bears set a franchise record by extending their skid to nine games and matched one with their 13th loss. Chicago is assured a top-four pick and is in the running for the No. 1 spot. The only team with a worse record is Houston (2-13-1). … With 2,896 yards rushing, the Bears are 78 shy of the franchise record of 2,974 in 1984. … Chicago has not led the league in rushing since the 1986 season. … Fields finishes his second season with 1,143 yards rushing, 63 shy of the record of 1,206 set by Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in 2019 during his MVP season. He completed about 60% of his passes for 2,242 yards. Fields threw 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and was sacked a league-leading 55 times. … Velus Jones Jr. had a 63-yard kickoff return last week, after returning four for 113 yards in the previous game against Buffalo.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.