The Bears' 2014 season will end Sunday in Minneapolis with a game against the Vikings. For those still keeping track, this weekend's contest comes with an unsatisfying consolation prize — the winner secures third place in the NFC North. But after the final gun, the real suspense will intensify at Halas Hall with changes forthcoming and Bears management facing major decisions across all levels.
With so much uncertainty hovering, here's our snapshot look at the season finale.
What now? What next?
The Bears understand there's little at stake Sunday against the Vikings and that major changes could be coming across the organization early next week. So what did coach Marc Trestman tell his team they had left to play for during the final three hours of on-field action Sunday?
"For each other," Trestman said after Friday's practice. "That's what teams do. This is the National Football League. And every week we go out to compete and play with great effort and win games. And that hasn't changed. The guys have been steadfast with that."
Beyond Sunday's game with the Vikings, a thick cloud of uncertainty looms for the Bears. So whether Friday truly marked Trestman's final practice with the team or not, the 58-year-old coach wasn't quite ready to reflect on everything he has been through and what all might lie ahead.
"When you're 5-10, things are going to swirl," Trestman said. "There's going to be a lot of noise out there. And I've tended to focus on my purpose — which is to do the best I can to get our team ready to play."
Across the locker room, Bears players have been quick to acknowledge that few of them ever have been through a season quite like this, with so much failure and outside criticism. There's also an understanding that the inevitable firings and personnel changes that are forthcoming must be accepted and processed with perspective.
"Right now, none of us have any idea how much is going to happen," safety Ryan Mundy said. "So as it unfolds, we'll find ways to analyze it, process it and figure out what the appropriate reaction is."
Player in spotlight
In May, linebacker Christian Jones arrived in Chicago with a chip on his shoulder, irked he had gone undrafted and eager to prove he belonged in the NFL. As the season ends, Jones has his grip on a starting position, a role he would like to retain far into the future.
Last week against the Lions, the 23-year-old rookie was credited in press box stats with 11 tackles and a sack, playing faster and reacting quicker than he had been earlier in the season.
"As a rookie, you get a lot of things thrown at you," Jones said. "But as you get a better understanding of the defense, you don't have to think as much and you can settle in to what's needed from you."
Keep an eye on …
While the Bears head for the season finale with unsettling uncertainty surrounding their quarterback situation, the Vikings continue to rally around rookie Teddy Bridgewater, whose confidence and composure are catalyzing his ascent and winning over teammates.
Said Vikings safety Harrison Smith: "There was belief in his potential from the day he got here. I think now, he has started to scratch the surface of that potential. Which is what we all expected. … He carries himself the way you want your quarterback to."
In the Vikings' last four games, Bridgewater has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,021 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions, posting a rating of 105.7.
Injuries and fines
The Bears officially have declared safety Chris Conte out for Sunday's game with a back injury. Also out will be Jimmy Clausen (concussion) and Robbie Gould (quadriceps).
In the fine department, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett was hit with a $22,050 penalty this week for, via the explanation from the league office, "directing abusive and insulting language toward a game official." Bennett's vocal onslaught came after he was flagged for offensive pass interference on a failed fourth-and-goal play from the Lions 1.
Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah also incurred a $22,050 fine for the helmet-to-helmet hit he delivered on Clausen in the fourth quarter that left the quarterback concussed.