Bears offense vs. Vikings defense
My, how far we’ve come in six weeks. Heading into the season, the talk of the NFC North was how good the Vikings were supposed to be led by “Purple Jesus”, or Adrian Peterson, as he’s known outside of Minnesota. And on the flip side, the Bears were supposed to have one of the worst offenses in the league led by a 4th round, 4th-year quarterback, a rookie running back, an unstable group of receivers, and a poor offensive line. Thus far, the Bears are ranked higher than the Vikings in both passing and total yards. Kyle Orton has become more than just a game manager, although he does that well, too. Matt Forte and the running game just haven’t been the same since early in the season, but that hasn’t stopped the offense from averaging just under 24 points per game the last three weeks. Against the Vikings, expect Forte’s numbers to remain low as he’ll be facing the league’s 4th-ranked run defense. Orton should be able to pass on the Vikings and keep them honest.
Bears defense vs. Vikings offense
The Bears have keyed on the run all season long and have the 5th-ranked run defense to show for it. Atlanta’s Michael Turner was the league’s leading rusher heading into last week’s matchup, but the Bears contained him to just 54 yards on 25 carries. Can they do the same to the Vikings’ Peterson this week? That remains to be seen, but we know how much trouble they had stopping him last year. Peterson rushed for 302 yards on 40 carries (a 7.55 average) and 5 touchdowns in the Bears’ two games against the Vikings last year. He had 224 of those yards and 3 of those touchdowns at Soldier Field. If the Bears do stack the run and take Peterson out of the game, do they still have enough to contain former Bear Bernard Berrian? Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher are both questionable and the secondary is depleted. What’s worse is that I haven’t seen a decent pass rush in weeks, not counting the Lions’ game. And in this defense, if the front four doesn’t get any pressure on the quarterback, anybody can have success throwing the ball against it. Until I see them stop both facets of an offense not from Detroit, I’ve got to give the slight edge to the Vikings in this matchup.
The Bears will typically have the advantage on special teams every week they step onto the field. After all, when you have one of the best punters, one of the most accurate kickers, the top long snapper, and the greatest kick returner in NFL history, you don’t have much competition in that phase. Nevermind that they also have the best special teams coordinator in the league. But with that said, there are some concerns on the coverage teams with so many players on the injury report. It is one of, if not the primary reason Lovie Smith chose to squib kick last week instead of kicking it deep at the end of the game. Fortunately for the Bears, Peterson is not returning kicks for the Vikings as he did in last year’s loss on the lakefront. Maurice Hicks has been the primary kick returner and is averaging just 23 yards per return with a long of 34.
Okay, status check. The Bears could be 6-0 right now if they could have held on to three fourth quarter leads. They should have been 5-1 right now because they actually outplayed the Panthers and Buccaneers, but not the Falcons. And they would have been at least 4-2 if they would have executed a simple squib kick and defended one pass play last week. But there’s no excuses and no coulda, shoulda, wouldas. Instead, they’re 3-3 and tied with the Vikings and Packers for first place in the suddenly mediocre and leveled NFC North. The Bears have a decidedly home field advantage where the “4th Phase” will be decked in all orange and likely will be extra boisterous. The Bears have a habit of rising to the occasion in situations like this, and I don’t have doubts they’ll sit on top of the division once more following a win and a Packers loss to the Colts.
Final Score: Chicago 27, Minnesota 20