Bears offense vs. Vikings defense
For three straight seasons from 2006-2008, Minnesota finished with the No. 1 run defense. This year, they’re No. 3 with six games to go. That’s no small feat, mostly because they have no small defensive linemen. Everybody knows about the “Williams Wall” featuring Pro Bowlers Pat and Kevin Williams. Everybody fears Jared Allen, the redneck with a mullet who wears No. 69 and who is currently second in the league with 10.5 sacks. The only reason he holds that rank and not No. 1 is because the guy who is No. 1 — Denver’s Elvis Dumervil — played an extra game on Thanksgiving. I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think he can get 3.5 sacks against the Bears to tie Dumervil, or 4 sacks to take the lead. The Bears can’t run the ball, but the Vikings defense would stop them if they could, anyway. They don’t have good pass protection and they’re facing one of, if not the best pass rusher in the league. The only thing that might keep their offense on the field is the short-passing game, but the Vikings have perhaps one of the best trios of linebackers in the league in Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, and Ben Leber.
Bears defense vs. Vikings offense
The Bears have struggled against Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and they’ve unfortunately had to face him twice a year since he came into the league. In some cases, though, they’ve managed to contain him for all but a couple runs, and those few odd runs went for big gains because the defense broke down on one or two plays. In other words, they managed to defend him pretty well when they’ve had a good run defense. This year, they have a terrible run defense. Peterson could have more than just a couple big gains in this one. Quarterback Brett Favre has historically torn up the Bears’ defense. The past few years, during Lovie Smith’s regime, Favre has looked less than stellar. But this is an entirely new set of weapons with which Favre has to work and Favre is playing like he’s 30, not 40. Favre’s weaponry at receiver and tight end is deep and extensive with Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe. The Bears simply don’t have enough talent to cover them all.
It’s bad enough that the first two matchups are heavily in the Vikings favor, but the Bears don’t even have their special teams to rely on. The Vikings’ Harvin has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this year and averages 29.8 yards per return. The Bears’ coverage teams have struggled at times this season. Robbie Gould may be the second most accurate kicker in NFL history, but the Vikings’ Ryan Longwell has missed just one kick this year. Brad Maynard has had three more punts downed inside the 20 than his counterpart, Chris Kluwe, but Kluwe has a better net average than Maynard. There’s not anything that the Bears’ usually solid special teams does that much better — or better at all — than the Vikings’ units.
The Vikings have lost just one game this year and are playing as well as any of the top dogs in the league. You can make an argument that they’re the best team in the league, better than the undefeated Colts and Saints. The Bears have won just twice this decade in Minnesota, once in 2001 and once in 2006 — their two 13-3 seasons. We should be able to see what kind of game this will be the first time the Vikings touch the football as the Bears have struggled all season to stop the opposing team’s first drive of the game. We are also fully aware of the Bears’ struggles in the first quarter and their inability to put points on the board early in the game. This game could get out of hand — and out of reach — extremely early. If you remember what it felt like to watch both the Bengals and Cardinals score on every possession they had in the first half against the Bears earlier this season, get ready to feel much of the same. I’m being generous with my score prediction for the Bears, because it could be much worse. This being a rivalry game and with the Vikings players wanting to humiliate their division rival Bears, if they truly applied themselves and played as well as they’re capable of playing — as well as limiting turnovers and penalties — the Vikings could very well shut out the Bears.
Final Score: Minnesota 37, Chicago 17