By Bryan Dietzler
The 5-8 Chicago Bears will travel to Minnesota this Sunday to take on the 8-5 Minnesota Vikings. The Bears are coming off a loss, at home, to the Washington Redskins while the Arizona Cardinals beat the Vikings the previous Thursday. The Bears are pretty much out of the playoff picture in the NFC while the Vikings need to keep winning to keep pace with the Green Bay Packers for the division lead and at the least a wild card berth.
The Bears have been playing poorly over the last couple of weeks in all three phases of the game. They had chances to win their last two games and they failed to win thanks to special teams gaffes. The Vikings are playing good football on both offense and defense but aren’t doing enough to win some of their games as of late. The Vikings will try to put it all together and play a complete and winnable game against the Bears this Sunday.
These two teams previously met this season as the Vikings got a last minute field goal to beat the Bears 23-20. Chicago played the Vikings tough in that game and just fell short of a win.
This game is also a road game for the Bears and they have played very well on the road this year. Currently their record sits at 4-2 for road games so far this season with two more (including Sunday’s contest) left to play. If this season’s history holds true then the Bears are going to play the Vikings tough this week and could come out a winner in this game. However, the way the Bears have been playing lately, it’s hard to count them in as having a chance to come away from this one with a victory. But then again anything is possible.
The following is a preview of the Bears game against the Vikings this Sunday in Minneapolis. There is some insight into how individual players should perform in this game as well as some of the units. There is a look at some offensive and defensive numbers for both teams and how they stack up against one another. There is a look at how the game might (and should) turn out as well as a final score prediction.
Quarterback Jay Cutler has quietly had a solid season although in the last two games he has slipped a little bit in terms of his mechanics and accuracy. Cutler hasn’t been blessed with being able to play with his top wide receivers for part to most of this season and now he is faced with having another wide receiver out of the lineup this Sunday. Alshon Jeffery showed up on the injury report with a calf injury and then had an illness, which kept him out of practice. He will most likely be a game time decision for the Bears this Sunday. With Marquess Wilson gone, the Bears don’t have much at the wide receiver position if Jeffery is out. It’s going to be key that he plays or the Bears may not move the ball that well through the air.
On a per game basis, the Bears are averaging 236.7 through the air, which is 20th in the NFL. The Vikings are allowing teams to pass for an average of 231.8 yards of passing per game, which is 8th in the league so it’s not too easy to pass the ball against the Vikings. It will make it even harder if Jeffery is out. Yet another reliable receiver was listed on the injury report as well this week and that is tight end Zach Miller. Miller has been battling an illness but should play in this Sunday’s game. The Bears are going to need all their receivers on deck and ready to play in this one.
Chicago should use the run to set up the pass and pass the ball on short to intermediate routes. They haven’t had much success with the long ball in recent games so they may want to stick with something short to intermediate. They may also want to throw the wide receiver screen out of the playbook because teams are expecting that now and are sniffing it out with success. It’s also hoped that Cutler will be more accurate with his passes and get time to throw the ball. That’s up to the offensive line whether or not he gets that time. The Vikings are very good at rushing the passer so the offensive line is going to have to perform well in this game.
When it comes to running the ball, the Bears have Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford to do that. The one two punch has been moderately effective for the Bears since Forte got back from injury and Chicago has even got Ka’Deem Carey in the mix. The Bears are averaging 113.5 yard per game, which is ranked as 15th in the league so they are getting some yards but are in the middle of the pack in terms of where the whole league is. The Vikings defense is allowing teams to rush for an average of 114.4 yards per game, which is 20th, so there should be some room for the Bears to run in this game.
Chicago should really try to establish the run to start the game to give them control of the ball and the clock. Keeping the ball out of the hands of the Vikings offense and allowing the Bears defense time to rest is going to be key in this game. So look for the Bears to run the ball a lot in this game and try to beat the Vikings on the ground.
So running the ball is going to be key and those short to intermediate passes are going to help the Bears move the ball down the field better. The offensive line has to be on top of its game to not only to protect Cutler from being taken down by the Vikings defense but also open up running lanes for Forte and Langford. It’s going to take a solid team effort by everyone on offense to make this game winnable for the Bears. Can they put it all together for the first time in a few games and do well on offense? We will find out.
The Bears defense has been much maligned over the last couple of games after having played pretty well over the course of the season. They have been allowing more touchdowns and longer drives over the course of the last couple of games and will have to prevent that from happening against them this Sunday. One player the Bears are going to have to keep an eye on and try to contain is running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson has ran all over the Bears in the past and he continues to run all over opposing teams this season. He did a decent job against the Bears in the first game this year but wasn’t the deciding factor in that game.
All told, the Vikings are averaging 131.8 yards per game on the ground, which is fifth best in the NFL so the Vikings are running the football effectively. The much maligned Bears rushing defense is allowing teams to rush for an average of 125.7 yards per game which is currently 26th in the league. The Vikings will most likely find room to run against the Bears in this game but Chicago’s defense has been a little better at stopping the run lately. Look for the Bear’s defense to do everything they can to stop Peterson and the Vikings rushing attack in this game and the might be able to limit Peterson if the concentrate hard enough.
One good reason the Bears need to stop the Vikings rushing attack is to not allow them to control the ball and the clock. Chicago’s offense needs as many opportunities to possess the ball as possible in order to score points and win the game so the Bear’s defense is going to have to try to stop the Vikings from possessing the ball a lot and going on long drives. If Chicago can shut them down and not let them have the ball for a long time then they have an excellent chance of winning this game.
When it comes to passing the ball, the Vikings are a team that has some hot and cold moments. In his second season as the Vikings starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater has shown some solid skill while at other times he has shown that he has a lot to learn. Bridgewater stepped up to the challenge against the Bears in their first game this season and may have to rise to the occasion again in order to beat the Bears. Bridgewater has a nice group of receivers and can easily use the run to set up the pass but he has to be on time and on target in this game.
The Vikings are averaging 189.7 yards of passing per game, which is 31st in the NFL. That is not that good. The Bears pass defense, which has been hot and cold this season, is allowing teams to pass for an average of 215.8 yards per game, which is an astounding second in the NFL. The Bears pass defense is pretty good and needs to rise up to the challenge of not allowing Bridgewater to make critical completions down the field extending drives and scoring points for the Vikings (like they did in the first game). If they can shut him down and force the Vikings to be one-dimensional, they could win this game.
The Bears pass rush has been hot and cold all season. They had a very good pass rush in the first half of their game against the Redskins but fell off in the second half and thus Washington had success. If the Bears can get good consistent pass pressure throughout the whole game then they can keep Bridgewater off his mark and limit his completions and big plays down the field. If they cannot get consistent pass pressure then this could be a long day for the Bear’s defense.
Chicago’s secondary has been playing good football as of late but suffers from a breakdown or two it seems (see the overtime loss to the 49ers as a good example of a typical breakdown). Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter have done a good job of keeping opposing receivers at bay and the safety position, although weakened by the loss of Antrel Rolle, has been decent with Adrian Amos back there. As long as the Bears can continue to play well in the secondary, they have an excellent shot of winning this game.
A win for the Bears comes if they can score on offense and keep the Vikings from scoring plain and simple. That’s basic football. Chicago’s offense has to get off to a fast start in this game because the Vikings are sure to run Peterson to make an attempt to control the ball and the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of the Bear’s offense. If Minnesota can also wear down the Bear’s defense, they will have an excellent chance of winning the game. Chicago can’t let that happen.
Running the football, for the Bears, will be a big key on offense. If they can get Forte and Langford going and keep Peterson and Bridgewater off the field for extended periods of time then they have an excellent chance of winning. If they can’t keep Peterson and their defense off the field then it’s going to be a long losing day for Chicago. Consistency in all three phases of the game is going to be important for the Bears if they want to win this game.
While the Bears have done well on the road this season they have recently began playing worse and are starting to show decline in their ability to win games. After their big win on Thanksgiving night against the Packers, the Bears have lost two straight thanks to special teams gaffes and aren’t playing well right now. These problems will most likely continue in this game and although it may be a close one, as most of the Bear’s games are, they are probably going to lose this one and head to 5-9.
Score Prediction: Minnesota 24 Chicago 17