Daniel House gets you ready for an NFC North showdown with the Bears, which poses many advantages towards the Vikings. How does this team get the victory and avoid a tie this week? Daniel House provides his keys to victory and more in his latest preview post.
Coming off a tie and more off-the-field trouble, it has been a very negative week in Minnesota and the Vikings don't have much time to dwell upon their mistakes. The Bears come to town for an NFC North collision and will be led by the infamous Josh McCown, who has a history against the Vikings. In his first career start with the Arizona Cardinals in December of 2003, the Vikings faced a win-and-in situation and McCown eliminated the team on the final play of the game. He found Nathan Poole in the back corner of the end zone and torched cornerback Denard Walker, as the Vikings were dramatically removed from playoff contention. The Vikings are looking for redemption after a 31-30 week two loss, as Martellus Bennett hauled in a 16-yard pass, on the final play of the game earlier this season. The Bears have quite a bit at stake in tomorrow's game and with a loss, they would essentially put a major damper on their playoff chances. After losing the season series to the Lions, the Bears close the season at home with two challenging opponents in Green Bay and Dallas and travel to Cleveland and a surging Philadelphia Eagles team. A win is a priority for the Bears, which provides the Vikings with an incentive larger than draft pick positioning, which has been the normal storyline for the ending of the 2013 season. Josh McCown has helped alleviate any concern in Jay Cutler's absence, but the issues have stretched over the majority of the Bears defense instead. Chicago has the NFL's worst rushing defense and faces a difficult challenge as the try to corral Adrian Peterson. How do the Vikings compete in an NFC North matchup with the Bears?
Television: FOX (Channel 9 in Minneapolis)
Play-by-Play: Thom Brennaman Analyst: Brian Billick
Sideline Reporter: Laura Okmin
KFAN-FM 100.3/KTCN-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline Reporter: Greg Coleman
Pre-Game Show: Mike Mussman -10:00 a.m. CT
The Vikings and Bears have played 105 times overall with Minnesota holding a 53-50-2 series record. The last time the Vikings and Bears met was in Week 2 of the 2013 season at Chicago, a 31-30 Bears victory. This will be the sixth regular season meeting between Minnesota and Chicago since Leslie Frazier became head coach of the Vikings. The Vikings and Bears have played four overtime games in series history, with Minnesota holding a 3-1 advantage in those games. The Vikings are currently 32-21 when hosting the Bears. The Vikings won the last meeting at Mall of America Field 21-14 on 12/9/12.
The Primary Focus:
The Vikings offense saw its fair share of opportunities last week and the key movement on the side of the ball, was on the ground, as Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart combined for a total of 232 yards against the Packers last week. This bodes well for the Vikings in week thirteen, as they face the Chicago Bears, who currently hold the NFL's worst rushing defense (142.5 yards per game). The Bears allowed at least 40 points on three occasions for the first time since 1964 and gave up 282 rushing yards to the Rams last week. They made Rams running back Benny Cunningham, a special teams ace, look like a perennial franchise running back in their last contest. This is a scary thought considering the 2012 MVP, is in the backfield for the Vikings this week. In 11 career games against the Bears, Peterson averages 107.7 rushing yards per game, the most of any player all-time against Chicago. In those 11 games, Peterson has rushed for over 120 yards four times, along with a 224-yard effort in his rookie season.The Bears media market suggested this week, that Adrian Peterson could rush for the NFL single game rushing record in this matchup, especially considering the injuries that have plagued the Chicago defense. As for the Vikings quarterback carousel, Christian Ponder tallied one of his best performances of the season and completed 21 of 30 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. Leslie Frazier announced Ponder will get the start this week and and he stressed consistency in the his local meeting with the Twin Cities media.
"The consistent play is what we're always looking for," Frazier said. "He had a good game, (now) put together another good game. There's no second-guessing about playing him. He earned it the way he played."
As we have stated over the course of this season, consistency has been the main issue with Christian Ponder and given we see a different style of play each week, it is tough to get a grasp about the future with the high Florida State draft product. Rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson saw his first extended role as a Minnesota Viking and hauled in eight receptions on a season-high eleven targets last week against Green Bay. He could be an impact player for the Vikings tomorrow and given the lanes will be open for Adrian Peterson, the Vikings will be able to heavily utilize play-action passing, which bodes well for the rookie wideout. Minnesota will look to control the ball and keep it on the ground, while stretching the field when the defense over pursues the rush; which could be a frequent occurrence against a struggling Bears team.
On the Defensive:
The Vikings defense allowed the Packers to score 16 unanswered points last week, as the Packers dismounted a 23-7 deficit in the 4th quarter. Again the Vikings defense collapsed, which is something the coaching staff and fans have become familiar with. Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes played well last week and the Vikings secondary will need to handle the Bears dynamic wide receiving duo. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have combined for 1,805 yards this season, the most of any wide receiving tandem in the league, which has benefited Josh McCown's smooth transition as a starter. The Vikings defense has failed to create turnovers and have accumulated a sixth-worst 14 takeaways this season. This has been disastrous for this team and has put a huge strain on the group on third down and long situations. The pass rush has improved over the past few weeks and Brian Robison has been at the head of the improved Vikings pass rush. The Bears are statistically amazing against the pass rush and have awarded a second-best 17 sacks to opposing defensive lines this season. The Vikings defense will need to win man-on-man with the Bears receivers, which could be a bad pumpkin pie recipe on Thanksgiving week. This defense has allowed a league-worst 31.5 points per game, which means a Bears offense that is averaging a fourth best 27.4 points per game could have a relatively great game this week. This matchup could be very high scoring and of the shootout variety, which means if the Vikings control the ball on the ground and keep the ball out of the Bears' hands, a win could become a reality in week thirteen.
Special Teams Primer:
Cordarrelle Patterson, who leads the league with two kick return touchdowns, returned the opening kick of the Bears and Vikings week two matchup for 105 yards and his first career touchdown, which shined a light on Chicago's weaknesses as a coverage unit. Chicago has allowed a fourteenth worst 672 yards to opposing kick returners, which means Patterson could have another explosive outing against an NFC North rival. Tomorrow the Vikings on the other hand, need to improve their coverage team, which has allowed a fourth worst 787 yards and a touchdown to opposing kick returners. Devin Hester is in town and has been a thorn in the side of the Vikings since his arrival in the league. The Vikings can't warrant touchdowns off special teams and foolish turnovers, or the Bears will be in the drivers seat tomorrow.
Injury Report (via NFL.com):
|Name||Position||Injury||Practice Status||Game Status|
|Derrick Martin||CB||Hamstring||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|Stephen Paea||DT||Toe||Full Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|Lance Briggs||LB||Shoulder||Out (Definitely Will Not Play)||Out|
|Anthony Walters||S||Groin||Out (Definitely Will Not Play)||Out|
|Major Wright||S||Hamstring||Limited Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|Matt Forte||RB||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Robbie Gould||K||Illness||Did Not Participate In Practice||Probable|
|Jay Cutler||QB||Ankle||Out (Definitely Will Not Play)||Out|
|Brandon Marshall||WR||Quadricep||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Jay Ratliff||DT||Groin||Full Participation in Practice||Questionable|
|Kyle Rudolph||TE||Foot||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Josh Robinson||CB||Chest||Did Not Participate In Practice||Out|
|Chad Greenway||LB||Wrist||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Fred Evans||DT||Knee||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Matt Asiata||RB||Shoulder||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Xavier Rhodes||CB||Concussion||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Kevin Williams||DT||Quadricep||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Brian Robison||DE||Illness||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Adrian Peterson||RB||Groin||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Andrew Sendejo||S||Foot||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
|Joe Webb||WR||Concussion||Full Participation in Practice||Probable|
For the Bears, Jay Cutler is out, while Forte is questionable. Chicago’s battered and bruised defense will be missing linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive back Charles Tillman, two of the best at their positions.
As for the Vikings, they are still a few weeks away from getting Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith back to work, while Joe Webb and Xavier Rhodes passed concussion protocol needed to play this week. Those four, along with Josh Robinson and Peterson did not participate in practice Wednesday, but are expected to play on Sunday.
Final Keys to Victory:
The Vikings offense needs to feed Adrian Peterson, control the clock, use the run game to open up play-action passing and the number one key will be to stop the dynamic duo of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. If all of these keys can be executed, the Vikings can put the Bears in a difficult position as they look to enter playoff contention.