Week 16 Preview: Vikings (11-3) at Bears (5-9)

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The Lovie Smith era gets closer to an end, and the Brad Childress and Brett Favre show visit Soldier Field on Monday night, as the Vikings try to clinch the division. It really should be criminal for the Bears to be on prime time television once again this year. I think the American public has been forced to watch enough of them by now. The destruction will begin at 7:30 CT on ESPN. A loss next week to the Lions in Detroit should bring the axe to a swing.

Week 15 Recap

The Vikings played perhaps their worst game of the season in Carolina last Sunday night... getting eaten by the Panthers 26-7. Brett Favre continues to play poor in December, as he's now had QB ratings of below 80 in each of his last 3 games (79.4, 73.2, 73.9) But, Jay Cutler still has him beat with that 7.9... take that Brett! The Vikings have dropped two of their 3 games this month, and tension is building between Childress and Favre. The Bears are a great cure for that. 

The Bears did exactly what we thought they'd do... get flat out embarrassed in Baltimore. The highlight of a 31-7 loss: a 19 play drive, that took 9:15 and moved 73 yards, before turning the ball over on downs at the Baltimore 1 yard line. I don't know what's more comical? A. That it took the Bears 19 friggin plays to go 73 yards, B. That they didn't even score, or C. That Earl Bennett scored a TD by himself 4 plays later on a punt return that took all of 5 or 6 seconds. Prior to Bennett's TD return, the Bears had a 17:10 to 7:05 advantage in time of possession and were down 14-0. Pathetic. But... not nearly as pathetic as Jay Cutler's 7.9 QB rating. 

Quick Numbers:

  • 7.9: Do I need to explain the significance of this number?  
  • 30: Million dollars left on the two-year contract extension signed with Mr. 7.9 this past October   
  • 2: More games of horrendous Chicago Bears football left in the Lovie Smith era
  • 0: Games active for 3rd round pick WR Juaquin Iglesias... on a team with zero professional WRs

Key Injuries:

CHI Bear fans nation wide (severe vomiting) O
CHI LB Lance Briggs (back) Q
CHI WR Devin Hester (calf) Q
CHI DE Adewale Ogunleye (broken leg) O
CHI S Kevin Payne (ankle) O
CHI S Al Afalava (knee) Q

MIN CB Antoine Winfield (foot) P
MIN WR Percy Harvin (neck)

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When the Vikings have the ball.
QB Brett Favre, RB Adrian Peterson, RB Chester Taylor, WR Sidney Rice, WR Bernard Berrian, WR/KR Percy Harvin, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, RG Anthony Herrera and RT Phil Loadholt. Folks... that's what a professional offense looks like. Enjoy watching it, because you're not gonna see anything like it in Chicago anytime soon. The Vikings average 28.3 points per game... the Bears average 18.1. 

The key match-up for the Vikings: LG Steve Hutchinson vs the second level of the Bears defense
I think I may have highlighted this as the key matchup last time... and for good reason. Hutchinson is one of the best run blocking guards in the NFL. There's a reason why Seattle hasn't been able to run the ball effectively since his departure. Hutchinson handles his opponent at the point of attack, and gets to the second level, where big holes open for big, big runs. The Bears LBs will have to free themselves from Hutchinson in order to eliminate huge runs from Adrian Peterson.

The X factor on offense for the Vikings: TE Visanthe Shiancoe
The Bears have always had trouble defending TEs, since the routes point toward the seams in the Cover 2. However, this year has been worse without the coverage skills of #54. Todd Heap burned the Bears for two easy red zone scores last week. Shiancoe should see the same opportunities. 

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When the Bears have the ball.
They can't be any worse than they were last week? Right? Please tell me I'm right. At this point, there's so much tension between players and coaches, that you can't honestly expect a positive performance from this unit as a whole. Devin Hester is disgruntled and calling for coaching changes. Jay Cutler is saying nothing, because he has nothing nice to say... he's just letting the 7.9 do the talking. And, Matt Forte doesn't want to hear Brian Urlacher's criticism anymore. But, at least this offense leads the league in something: 26 INTs... tops in the NFL!

The key match-up for the Bears: LT Chris Williams vs DE Jared Allen
Allen leads the NFC with 13.5 sacks... and he's got the inexperienced Chris Williams on his radar. If Williams holds his ground, it'll be either a miracle, or a sign that he's got a good career ahead of him. I'm predicting he'll get torched, especially if Ron Turner continues to call ill-advised formations and not give Williams enough help.

The X Factor for the Bears: Finger pointing 
Who's fault is it? Me or you? Jay or Ron? Lovie or his safeties? Rod or his lineman? There's a lot of conflict here... if the Bears can put that aside and try to win a football game, you'll see a better effort.

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Side notes from the NFC North:

Ugh... what's to report really? The Bears stink, Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the division, Matthew Stafford is hurt again (a trend that could be significant), and the Vikings have already clinched a playoff spot, and trying to do the same in the division Monday night. The only story is the Favre-Childress fight. And, honestly... who cares?

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