I've determined there's really only one good thing about losing on Monday night - it's that there's a short week until the next game. Well, good for us, bad for the team. I'm sure they'd rather have the extra preparation day. Either way, the Bears get to put possibly the toughest stretch of the season behind them as they look towards the 1-4 Minnesota Vikings. Follow me past the jump and let's examine the men in purple...
What'd They Do Last Year: 6-10, finished tied for third in the NFC North with the Detroit Lions.
So Far This Year: The Vikings are fresh off their first win of the season, taking out the Arizona Cardinals 34-10. They currently sit at 1-4, last in the NFC North.
When Last We Met: The Bears swept the season series last year, winning the first matchup on November 14 27-13, and the second in memorable fashion - Corey Wootton sacked Brett Favre for the final time and Devin Hester set the combined kick/punt return record as the Bears stomped Minnesota on a literally frozen tundra, 40-14.
Brett Favre no more. Instead, the Vikings' offense is made of a series of new parts between veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb, wide receiver Michael Jenkins, and draft pick Kyle Rudolph. Not surprisingly, the Vikings boast the 31st rated passing offense (on the 31st fewest attempts). Instead, the bulk of the offense runs through Adrian Peterson, who has 110 of the team's 149 carries. In fact, the team's second leading rusher is... Percy Harvin with 13 carries. While he's a receiver, the Vikings love to line him up all over, including in the backfield.
The common trend in Minnesota's losses this year has been a failure of second half offense. While able to leap out to large leads, combinations of failing to execute plays and lack of running the ball contributed to huge second half collapses of 10 points against San Diego, 17 against Tampa Bay and 20 against Detroit.
The Vikings actually boast a fairly strong defense, especially against the run. It's a 4-3 scheme that calls on the linebackers to make stops in the run game, similar to the Bears. Chad Greenway leads the team with 27 tackles and 6 assisted. The Vikings also have the ability to rush the passer with great effectiveness. Jared Allen to this point has 8.5 sacks and fellow bookend Brian Robison has taken over for Ray Edwards quite handily, posting 4.5 sacks so far.
The secondary here is a weak link, but it's a little deceptive. The Vikings have the 25th ranked passing defense, but have faced the second most attempts, and still only have the 15th ranked net-yards-per-attempt (6.2). What that tells me is lots of short chances, but also that the play can be kept in front of them.
If the Bears do this...
Let's see. Run the ball into a 3.3 YPC rush defense, or take a chance to challenge the secondary and risk Jared Allen dancing on Cutler. I'd prefer Cutler to do more of those rollouts and sliding out of the pocket - I mean, everyone seems to know it's his strength except Mike Martz. If Cutler's allowed to get away from the pressure and not be used as a pinata, in a game where I think the Bears will have to pass more, those clearer sight lines should allow the Bears' offense to score repeatedly.
If the Vikings do this...
Let's be honest, the gameplan will have to be to stop Adrian Peterson, who has just shy of 500 rushing yards already. To do that, Briggs, Urlacher, and Anthony Adams will all have to play much better than they did on Monday. How that's done with a line that hasn't been able to get the upper hand the latter 80% of the season, well... Not sure.
This is a game the Bears should win, but Minnesota's problem has been the second half, and for at least one game, they solved that problem. It's still a team that can put some points on the board.