Otto Greule Jr
With the bad taste of the loss at San Francisco still in our mouths, we turn our attention to the Minnesota Vikings with our weekly preview.
Last Year: Last year's Vikings kind of flew off the rails in the wrong direction, allowing the second most points in the NFL and losing Adrian Peterson to an ACL injury en route to a 3-13 record, which turned into the third overall pick and Matt Kalil, the franchise's new left tackle.
This Year: Currently, they sit at 6-4, though they started the season 4-1 behind some consistent offense and very solid defense, including among their wins the 49ers in week 3 and the Lions in weeks 4 and 10. They're coming in off their bye week and sit at third in the NFC North, but only a game behind the Bears.
When Last We Met: New Years Day - fortunately, with these divisional games we don't have to go too far back. The Bears beat the Vikings 17-13 while trying to usher Jared Allen into the single season sack record books. Josh McCown took the reins of the Bears' passing game and threw for 160 yards, a touchdown and an interception; Joe Webb came in after Christian Ponder suffered an injury and threw for 200 yards and two picks.
Total Points: 14th
Total Yardage: 20th
Passing Yardage: 30th
Rushing Yardage: 3rd
Injury? What injury? Adrian Peterson doesn't care about returning in 2012 from no stinkin' injury, as he's putting up an outstanding season. His 5.8 yards per carry and 112.8 yards per game are the best they've ever been in his career (if they hold up) and he's doing it with the same number of attempts per game. This just in: He's good. Percy Harvin's also pretty damn good himself and, even with Christian Ponder struggling lately, at 6.9 receptions per game, he'll set a new career high for receptions and yards. Harvin's a guy that lines up all over the field (which could be a factor in his career-low 10.9 yards per reception) and gets mismatches on his speed and size.
Speaking of Christian Ponder, he's really been a mixed bag as of late. He started off the season really well, with three straight games above a 94 quarterback rating, but three of his last four have been below 80 (35.5 vs Arizona, 74.8 against Tampa Bay, and 37.3 against Seattle). However, in his last game he completed 75% of his passes for 221 yards, 2 touchdowns and a 114.2 quarterback rating. Also of note is a tendency to run a little more, as in his last three games he has 15 rushing attempts combined, bringing his total on the year to 35.
And if you want something funny to laugh at, Ponder has one reception on the year for -15 yards.
The only other real weapon of note is Kyle Rudolph, who had six of the team's 12 receiving touchdowns and 34 receptions, second on the team.
Total Points Allowed: 13th
Total Yardage Allowed: 13th
Passing Yardage: 16th
Rushing Yardage: 14th
The two names that come most to mind with the Vikings defense are Jared Allen and Brian Robison, who combine for 12 of the team's 26 sacks. But they get some contributions from other players, such as Chad Greenway's 2 sacks and team-leading 55 tackles and 43 assisted. That said, they don't take the ball away (5 interceptions) but they're pretty good at swatting passes away instead - Harrison Smith, the rookie safety has 8 deflections and Robison has 7 to go with his five sacks. Smith also returned his one interception for a touchdown.
If the Bears do this...: So I'll go back and paraphrase myself from last year's Chiefs debacle. Hey Bears, remember what you did on Monday night? Do the opposite of that. Seriously. Allen and Robison have to be licking their chops to get after J'Marcus Webb and Johathan Scott, so please please please give them some chipping/tight end help. Aside from that, Devin Hester's got five receiving touchdowns against the Vikings, so get the ball in his hands deep. And in two career games against Minnesota, Brandon Marshall has gotten 13.21 yards per reception with seven receptions per game and one touchdown. ... Back in 2007. From Jay Cutler.
Defensively, run penetration and disrupting the pocket will be imperative - the defensive line needs to have a bounceback effort. The problem is the Vikings' line hasn't been bad this year - does the defensive line get back to where they were or does facing another good offensive line (3rd in a row) stall the Bears' defense?
If the Vikings do this...: If Allen and Robison continually wear Jay Cutler or Jason Campbell like a funny hat, well, um, this one could get ugly. Aside from that, Peterson last broke 100 yards against the Bears in 2008 - since then he's gone 85, 94, 51 and 39 yards with four touchdowns. Basically, if they protect Ponder and get the ball to Peterson and Harvin early and often, their offense will move.