So we've had our first UYA of the year before having our second divisional PTMY. This seems like an odd scheduling quirk, but it does have the potential to be in the Bears' favor - if they have an opportunity to climb back into the division race, four remaining games against the Vikings and Lions hold the potential to make the Bears competitive. As long as the Bears cooperate, of course. Though given the tire fire the last four weeks have been...
Anyway, let's give the PTMY treatment to the Minnesota Vikings.
Last Year: Finished 5-10-1, good for last place in the NFC North. Their first round pick in this year's draft? Teddy Bridgewater.
This Year: So far, they're 4-5 through the first nine games of the year and just coming off their bye week. They're currently in third place in the NFC North, ahead of... the Bears. Yup.
When Last We Met: Week 13 of 2013 saw Josh McCown at the helm for the Bears, and he had a strong game, throwing for 355 yards and two touchdowns; Alshon Jeffery caught both of those touchdowns as well as ten other balls for 249 yards. It wasn't enough, though, as Cordarelle Patterson ran for a touchdown, Greg Jennings caught another, and Blair Walsh kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime as the Vikings beat the Bears that week, 23-20.
|Total Yardage||2.848 (27th)||2,937 (9th)|
|Total Points||168 (26th)||199 (14th)|
|Passing Yardage||1,774 (29th)||1,922 (4th)|
|Rushing Yardage||1,074 (10th)||1,015 (16th)|
Offense: So, how do you feel about Christian Ponder? Maybe Matt Cassel? The Vikings apparently decided they couldn't go with either option any longer, and Bridgewater now controls the reins of the Vikings' offense. Which is a good thing for them because he can play a little bit, and they trust him enough to give him over thirty pass attempts per game.
They've had to; with Adrian Peterson still effectively under indefinite suspension, the Vikings haven't had a consistent running game. Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata have been splitting the load since Peterson's removal, and McKinnon's been the more productive back of the duo, with a longest run of 55 yards and 5.0 yards per attempt. Bridgewater contributes a bit to the running game himself, with nineteen atempts on the year, as well as a rushing touchdown of his own.
Elsewhere, the Vikings' receiving corps isn't a bad unit - Cordarelle Patterson and Jarius Wright play a second and third fiddle behind Greg Jennings, and all three have just over a thousand yards combined, especially without the services of Kyle Rudolph, who's been out the last seven games with a groin injury.
Couple that with an offensive line allowing a sack percentage of 8.8% combined across all three quarterbacks and 30 sacks in total, and you wonder a bit how this offense gets much done. Then again, the Vikings haven't turned the ball over in two games, both wins against the Buccaneers and Redskins, and Bridgewater has thrown for 487 yards in those games.
Defense: The other part of the equation is a defense that's sacked opposing quarterbacks 30 times, led by Everson Griffen's nine and Tom Johnson's five and a half. All told, six players on the Vikings have at least 2.5 sacks, including former first round picks Anthony Barr and Sharrif Floyd. (Guess that means they could afford to let Jared Allen go after all.) Then there's also three defensive players having at least two interceptions, including Harrison Smith's three interceptions, one for a touchdown.
The defense is the statistical strong suit of the Vikings, especially against the pass, and strong-side linebacker Barr leads the team in tackles with 47 to go with his four sacks. They also haven't allowed more than 26 points in the last four games (the prior three, they hadn't allowed the Lions, Bills or Buccaneers to breach 17).
If the Bears do this: They can't go into a halftime only scoring seven points, or fewer. That being said, getting Matt Forte going outside the tackles could start the offense well enough that they'd be able to make plays to their big receivers. The Vikings aren't the offensive juggernaught the Packers or Patriots are, so the game shouldn't get too out of hand too early. Patience on all parties will be key - that, and the defense actually being within seven yards of a receiver. In short, my standby - Everything you've done the last few weeks? The opposite of that.
If the Vikings do this: The Vikings' pass rush is the main problem as far as the Bears are concerned, especially as the team has allowed 16 in the last five games. That, to go with the Bears' first half woes, could spell trouble if the Vikings start to get ahead.
Closing Thoughts: The Bears can't let another one get out of hand, especially against the Vikings.