1) Everson Griffen and the Vikings' Pass Rush
As Lester pointed out this week, the Bears' pass protection is on their worst pace in the last three years in sacks allowed. And Everson Griffen, Tom Johnson, Anthony Barr and the rest of the Vikings' pass rush is having a generally great year. And Jay Cutler has had a really rough time when he gets early happy feet in the pocket. And oh yeah, the Bears' offense has been nothing short of miserable when it's mattered and slightly above miserable when it hasn't. Not sure how much the offense can get done against a decent pass defense, but step one has to be protecting the quarterback.
2) Jay Cutler (And every other facet of the Bears offense)
There hasn't been any disguising of this at all. Jay Cutler needs to play better. Protection can help, and if the Bears can keep their quarterback upright, he can make plays. He's also committed his fair share of turnovers, plenty on sack-fumbles, as well as interceptions, of which safety Harrison Smith has three this year. What exactly is there to say here? He needs to protect the ball better and make better plays, and we know he's been capable of it, but you don't feel comfortable projecting he'll do that in a given game. Other players do need to step up; but it does begin with Cutler.
That includes Cutler, it includes Marc Trestman's play calling, it includes Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery's play, it includes the return of Marquess Wilson, it includes Martellus Bennett, it includes the offensive line... Personally, I would love to see even some slants across the middle. There's been zero offensive creativity and zero offensive execution, and it makes for a very stagnant offense.
3) Teddy Bridgewater
The Vikings have made it clear it's Teddy Bridgewater's show going forward, and with the absence of Adrian Peterson, he's been a large portion of the Vikings' offense. Then again, it's not the most difficult thing to outperform Christian Ponder, and Matt Cassel's hit injured reserve - but Bridgewater's still been their most productive quarterback. That being said, in six starts, he's thrown five interceptions to three touchdowns and a passer rating below 80, but the offense has also put up more consistent points lately (at least 16 points in each of the last three games, including the last two wins). Bridgewater can play a bit and can use his feet to gain a little yardage, which has hurt the Bears a little. Keep him in the pocket and turn him into a pocket passer.
4) Cordarelle Patterson
The biggest play Patterson's made against the Bears in his brief career is a 25-yard touchdown run on a reverse last season; the Bears held him pretty quiet otherwise in his rookie year. This year, he's playing a bit more like the Percy Harvin Lite he can be, with 110 yards on the ground to go with his just over 300 yards receiving. They can be creative with how they use him, and that's dangerous.
5) Greg Jennings
Jennings may be a veteran, but he can still play, and he's been a reliable part of the Vikings' offense. His stats haven't been mindblowing, but he does lead the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards, and has been a reliable receiver for the young Bridgewater.
6) Jerick McKinnon
McKinnon and Matt Asiata have been the main backs since Adrian Peterson was deactivated, and while they aren't Peterson, they've been more than serviceable. McKinnon's more of the big play threat, while Asiata is more of a pounder up the middle. They split carries pretty much evenly, yet McKinnon's got almost twice as much yardage on the year.
Basically, the trend in the keys for this week is for the defense to hold down what's largely been a lackluster offense, and hope the offense can eventually piece together enough good plays to maybe put some points on the board. The good news is the defense isn't facing the Packers or Patriots, so, just maybe, it can be done. And it stinks that we can't count on what's supposed to be the money side of the ball to do what they're supposed to do.
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