The Minnesota Vikings have had some road division demons for a long time. In fact before they defeated the Lions in Detroit this past Sunday they were 1-14-1 on the road in the division.
The Vikings are undefeated at home this season but being 1-2 on the road is hardly going to help any playoff chances they may have. By shaking those road issues they may be poised to sneak into the Wild Card race come the end of the season.
Chicago, on the other hand, will want to put a stop to that if they want to get into the Wild Card mix as well. Laugh if you will, I'm not saying the Bears are playoff caliber yet, but the team surely wants to be thinking about the playoffs and it would be more entertaining as a fan and viewer. If the Bears do beat the Vikings they will suddenly be in the mix for second place in the NFC North.
While the Vikings have some road issues, the Bears haven't exactly been unbeatable at Soldier Field. The team is 13-14 at home since 2012 and just 3-8 since the beginning of last season. Good teams go 7-1 or 8-0 at home. Green Bay hasn't lost at home since Week 16 of the 2013 season to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The New England Patriots have been 7-1, 8-0 and 6-2 the last three seasons at home. The Seahawks have been 7-1 the past two seasons at home and despite being 3-4 this year they are still 2-1 at home.
Obviously winning at home is important. If a team gets six wins at home they just need to be .500 on the road for a 10-6 record, which most of the time gets them into the playoffs.
The Bears need to start being better at home and there is no better time to start than on Sunday.
Which players need to shot up big for the team to do that?
Jay Cutler, QB - Of course it starts with their quarterback. Cutler can actually make Bears history Sunday as he is just two touchdown passes away from passing the legendary Sid Luckman (137) for most all-time and he needs just 44 yards passing to become the first Bears quarterback ever with 20,000 passing yards for the team. Cutler has played well against the Vikings; his eight wins is the most over any team he's faced, he has the most TD passes of any opponent he's played (23) and he has the fourth-highest QB rating (91.5) of any team he's played at least four times. Those trends need to continue against a defense that is tied for second-fewest in points allowed per game, giving up just 17.
Eddie Goldman, DT - The Bears have the 26th ranked rushing defense, allowing 124.8 yards per game but have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns this year with just two, tying them with the Steelers and Jets. The Vikings come in with the sixth-best running attack (128.3 YPG, six TDs) so something has to give. Goldman needs to develop very quickly now that Jeremiah Ratliff is gone. Goldman will be the main space-occupier tasked with plugging holes up the middle that Adrian Peterson will be trying to exploit. Goldman needs to do that and occupy blockers so that Sam Acho, Pernell McPhee, Christian Jones and the other linebackers can wrap him up and bring him down. This should be a big test for the rookie.
Alshon Jeffery, WR - The Vikings' defense ranks 11th versus the pass and 14th against the rush but are seventh overall in yards allowed and, as I mentioned before, second in points allowed, proving that it can be better to be above-average at everything than great at one and poor at the other. With that said, the Vikings offense outside of AP isn't very intimidating, even to a defense that is still finding its way like Chicago's. To me then, this game will be more about the offense making plays and the defense getting stops than it is about one side carrying the other side. Jeffery has to pick up where he left off in Detroit two weeks ago (eight catches, 147 yards, TD). He has to stretch the Vikings' secondary a bit and get downfield and make the big plays. If he and Cutler can connect on some big pass plays it will open things up for Matt Forte and run game and take pressure off the defense.
Honorable mentions: Kyle Fuller against Stefan Diggs, Adrian Amos against Diggs and Mike Wallace, C. Jones, Forte, Jarvis Jenkins
Which players do you believe are key to a Bears win?