Leslie Frazier (Andy King/Getty)
If the Vikings are to make the playoffs, they will have to start beating the top teams in the division, meaning their losing streaks against Chicago and Green Bay need to end.
Earlier this season, the Vikings exorcised one of the ghosts that had haunted the franchise in recent history. The Vikings hadn’t won a division game since September 2010, losing 11 straight games against the Lions, Packers and Bears. The Vikings snapped that streak against the Lions in September and punctuated that by sweeping the Lions before they went on their bye week.
One losing streak down. Now the Vikings are looking to add another to the list.
When the Vikings face the Bears Sunday at Soldier Field, they will be looking to snap a five-game losing streak against Chicago. Leslie Frazier has never beaten the Bears as a head coach, posting an 0-3 record and the last time the Vikings beat the Bears, Brett Favre was their starting quarterback.
Soldier Field has been the Vikings’ personal house of horrors. The Vikings haven’t beaten the Bears on their home turf since 2007 and, even when the Bears offense was pedestrian at best, they found ways to put up big points, posting wins of 48-41 in 2008 and 36-30 in overtime in 2009. But, perhaps last year was the most humbling defeat of all. The Vikings fell behind Chicago 26-3 at halftime on their way to a 39-10 beatdown at the hands of the Bears in which Devin Hester scored on a 98-yard kickoff return and caught a 48-yard touchdown pass. In their rematch at the Metrodome, the song remained the same – the Bears intercepted the Vikings three times, including a pick-six by Charles Tillman in a 17-13 Chicago win.
The Bears have owned the Vikings over the last three years, beating them at Soldier Field, the Metrodome and even TCF Bank Stadium. If the Vikings are to be a playoff team, they have to snap that streak. The Bears were exposed on Monday night by the 49ers and the layout of the preparation week clearly benefits the Vikings. In a week where the Thanksgiving holiday cuts into the practice schedule somewhat, the Vikings come into Sunday’s game rested and ready to go, while the Bears had to fly back to Chicago late Monday night and have a short week of preparation for Sunday.
If the Vikings are to be a playoff team, they have to end the losing streak against teams like the Bears and Packers and win games on the road. They can accomplish both of those two things (at least as it pertains to Chicago) on Sunday. If nothing else, it appears that the league has set the Vikings up to succeed by getting extra rest heading into the matchup. The big question now whether or not the Vikings take advantage of it.
The Bears have a much better passing game this year with the addition of Brandon Marshall, but, in terms of yardage, it hasn’t translated into making the Bears an elite passing offense. Between Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell, Chicago has thrown for 2,015 yards – 12 yards fewer than Christian Ponder.
Speaking on his weekly radio show in Chicago Tuesday, Cutler said he is feeling better and expects to play Sunday, but, as of now, hasn’t passed all of the post-concussion testing protocol needed to get back on the field.
In eight career games against the Bears, Adrian Peterson has rushed 168 times for 823 yards and 12 touchdowns – the most rushing TDs A.P. has against any team.
Sunday will be the 19th time Kevin Williams has faced Chicago in his career.
With the injury to Rob Gronkowski, the main beneficiary for the New England Patriots might be former Viking Visanthe Shiancoe. Shank has spent most of the 2012 season inactive and buried deep on the Patriots depth chart, but, given his blocking and receiving ability, he would appear to be in position to pick up some of the Gronk slack – starting Thursday night against the Jets.
Apparently the drawing power of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys is too much to get the NFL to get a 5-5 and 3-7 team off the prime-time schedule. The NFL announced Tuesday that the league won’t use the flex schedule to get rid of the Sunday night game. They could have flexed in the Vikings-Packers or Seahawks-Bears or Steelers-Ravens – all matchups of potential playoff teams. Instead, the league is sticking with America’s Team and America’s Nightmare.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.