|IR/PUP/NFI||S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); WR Airese Currie (NFI-foot); FB Jason McKie (NFI-pectoral); FB Bryan Johnson (PUP-foot); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee); LB Joe Odom (IR-ankle).||C Matt Birk (IR-shoulder); S Dustin Fox (IR-arm); S Willie Offord (IR-knee); WR Aaron Hosack (NFI-); DE Kenechi Udeze (knee).|
|Out||QB Rex Grossman (ankle).||WR Nate Burleson (knee); CB Brian Williams (knee).|
|Doubtful||None.||DT Spencer Johnson (knee).|
|Questionable||OG Ruben Brown (pectoral); OT John Tait (ankle); RB Thomas Jones (knee).||RB Moe Williams (knee).|
|Probable||DT Tommie Harris (foot); Nathan Vasher (knee); TE Desmond Clark (ill).||DE Lance Johnstone (shoulder).|
Rookie Kyle Orton makes his fifth start at quarterback for the Bears. Orton was thrust into the starting role when Rex Grossman (ankle) was injured late in the preseason and Chad Hutchinson was released. It has been a season of ups and downs for the rookie. This should be a golden opportunity for him to show progress as he faces a Vikings defense that is allowing 378 yards per game. Running back Thomas Jones twisted his knee against the Browns while having a big game. If he is limited or cannot play, look for rookie Cedric Benson to see increased action, as well as Adrian Peterson. Peterson is likely to be the third down back if Benson starts.
Left guard Ruben Brown partially tore a pectoral muscle last week. Roberto Garza replaced him and blocked well in the running game, but struggled in his first series, allowing a sack and committing a penalty that backed the Bears out of the red zone. Garza was better in run blocking than pass protection, and he'll face a hungry Kevin Williams, who has yet to record a sack this year after posting 23 in the previous two seasons. Left tackle John Tait hurt his ankle late in last week's game. John St. Clair is likely to see action if Tait cannot play. Steve Edwards was added back to the roster in case Brown is gone for an extended period of time. Place kicker Doug Brien (back spasms) was released after missing 3 of 4 field goal attempts. Rob Gould has replaced him. Gould has a stronger leg but his accuracy is a question. Brien was brought in to challenge and ultimately replace Paul Edinger, who the Bears let go. Edinger is now a Viking, and has converted on 7 of 8 field goal attempts. The Vikings lost defensive end Kenechi Udeze for the season and Spencer Johnson is questionable. Lance Johnstone and rookie Erasmus James will see additional action on passing downs.
The Bears will continue to run the ball, exploiting the league's last ranked rushing defense. Additionally, if the left side of their line is hurt, they'll want to minimize the long down and distance situations they present to Kyle Orton. Expect the Vikings to sell out to stop the run, including run blitzes. They are expected to start Keith Newman at strong side linebacker in place of Napoleon Harris.
Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye has been nursing a sore ankle since before the bye week. He'll be working against Mike Rosenthal. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris registered his first sack last week. He was able to heal some bumps and bruises during the bye and get closer to the form many expected of him. However, he was a late addition to the injury report on Thursday, but is expected to go. Rookie Marcus Johnson will draw that tough matchup.
Cory Withrow starts at center for Minnesota, since Matt Birk is out for the season. He faces Ian Scott, one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL. Scott is the Bears' leader in tackles for loss (5.5). The absence of Birk, along with the departure of Randy Moss and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan has been a big reason why the Vikings are only averaging 80 rushing yards per game. Withrow may be in jeopardy of losing his starting spot to Melvin Fowler. They'll find no bargains in a Bear defense only allowing 88 yards per game. Daunte Culpepper has been playing through a sore knee, and his performances have been horrific. He has been sacked 20 times (on pace for 80 sacks) and has thrown 10 interceptions. Wide receiver Nate Burleson was last season's surprise. His performance made it easier for the Vikings to deal away Randy Moss. But Burleson has been hurt more than he's healthy this season (he's out for this game). The Vikings will turn to Travis Taylor, rookie Troy Williamson and former Bear Marcus Robinson to shoulder the receiving load.
The Vikings will seek to establish their passing attack, while cutting down on sacks and turnovers. The best way to achieve this is with short passes, involving tight end Jermaine Wiggins and the running backs. It will be interesting to see if they can get any semblance of a running game going against the Bears' defense. Jim Kleinsasser's blocking would be a key. Look for the Bears to test the Vikings' continually shuffled line with constant blitz pressure.