|IR/PUP/NFI||S Cameron Worrell (IR-shoulder); LB Marcus Reese (IR-shoulder); LB Rod Wilson (IR-knee); CB Alfonso Marshall (PUP-knee); LB Joe Odom (IR-ankle); WR Mark Bradley (IR-knee); WR Airese Currie (IR-hamstring).||C Matt Birk (IR-shoulder); QB Daunte Culpepper (IR-knee); OG Toniu Fonoti (IR-groin); S Dustin Fox (IR-knee); CB Laroni Gallishaw (IR-ankle); S Willie Offord (IR-knee); DE Kenechi Udeze (IR-knee); RB Moe Williams (IR-knee).|
|Out||FB Bryan Johnson (foot).||LB Keith Newman (knee); LB Heath Farwell (knee).|
|Questionable||CB Jerry Azumah (hip); RB Cedric Benson (knee); S Mike Brown (calf); LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (thumb); C Olin Kreutz (ankle); DT Ian Scott (hamstring); CB Charles Tillman (shoulder).||OT Marcus Johnson (ankle).|
|Probable||S Mike Green (shoulder); WR Muhsin Muhammad (calf); LB Brian Urlacher (illness).||TE Jermaine Wiggins (ankle); C Melvin Fowler (ankle); P Chris Kluwe (knee); S Corey Chavous (ankle); WR Marcus Robinson (illness); LB E.J. Henderson (foot).|
Rex Grossman is expected to make his second start after not playing in the first 13 games because of an ankle injury in training camp. Although he'll need the work, Grossman is expected to eventually give way to Kyle Orton. This change will likely coincide with substitutions on the offensive line. Although center Olin Kreutz had his ankle rolled in last week's game, he's expected to start against nose tackle Pat Williams, who had unflattering comments for Kreutz after a Pro Bowl snub. Williams was the key to a Buffalo defense that held Anthony Thomas to 48 yards on 23 carries in 2002. He made derogatory comments about the Bears' line after that game as well. Williams had ten tackles in the game and was matched up against Kreutz for most of it. Kreutz will likely play sparingly, and get replaced by Roberto Garza. Fullback Bryan Johnson injured his foot last week and will be held out. It's the same foot that ended his last season and cost him half of this one. Jason McKie will start in his place. Rookie halfback Cedric Benson (knee) has improved and was expected to see extended time, but he has expressed a lack of confidence in the readiness of his knee's stability. Thomas Jones will start at halfback and get an early hook for Adrian Peterson. Peterson is expected to enter after Jones gains the 27 yards he needs to top 1,300 for the season. If Jones passes the milestone, he'll join Walter Payton as the only other Bear to rush for 1,300 or more yards in a single season. Another player nursing an injury is right guard Terrence Metcalf (shoulder). Garza is the first substitution off the bench, but if Kreutz is lifted he'll play center. The previously cut Steve Edwards was next off the bench to play guard in last week's contest.
Although healthy, Pat Williams is mourning the passing of his father and has missed some time this week to be with his family. He is expected to play on Sunday. The loss of defensive end Keneche Udeze has allowed Lance Johnstone (7.5 sacks), Darrion Scott (4 sacks) and rookie Erasmus James (4 sacks) to make an impact on passing downs. A collarbone injury has limited cornerback Fred Smoot to sub packages and elevated Brian Williams to a starting role. Strong side linebacker Keith Newman was injured three weeks ago. Raonall Smith started the last two games in his place and registered ten tackles and a sack. It's significant to note that former Northwestern star Napoleon Harris has fallen behind Smith on the depth chart. Harris was a key component of the Randy Moss trade with Oakland.
Expect the Bears to get Grossman his work very early in the game. This means they'll likely come out throwing, while also seeking to get Thomas Jones his 27 rushing yards. Once that's established, Kyle Orton and the other depth players will get into the game. By halftime or sooner, the offense will feature backup running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson carried the offense after Benson was injured in the San Francisco game (24/120, TD). He is going to have that opportunity again to close out the regular season. Minnesota likes to send their linebackers, utilizing run blitzes and a rotation of bodies on the front seven to slow the Bears' ground game and put pressure on the quarterback.
Although Mike Brown's calf has healed, he will play sparingly at most to ensure he's completely ready for the playoffs. Chris Harris (knee) returned to the lineup last week. Brandon McGowan has been a leading tackler (26 tackles) as an emergency starter at safety over the last three games. The undrafted rookie is sure to either start again or see extended time on Sunday. Mike Green would have figured to play more at both safety and in sub packages, but he injured a shoulder last week and his healthy return is a key. Green's injury forced Jerry Azumah (hip) back into the game. The Bears will hope to rest Azumah at both cornerback and as the primary kickoff returner. The need to rest Azumah is especially problematic because he was the third cornerback, and starter Charles Tillman is nicked up (shoulder). As a result, Rashied Davis could figure on returns as well as in coverage. Linebacker Leon Joe has started on the strong side for Hunter Hillenmeyer (thumb) the last two weeks and is expected to see action again. Ian Scott is a likely candidate to be held out so he's ready for the playoffs. Tank Johnson took advantage of the increased action by recording his fifth sack of the season last week against the Packers.
After he had a horrid first half of the season, Daunte Culpepper got hurt and was placed on injured reserve. The offense showed marked improvement when veteran Brad Johnson stepped in. Johnson has completed over sixty percent of his passes and connected on ten touchdowns versus only four interceptions. The Vikings responded to his steady leadership, winning his first six starts. Rookies like halfback Ciatric Fason and wide receiver Troy Williamson are expected to see increased action against the Bears. Fason has played behind Mewelde Moore and Michael Bennett, as well as the injured Moe Williams. After being hurt early in the season, wide receiver Nate Burleson has not returned to form. Losing center Matt Birk before the season began triggered a negative trickle down effect on the offensive line which has allowed 54 sacks. Melvin Fowler is expected to start at center, although Cory Withrow has played there as well. If banged up rookie Marcus Johnson cannot start at right tackle, Mike Rosenthal will play. Johnson has shown progress in getting back to the field. This matchup bodes well for Adewale Ogunleye, while the issues at center could allow Tank Johnson another chance at increasing his sack totals.
The Vikings have become more of a balanced, ball control team since Johnson took over. They've been most successful against the Bears when they've stuck to the power running game. Expect the Bears to do their best to stop the Vikings' ground game without sacrificing an extra player in the box, so they can pounce on the play action passes that Johnson likes to hit. If the Bears can get out to an early lead, the Vikings' offensive line will be hard-pressed to keep their quarterback upright. In a game that looks very much like a preseason matchup on paper, the Bears' very talented depth on the defensive line is expected to dominate.