Matchup to watch when the Vikings are on offense:
RB Adrian Peterson vs. LB Lance Briggs
Brad Childress came out of his bye-week self-study and proclaimed that the Vikings need to do more of what is working for them. The guess here is that means more work for the rookie sensation Peterson, who got a season-low 12 carries in his last action against Green Bay. Despite only one game with more than 20 carries and their bye already past, Peterson is still ninth in the NFL in rushing with 383 yards and sixth in rushing average per game (95.8 yards).
If the Vikings learn to use him as a featured back, he is getting to the point where teams will need to put a spy linebacker on him. With the Tampa-2 defense requiring the middle linebacker to drop deep into coverage, that could mean Briggs will be in charge of trying to contain the Vikings' powerful and elusive back.
Matchup to watch when the Vikings are on defense:
LB Ben Leber vs. TEs Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen
Leber has been somewhat of a lonely linebacker this year, the victim in a defense that sees a lot of three- and four-receiver sets. The formula to beating the Minnesota defense has been to spread it out and throw the ball often, but that only works with a formidable and deep set of wideouts and a veteran quarterback.
In this game, Leber, who comes off the field during most nickel situations, should see more action and could often be the one trying to cover Chicago's one-two tight end punch of Clark and Olsen. Each of them had solid games Sunday night against the Packers, and it appears that Olsen is really coming into his own as he regains confidence in a knee that was injured during the preseason. Clark leads the Bears in receiving touchdowns (2) and is second in receptions (19). Someone will have to account for them better than the Vikings did against Tony Gonzalez in Week 3, when the veteran Kansas City tight end used a big second half en route to his 7-catch, 96-yard performance.
DT Pat Williams
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Head coach Lovie Smith always claims that his team comes off the bus running the football, so Kreutz and Co. will have to effectively block the Williams boys one-on-one every now and then so RB Cedric Benson can get to the second level.
Matchup to watch when the Bears are on defense:
DE Adewale Ogunleye vs. RT Ryan Cook
The well-paid Ogunleye was disappointing in 2006 and only registered 6.5 sacks despite a wealth of talent around him, but he looks rejuvenated this season and has come up with 3 sacks in his first five games. Cook, a second-year pro out of New Mexico, isn't nearly as experienced or talented as LT Bryant McKinnie, but he's almost as big at 6-6 and 328 pounds. Ogunleye dropped some weight in the offseason in order to add quickness and athleticism, which is what Smith looks for in a defensive end.
The Bears have been getting a ton of pressure on the quarterback this year and done so without very much blitzing, so forcing young QB Tarvaris Jackson to make quick decisions – assuming he gets the start – could force some critical mistakes in the passing game.
The Vikings will win this game if ...
... they win the turnover battle. The Green Bay Packers kept the Bears in the game in the first half on Sunday with two critical fumbles, and the Vikings can't afford to do that. Their offense just isn't good enough to give up the ball multiple times and still score enough points.
The key will be Jackson, who is coming off a two-game stint on the bench with a groin injury. In the season opener against Atlanta, Jackson threw one interception and the Vikings won 24-3. In Week 2 against Detroit, Jackson threw four interceptions and the Vikings lost 20-17 in overtime. They need to avoid INTs and force them on defense to win on the road in Chicago.
The Vikings will lose this game if ...
... they aren't able to pressure Brian Griese to limit him. Sounds crazy, an opponent talking about shutting down a Bears quarterback, but any quarterback that has been given time to set up and look for secondary receivers against the Vikings defense has been able to move the ball. After getting a combined 10 sacks in their first two games, the Vikings have only produced one sack in each of their last two games.
Benson shouldn't be a concern for the Vikings, who lead the league in rush defense, but if Griese is allowed to get in a rhythm with his tight ends and the occasional wide receiver, the Bears will be able to move the ball and kick enough field goals to win a low-scoring game.
The Bears will win this game if ...
... they continue to force turnovers. While Jackson is not an accomplished passer at this point of his career, Peterson has already proven to be more than capable in the backfield and could have some success both running and receiving in this game. The Bears were overmatched in the first half against Green Bay before making some adjustments at intermission, but it was their five takeaways on defense that allowed them to come back and win in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota's sturdy front seven will make it tough for Griese to put together 70- and 80-yard drives, so winning the turnover battle will help flip the field position and put points on the board.
RB Cedric Benson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Bears will lose this game if ...
... offensive coordinator Ron Turner doesn't continue his commitment to running the football, even against Minnesota's top-ranked rushing defense. Against the Lions in Week 4, Griese attempted 52 passes and Benson only ran the ball 15 times in a 37-27 loss. A week later versus the Packers, Griese threw just 25 times and Benson was given 27 attempts in a 27-20 win. The Bears are averaging a paltry 3.1 yards per carry as a team, but there are a lot of coaches out there who will tell you that the number of rushing attempts is sometimes more important than the amount of rushing yards produced.
The Chicago defense broke down in the fourth quarter against Dallas and Detroit because they were dead tired from being on the field too much, but Brian Urlacher and his minions made some plays in the final stanza at Green Bay after being allowed to catch their collective breath.
Tim Yotter: The Vikings defense has been fairly effective in keeping teams out of the end zone despite giving up yardage between the 20-yard lines. Meanwhile, on offense, they have also struggled to score touchdowns. With the Bears linebackers built for speed, it could be the Peterson's biggest test yet. There is a chance that both teams' defenses score more touchdowns than their respective offenses ...
BEARS 19, VIKINGS 16
John Crist: No question about it, the Monsters of the Midway saved their season last Sunday night by beating the Packers, so another win against a divisional foe will even their record at 3-3 and move them to 2-1 in the NFC North. The Bears are a better football team than the Vikings right now and are getting healthier on defense every day, but Minnesota certainly has enough talent to win at Soldier Field. There's a pretty good chance this ballgame is going to get ugly, however, Griese should be able to make enough plays in the passing game to get it done ...
BEARS 20, VIKINGS 10