Behind Enemy Lines: Part III

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Tim Yotter of Viking Update, go Behind Enemy Lines to take a closer look at Sunday night's Week 12 matchup between the Bears and Vikings at the Metrodome. Let's finish this three-part series with some matchups to watch and final predictions.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: BEARS OFFENSE VS. VIKINGS DEFENSE
TE Greg Olsen vs. LBs Ben Leber and Chad Greenway:
The Vikings simply didn't do a good enough job on the Bears' tight ends in the last game. Olsen and Desmond Clark combined for nine catches for 133 yards, 43 percent of Chicago's receptions and 47 percent of the passing yards. The Vikings are generally content to protect against the over-the-top wide receiver getting deep, even at the expense of the shorter passes, until teams reach the red zone. But the linebackers know they have to tighten up their coverage on the Chicago tight ends, especially Olsen, who had six catches.

Leber said this week that the last time these teams met, it was mostly Olsen causing matchup problems for the Vikings. He is more athletic than most linebackers and bigger than any safety, and when he splits out wide it he can also help open up the middle running game if a linebacker follows him. Look for the Bears to consider a no-huddle offense if they get the personnel matchups they want so the Vikings can't substitute.

WR Brandon Lloyd vs. CBs Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield: The Windy City passing game was really humming earlier in the season, as Lloyd was playing up to his immense potential and using his incredible ball skills to make plays down the field. But then he went down with a sprained knee in Week 4, and the Bears haven't been making too many big plays through the air ever since. Lloyd solidified his reputation as a soft player for taking a month and a half to get active again on game day, although you would hardly notice that he even returned since he's only caught three passes for 20 yards in two games.

The Vikings simply don't let anybody have success on the ground, so Lloyd must get back on track in order to make quarterback Kyle Orton all the more effective.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: VIKINGS OFFENSE VS. BEARS DEFENSE
WR Bernard Berrian vs. CB Charles Tillman:
Going back to the days of Randy Moss with the Vikings, Tillman has proven to be a solid cover cornerback against the Vikings' best wide receivers. Tillman was inactive the first time these two teams met, and Berrian tied his season high with six catches. The Bears will absolutely concentrate on stopping Adrian Peterson first, which could leave Tillman with some man coverage responsibilities on Berrian. You can bet Tillman knows Berrian's game inside and out, and vice versa, as the two ex-teammates face each other for the first time.


OT Anthony Herrera
David Sherman/Getty Images

If Berrian can break loose with one or two long receptions, it could be the difference. The last time he caught more than two passes in a game was against the Bears in October, but he wasn't facing Tillman then.

Gs Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera vs. Tommie Harris: Meaning no disrespect to the Williams Wall in Minnesota, Harris is arguably the single most destructive force in the NFL at the defensive tackle position when he's operating at full capacity. The Pro Bowler started the season awfully quiet, leading to more speculation that he's not completely healthy, but he's beginning to look like his old self again. He registered two sacks and two tackles for loss last Sunday in St. Louis, and he's totaled four sacks in his last five contests.

Chicago's version of the Cover 2 simply doesn't work without consistent pressure from the front four, and Harris is the catalyst to providing that pressure – he's the key to stopping the run and sacking the passer.

THE VIKINGS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... they can keep Gus Frerotte relatively clean, figuratively speaking, of course, with the dome carpet instead of natural grass. Frerotte is 6-3 as a starter, but the last time he had more than 182 yards was against the Bears, when he was two yards shy of becoming the first quarterback in the Brad Childress era to throw for 300. Since then, Frerotte's production has gone from 182 yards to 151 to 138 to 120. He has been holding onto the ball too long in some cases and trying to make too much out of nothing in other cases. That has resulted in unnecessary sacks and interceptions. If Frerotte can get comfortable in the pocket and find a rhythm again, the Vikings should get comfortable in sole possession of first place in the division.


LB Brian Urlacher
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

THE VIKINGS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... they allow the Bears' opportunistic defense and special teams to strike again. Frankly, the Vikings usually seem like they have better personnel, but they tend to self-destruct if the Bears create a frenzy. Last time was the ultimate testament to a team meltdown: a dropped snap on a punt that was eventually blocked and returned for a touchdown, a punt that hit the returner and was recovered in the end zone for another TD, and a season-high four interceptions by Frerotte. The Vikings offense has a long way to go, but they are still good enough with Peterson and Chester Taylor to get it done if they don't give the ball away to Chicago.

THE BEARS WILL WIN THIS GAME IF ...
... Peterson is held in check to some degree and the game falls on Frerotte's shoulders. Even though the Midway Monsters have a questionable secondary and will be playing without former Pro Bowler Nathan Vasher at right corner, Frerotte is prone to mistakes – he's a journeyman signal-caller for a reason. It's reasonable to assume that Peterson will have some success on the ground since he's scored seven touchdowns in just three career games against the Bears, but Brian Urlacher and Co. have shut down some pretty good running games so far this year.

THE BEARS WILL LOSE THIS GAME IF ...
... they get murdered in terms of time of possession because of a disparity in the success each offense is having with the run. If Peterson rips through the front seven for 120-plus yards and keeps the chains moving all day long, then the Bears will tire on defense and eventually get steamrolled in the fourth quarter. On the other side of the ball, rookie Matt Forte needs to continue his magical season – against perhaps the best D-line in the league – so his O can put points on the board and give his defensive mates time to rest.

FINAL PREDICTIONS
Tim Yotter:
Nobody could have predicted what a wild and unconventional game the last meeting turned out to be. The Vikings self-destructed and still had a chance to win at the end. This time, they return to the Metrodome and need a win to even the season series and take sole possession of first place. If they lose, it will be extremely difficult for them to find a playoff berth. This could be their season – and eventually Childress' career. They need it more, and that should be motivation enough in front of a national television audience ... VIKINGS 27, BEARS 16.

John Crist: None of the experted were looking for an 89-point barrage between these two teams when they first got together in Soldier Field, so I'm not looking for another high-scoring affair. Just like the Packers needed the win more than the Bears did two weeks ago in Green Bay, the Vikings simply need this game more, too. Chicago hasn't proven it can contain Peterson, and there is no immediate solution on offense right now if Forte can't find room against that terrific Minnesota run defense ... VIKINGS 23, BEARS 17..

To go back and read Part I, where John answers five questions from Tim, Click Here. For Part II, where Tim answers five questions from John, Click Here.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Tim Yotter is the Publisher of Viking Update.


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