As opponents, they’ve only played once, but the Week 17 matchup to watch is one that is expected to pit former Viking Jared Allen against current Viking Matt Kalil – two players who are intimately familiar with one another from the practice field, not so much in game action.
“I’ve gone up against him thousands of times in practice, so we pretty much know each other as well as a defensive end and an offensive tackle can know one another,” Kalil said. “He got me with a sack, but I’m not going to allow that this time. He’s not getting one. Whatever I have to do – if he beats me, I’ll hold him. I don’t care. I know he’s going to want to come in and play well in front of the Vikings fans and I’m looking to keep him from getting that on me.”
According to the injury report, there is some official question as to whether Allen will play, because he is far from 100 percent with a rib injury. He didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, but that hasn’t been unusual for Allen in recent years. He is a warrior. Period. As such, he plays through injuries like few others would be willing to do. Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman knows what those reading the injury report don’t know. If there is any way Allen can play, he will play. It’s who he is. It’s how he’s wired. Games are played on Sunday, so whether he practices on Wednesday or Thursday and is limited on Friday, he’ll strap on his helmet on Sunday and give what he can.
At a time when Jay Cutler is making more headlines than anyone else in Chicago – and he was a healthy scratch last week – there are potentially Midway monstrous implications if the Bears get their pelts handed to them Sunday. There may be an organizational implosion if the team comes up pathetic on Sunday. If that happens, a new regime may question Allen’s cap number against what he brings to the defense. If he can play, he will and he will give everything he can because, in many ways, his future in Chicago is likely at stake.
That scenario will be critical as it pertains to Kalil. He is going to be asked to take on the wounded Allen one on one numerous times. The implications of that performance will be just as important for a Vikings coaching staff heading into its first offseason together and Kalil entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Despite being at very different stages of their careers, both Allen and Kalil are approaching a crossroads of their chosen path. As they meet head to head for the second time, they have a wealth of experience with one another and each knows what the other brings to the table – both as strengths and weaknesses.
As things stand at the moment, both the Bears and Vikings plan to move forward with Allen and Kalil as their respective starters at right defensive end and left offensive tackle. Depending on what happens in the offseason, confidence from both organizations may take a different, and potentially significant, turn.
If there was ever a game that two players need to make a positive impression, it’s this one – as a bruised and battered Allen takes on an ego-bruised Kalil. Expect to see Allen doing what Allen does on Sundays – playing regardless of the percentage of his health as reflected in an injury report. Look for Kalil to play as aggressively as he can to attempt to neutralize Allen. Few games have two players with more to prove, making the battle between two players in serious need of recovery time starting next Monday being Sunday’s key matchup.
Key matchup: Kalil vows to shut down Allen
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