Vikings-Bears Game Plan

Both the Vikings and Bears have key players either injured or coming off of recent injuries. The extent to which those players are effective could drastically change what works and what doesn't for both teams. Get the matchups and injury reports that matter most for this NFC North clash.

VIKINGS GAME PLAN

The Vikings' offense basically is back to where it was in Week 3 when it amassed 453 yards while beating the Bears 27-22 at the Metrodome.

Onterrio Smith has regained featured-back status, something he lost right after the Bears game because of a four-game drug suspension. In the Bears game, Smith ran for 94 yards on 17 carries and caught six passes for 104 yards.

Randy Moss caught seven passes for 119 yards and touchdowns of 3 and 2 yards. Moss is close to 100 percent from a strained right hamstring.

If the weather is nice (game-time temperature is projected to be 40 degrees), look for QB Daunte Culpepper to do what he did the last time, throw for 360 yards and two touchdowns in a controlled passing attack. If the weather turns ugly, look for Smith to grind out 100 to 140 yards and lead the way.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson vs. Bears RB Thomas Jones — Jones ran for 110 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and caught eight passes for 71 yards in the first meeting this season. Henderson, a notoriously slow starter this season, needs to be sharp in the first half. He needs to line up correctly before the snap (something he and his teammates have struggled with this season), take on blocks the way he should and make sure tackles. Obviously, Henderson will need help from the rest of the front seven and the safeties to make sure Jones doesn't come close to 200 yards from scrimmage again.

Vikings FS Brian Russell and SS Corey Chavous vs. Bears QB Chad Hutchinson — The interception drought of Russell and Chavous is getting ridiculous. They combined for 17 last season. They have none this season. Hutchinson, a former third-stringer, will take over the Bears' pathetic offense this week. You know there will be picks to be had. Instead of dropping everything thrown to them, Russell and Chavous need to hang on to a ball or two.

Vikings RT Adam Goldberg vs. Bears LE Adewale Ogunleye — Ogunleye had one of his 4 1/2 sacks in the first meeting, when the Vikings played Adam Goldberg and rookie Nat Dorsey. Goldberg has assumed the starter's job since Dorsey was injured two weeks ago. Goldberg isn't the most athletic player and might need some help from a tight end or a running back.

INJURY IMPACT

  • WR Randy Moss, who returned last week after missing essentially the previous five weeks because of a strained right hamstring, should be closer to 100 percent. He clearly favored his hamstring while catching four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. Assuming the weather (a game-time temperature of 40 degrees is forecast) doesn't bother the hamstring, Moss should be able to open up and run deeper routes this week.

  • RG Dave Dixon missed the second half of Sunday's game because of a sprained left knee. He is expected to start, but he might have trouble lasting the entire game. Adam Haayer filled in well against Jacksonville.

  • WLB Raonall Smith will miss his fifth consecutive game because of two recent concussions, but he is improving and is expected to play next week against Seattle. The Vikings could use him on special teams. He probably wouldn't see much action at linebacker now that Chris Claiborne is back to full strength.

  • RB Mewelde Moore, who has missed the past four games because of a high ankle sprain, is getting healthier, but look for him to be inactive because the team doesn't have a role for him. The Vikings have committed to Onterrio Smith as their featured back. Moore also is limited on special teams, other than returning kickoffs.

  • RT Nat Dorsey missed Sunday's game because of a strained right shoulder. He should be able to play against the Bears, but he probably won't start because his replacement, Adam Goldberg, played well last week.

  • C Matt Birk missed last week's game because of a second hernia surgery in three months. He will miss at least the next three games. Backup Cory Withrow not only started against Jacksonville, he won the team's offensive player of the week award.


    BEARS GAME PLAN

    With strong-armed Chad Hutchinson starting his first game for the Bears, offensive coordinator Terry Shea strongly hinted that the passing game would have a more vertical look than in the last nine weeks, when rookie Craig Krenzel and veteran Jonathan Quinn rarely took shots downfield. That might necessitate keeping tight ends and/or running backs in to provide extra protection for a team that has allowed 25 sacks in the last five weeks and is last in the NFL in sacks per pass play allowed.

    Defensively, the return of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher should bolster a defense that has allowed an average of 170 rushing yards in the four games in which he was absent. Combined with the return of CB Charles Tillman, the Bears are as healthy defensively as they've been since the second week of the season and have what they consider four quality cornerbacks, enough manpower to challenge the Vikings' passing attack if they can negate the ground game, which is possible if Urlacher is close to 100 percent.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH

    Bears CB Charles Tillman vs. Vikings WR Randy Moss. Last year in a 13-10 Bears victory at Soldier Field, Tillman wrestled a ball away from Moss in the end zone with 1:02 left in the game on what would have been the winning TD for the Vikings. Both players are coming off injuries although they played limited roles last week.

    The Bears' run game, which ranks 22nd after slumping in recent weeks, vs. a Vikings run defense that is No. 31 in average gain per rush allowed.

    Vikings rookie ORT Adam Goldberg or Nat Dorsey vs. Bears DLE Adewale Ogunleye, who, after a slow start has at least one sack in three of his last four games.

    INJURY IMPACT

    DLE Adewale Ogunleye (probable, leg), DT Tommie Harris (questionable, ankle), FB Bryan Johnson (questionable, foot) and ORT John Tait (doubtful, knee) all missed practice on Wednesday. Ogunleye and Johnson are expected to play. Tait is not expected to play, and Harris is looking doubtful more than questionable.


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