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.
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.
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.