The 2-0 Vikings will get a true measure of where they are at when they face the Bears at the Metrodome.
Minnesota's offense failed to generate a touchdown against Carolina on Sunday and right tackle Marcus Johnson had a day to forget in trying to block defensive end Julius Peppers. Things don't figure to get any easier with Chicago's top-notch defense in town.
The Vikings will continue to try to establish the ground game, but coach Brad Childress might allow Brad Johnson to throw the ball a bit more in the first half than he did last Sunday. Johnson attempted 11 passes and Troy Williamson did not have catch in the opening half. Minnesota ran the ball 16 times for 65 yards in the first 30 minutes. In the second half and brief overtime, the Vikings attempted 21 passes and Williamson caught six balls for 102 yards. Minnesota still ran 17 times so it wasn't as if it abandoned the rush.
The Vikings' defense will attempt to be the first to contain a Bears team that has put up 60 points in two games against Green Bay and Detroit. The Vikings are confident they can do more to cause problems for red-hot quarterback Rex Grossman and running back Thomas Jones.
Defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin proved he isn't afraid to mix things up in the Tampa-2 against the Panthers and it wouldn't be surprising to see some more wrinkles on Sunday. Remember, the Bears also run the Tampa-2 defense, so Tomlin will have to be on top of his coaching game if he's going to give Chicago some looks it doesn't expect.
INJURY IMPACT: With receiver Troy Williamson (shoulder) and Marcus Robinson (hamstring) potentially slowed, Billy McMullen could see his workload increase. McMullen has two receptions this season, one in each game. He had a key third-down catch during a third-quarter drive in the opener against Washington. The Vikings scored on that series. Williamson and Robinson are both expected to play, but McMullen could see increased reps. RDE Erasmus James (torn ACL) is lost for the season, meaning Darrion Scott and Ray Edwards will get more time. Odds are Scott will start at left end and Kenechi Udeze will shift to the right. RG Artis Hicks is questionable on the injury report but is expected to play. If he can't go, Anthony Herrera likely would start.
Very soon, perhaps this Sunday, the Bears expect an opponent to respect their resurgent passing game. That would give them an opportunity to unleash a running game that has starter Thomas Jones and backup Cedric Benson hungry for more work, even though the Bears have rushed the ball 70 times in two games. As a team, the Bears are averaging just 2.8 yards per carry, but some of that is attributable to having large leads late in the game and being content to run for minimal yardage when the defense knows what's coming. But, if QB Rex Grossman sees eight men in the box, he will continue to spread the ball around, utilizing the TE position and FB Jason McKie in addition to starting WRs Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian.
The Bears' defense doesn't expect to be able to get to veteran Brad Johnson nearly as often as they got to Jon Kitna last week, when they had six sacks vs. the Lions. Johnson does a better job at unloading the ball, but the defensive line has been able to bring pressure without help from the back seven. So, the secondary believes it will have opportunities to make plays on the ball.
INJURY IMPACT: Backup DL Israel Idonije (ankle) and No. 5 safety Cameron Worrell (knee) are both questionable. Both appear to have a less than 50-50 chance of playing Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH