Win Critical for Both Bears, Vikings

The Vikings head into Chicago banged up, but needing a win. Players like Pat Williams are expected to play through the pain (and possibly the fog) as the Vikings look to knock the Bears off their perch and get back into the playoff hunt in the NFC.

A month ago, Vikings fans were looking at today's game with the Bears as a potential showdown between a team that could be 10-1 and another at 8-3. But, thanks to a November collapse that saw the Vikings drop four straight games, including three games to teams that still aren't above .500, this has become a survival game for the Vikings and a statement game for the Bears.

With a win, Chicago can wrap up its second straight NFC North and move a step closer to wrapping up home field advantage for the playoffs. For the Vikings, a win would keep them in the thick of the wild card chase.

A win is needed for both teams, but for different reasons. While it is almost universally agreed that a 9-7 record will be enough for a wild card berth in the suddenly-pedestrian NFC, if the Vikings lose today, if that team is to be them, they would have to run the table in the final four games of the season. For the Bears, who have lost some of their swagger after starting the year 7-0, a win would solidify their position as the top dog in the NFC, while a loss would be devastating to their role as the best team in the conference and get the calls for the head of Rex Grossman chiming in even louder.

Although the game looks a lot different than many of thought it would a month ago, it still retains the same power that it did a month ago – the winner solidifies its position as a post-season contender and the loser has to answer a lot of questions that may not have good answers.

* While the threat of snow during the game has been taken out of the equation, there is a threat of fog for today's game.
* Since Brad Johnson took over as Vikings quarterback, the Vikings are 5-4 on the road.
* The Bears have won the last five home meeting against the Vikings.
* Among the five teams currently at 5-6 in the NFC, the Vikings currently hold the tie-breaker advantages and have a win in hand against the Panthers – one of the two teams at 6-5 and ahead of them in the wild card chase.
* The Vikings are 0-4 in games wide receiver Marcus Robinson hasn't played and 5-2 in games he has.
* In their first meeting this season, Rex Grossman threw 41 passes. Six of the Vikings last seven opponents have thrown 40-plus passes.
* In the last two games, Vikings opponents have run the ball 19 times while throwing 93 passes – almost a 5:1 pass-run ratio.
* The Vikings haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since the fourth game of the 2004 season, while the Bears as a team have topped 100 yards rushing in six of the last seven games.
* As good as the Bears defense is, they don't have a starter older than 28 and most of them are under contract for the next several years.
* Bears kicker Robbie Gould is on pace to score 160 points this year.
* The Bears have averaged beating their opponents by more than 14 points a game.
* The Vikings a nine-point underdogs – their biggest margin of being favored to lose big all season. The previous high was six points against the Seahawks and the Vikings won that game 31-13.
* No player on the Bears has scored more than four touchdowns, but five different players each have four TDs – Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian and Desmond Clark.

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