Vikings-Bears Game Plan

Can the Vikings find a way to truly exploit the talents of Adrian Peterson against a Chicago run defense that has been somewhat suspect this season? Plus, get several more matchups to watch Sunday as the Bears and Vikings prepare for another NFC North meeting.

VIKINGS

Statistically, the Vikings should like their chances in this game. Unlike their last contest against the pass-happy Green Bay Packers, the Bears don't figure to be able to pick apart the Vikings' suspect pass defense. At least not with their receiving corps.

Chicago's aerial game is ranked 28th in the NFL with an average of 171 yards per game. That ranks one spot ahead of the Vikings and the 178.2 yards per game they are averaging.

The Vikings encourage teams to run against their top-ranked rushing defense and certainly will be hoping to see a steady diet of Cedric Benson going into a middle that is more than capably patrolled by Kevin and Pat Williams.

The Bears are averaging only 82.6 yards on the ground, ranking 27th in the NFL. The thing the Vikings are going to have to guard against is Bears quarterback Brian Griese finding tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen on any type of consistent basis. If they have success against a linebacker matchup, it could turn into a long day for the Vikings.

Offensively, the Vikings expect to get Jackson back at quarterback. The real question, though, is if the Minnesota coaching staff has found more ways to ensure rookie running back Adrian Peterson is on the field in almost every meaningful situation.

In the loss to Green Bay, Peterson and fellow running back Chester Taylor were in together only once. Peterson also had only two rushing attempts in the second half after rushing for 108 yards on 10 carries in the first two quarters. Considering the lack of explosiveness from the rest of the Vikings offense, one would think Minnesota's coaching staff would look for ways to make sure this doesn't happen again.

BEARS

The Bears held LaDainian Tomlinson to 25 yards on 17 carries and Larry Johnson to 55 yards on 16 carries, but they were gashed for 102 yards by the Cowboys' Marion Barber on 15 carries (6.8 yards per carry) and by the Packers' DeShawn Wynn for 78 yards on 13 carries (6.0-yard average). They'll need one of their better efforts this week against the Vikings' Adrian Peterson, and they'll devote plenty of attention to September's Rookie of the Month, since Minnesota's pass offense is 27th in the league.

The Bears are still trying to get a running game going, but, even though they devoted 33 snaps to it last week, the results were not encouraging, as they totaled just 82 yards for a 2.5-yard average. It doesn't figure to be any easier this week against the league's best run defense, but the Bears will try to keep the Vikings honest while looking for the double-tight end threat of Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, who appear to be favorites of QB Brian Griese.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Vikings WLB Chad Greenway vs. Bears TEs Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen. The Bears and Griese are going to test Greenway and the first-year starter will have his hands full. Clark and Olsen combined for seven receptions and two touchdowns in the Bears' victory over the Packers last Sunday. These two could be Chicago's greatest offensive threats.

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield vs. Bears WR Bernard Berrian. Winfield spent most of the Vikings' Week 4 loss to the Packers covering No. 1 receiver Donald Driver. This was done in part because opponents have been staying away from Winfield and going at second-year starter Cedric Griffin and rookie Marcus McCauley, who plays in the nickel defense. Thus, it will be interesting to see if Winfield ends up spending more time in this game matching up against Berrian, who has a team-leading 25 catches this season.

Vikings RT Ryan Cook and LT Bryant McKinnie vs. Bears LE Adewale Ogunleye and RE Mark Anderson. The Vikings offensive tackles have struggled this season and their jobs aren't going to get any easier. The inexperienced Cook will be matched up against Ogunleye (three sacks) and McKinnie will get Anderson (four sacks). McKinnie, who seems to struggle with the zone-blocking scheme the Vikings introduced a year ago, is in no jeopardy of losing his job but if Cook struggles, the Vikings might have to consider taking a look at Marcus Johnson at some point.

Vikings special teams vs. Bears KR/PR Devin Hester. Hester might be the most dangerous return man in the NFL, meaning a Vikings special teams unit that has played pretty well this season is going to have to be on top of its game. Hester returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown against this team last December in Chicago for a second-quarter touchdown, so Minnesota has seen firsthand just how dangerous this guy can be. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings kick and punt the ball at Hester or follow the lead of some teams by sacrificing field position in order to keep the ball out of his hands.

Vikings stud rookie RB Adrian Peterson (76 carries, 383 yards, 5.0-yard average) vs. a Bears run defense that shut down the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chiefs' Larry Johnson but was gashed for 121 yards and a 5.5-yard average last week by the lowly Packers.

Bears perennial Pro Bowl C Olin Kreutz, who has struggled, along with the rest of the Bears' offensive line, to develop a running game, vs. Vikings run-stuffing NT Pat Williams and the Minnesota run defense, which is one of the best in the game. The Bears are No. 30 with a rushing average of 3.1 yards, while the Vikings are No. 1 in run defense, allowing just 62 yards per game.

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