"It's prime time. You've got to be prepared for prime time, cross your T's and dot your I's and really be prepared, especially with this rivalry and in this conference, going for first place," said Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
The Vikings and Bears are both 6-5 and tied for first place in the NFC North, but this might be more of a must-win game for the Vikings. If Chicago wins, they will have swept the season series between the two teams, giving them the first tiebreaker in the divisional race. With four games left, that would leave the Vikings needing to be two games better than the Bears in the last month of the season.
After Sunday, the Vikings have road games at Detroit and Arizona before facing Atlanta and the New York Giants at home to close out the season. The Bears have three consecutive home games against Jacksonville, New Orleans and Green Bay before traveling to Houston for their December schedule.
Vikings coach Brad Childress is trying to keep his team focused on the Bears game and not look at the big picture involved with the division race or playoff positioning.
"The fierce urgency of now … you'd better have an urgency of right now, today, tomorrow and then obviously when we play Sunday," Childress said. "… When I think of the black and blue of the NFC North/NFC Central, I think about teams hammering each other."
Even some of the players believe that the winner of Sunday's game will emerge the favorite to win the division.
"I think without a doubt. That's kind of the way it's being billed this week and that's kind of the way that everybody is looking at it," said linebacker Ben Leber. "Whoever wins this game really kind of controls the division."
Quarterback Gus Frerotte said this time of year ratchets up the attention to detail when the team is involved in the playoff hunt.
"Every play is important. Every situation is important. Everything we do is extremely important, from walk-through practice to practicing," Frerotte said. "We know where we are. We know our situation. We're battling for first place and this is our point where we won our big game last week and this is our next game."
The last time these two teams faced each, the Bears took advantage of several Vikings miscues, including a dropped snap on a punt that resulted in the kick being blocked and returned for a touchdown, a punt that hit would-be return man Charles Gordon and was recovered by the Bears for a touchdown, and another fumble recovery in the end zone.
"Last game we were behind and it seemed like we never caught up. It seemed like we had to throw it and throw it and throw it," Frerotte said.
That ended up producing Frerotte's season high for yardage (298) as well as tying his season high for completions (25). He also threw a season-high four interceptions and said he needs to cut down the mistakes. Of course, he's also hoping he can replicate his yardage totals from that Oct. 29 game.
"I think in that game we were just in a great rhythm. Obviously we had turnovers and there were situations that happened in that game that gave them the ball and let them score more points than we did obviously, but we had a lot of good drives. We had a lot of situations and I think we kind of knew what they were doing. We were off in some passes, but we were able to move the ball," he said.
"We're going to go back and watch that and go over and over, see what tendencies we had, what they liked to do. It all depends on how the game goes. Obviously we'd like to throw for 300 yards on them, but who knows how it's going to go?"
The Vikings did have the advantage of both of Chicago's starting cornerbacks – Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman – being inactive for the October game, which could change Chicago's approach against the Vikings. Frerotte, however, said some teams, like the Packers, don't change their defensive philosophy the second time through the divisional games.
"Who knows what the Bears are going to do, but I don't see them changing any either, because when you have one of the best in the league in the backfield, they're going to want to stop him," Frerotte said, referring to Adrian Peterson, who has 423 yards rushing and seven touchdowns in his three career games against the Bears.
Whatever it takes to get the Vikings a win, they'll take it … and they need it.
"This conference is pretty crazy. It's all bundled up," Shiancoe said. "Everybody is basically about the same record. We're going to have to separate ourselves."