We’ve spent the four days talking about tonight’s Vikings-Bears matchup on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, and the discussion has focused on everything from the importance of special teams, to Chicago’s pass protection against the Vikings pass rush, to the pair of premier RBs in this matchup with Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson both among the NFL’s top rushers so far this season.
Through it all, though, there are four players about whom we haven’t talked enough. So, we’ll talk about them right now. There are two on each team, and we’ll start with the Vikings…
TE Visanthe Shiancoe and DT Kevin Williams
The Vikings best offensive weapon through 5 games has been Peterson, and he’s played well against the Bears in his career. So we can expect to see a lot of Peterson early in the game. But at some point the Vikings will have to supplement their ground attack with a strike or two through the air, and that’s where Shiancoe enters the picture. No, he’s not the Vikings top option in the passing game, but that might be precisely why he can be a factor tonight. With only 11 catches and 1 TD on the season, Chicago may pay more attention to other threats, such as Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins. You can also be sure the Bears will make sure one of their former players – either Devin Aromashodu or Bernard Berrian – doesn’t burn them. I’m guessing Chicago will play a lot of Cover 2 defense, which is customary for them, and I’m thinking they’ll load up to stop the run. This could create plenty of one-on-one opportunities for Shiancoe, and he’s due to win a few of those matchups and find the endzone.
With Williams, my thinking is the soggy field and poor footing could slightly limit DE Brian Robison’s advantage over new starting RT Lance Louis. Don’t get me wrong, I still like Robison over Louis, but there’s no doubt Robison is better on a fast surface. The slow surface also takes a bit of Jared Allen’s advantage away because he, too, is a speed rusher off the edge who likes a fast track. That sets the stage for Williams, one of the NFL’s top interior defensive lineman and a guy who is hitting full stride right now after missing the first two games of the season. Chicago’s starting center used to be a guard, their left guard used to be an offensive tackle, and their new starting right guard is listed as a guard/center and is coming off a broken hand. Advantage: Kevin Williams
LB Lance Briggs and WR Dane Sanzenbacher
One name is familiar to you (Briggs), and the other probably is not (Sanzenbacher). But both are important pieces to the puzzle for Chicago. An argument can be made that Briggs is the best outside LB in the NFL. He’s very good against the run and he can drop back and play the pass also. Briggs has finished 1st or 2nd in tackles for the Bears every year since 2004, he’s earned 6 straight Pro Bowls and he’s accumulated the following impressive list of statistics: 10.5 sacks, 12 INTs, 48 pass break ups, 12 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries and 66 tackles for a loss. That stat line illustrates just how complete a player Briggs is for this defense.
Sanzenbacher is a rookie and he’s listed as the 5th WR on Chicago’s depth chart, but don’t let any of that disguise his importance and potential impact on this team or on tonight’s game. It’s been described to me that Sanzenbacher now runs the pass routes that TE Greg Olsen used to run in this offense, and that’s an important point because Olsen had success against the Vikings during his Bears career. In 8 career games against the Vikings, Olsen had 31 receptions for 313 yards and 3 TDs. And over the last 2 seasons against the Vikings (4 games), Olsen never had fewer than 3 receptions in a game and he had 2 TDs. Sanzenbacher is not the same player as Olsen, obviously, but he can have a similar or greater impact if the Vikings don’t respect him and cover him up.
Tags: Kevin Williams, Visanthe Shiancoe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 26 Comments »