It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s finally time for the Vikings to flip the calendar away from their bye week and begin on-field preparations for the Chicago Bears. With 6 games to play, the NFC race is wide open. And the Vikings have an opportunity to move into a tie in the division standings with Chicago if they can get a tough road win in the Windy City.
Here are 7 Vikings-Bears storylines we’ll be chasing this week in advance of the Sunday’s showdown between division rivals Minnesota and Chicago…
1. Will Percy Play?
There’s a big question mark for the Bears offense heading into Sunday’s game (more on that next), but the Vikings also have a key offensive player dealing with an injury and dealing with uncertainty about his availability for Sunday. Percy Harvin suffered a sprained ankle in the Vikings Week 9 loss in Seattle, and the injury prevented him from playing in Week 10 against Detroit. The injury also prevented Harvin from practicing on Monday as the Vikings came back to work from their bye week. Will the injury prevent Harvin from playing this Sunday, too? Only time will tell.
2. Cutler’s Status Remains Uncertain
The Bears are in a similar situation with starting QB Jay Cutler that the Vikings are in with Harvin. Cutler sustained a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit with Texans LB Tim Dobbins in Week 10 and he had not sufficiently recovered from the concussion to play in last Monday night’s game against San Francisco. As of Wednesday morning, Cutler had still not been cleared to return, and his comments to reporters earlier in the week didn’t clear up the situation. I don’t expect much clarity on this over the next couple days, and it wouldn’t be surprising to go into the weekend not knowing if Cutler will play or not. If Cutler doesn’t play, backup QB Jason Campbell would likely start in his place. Campbell started on Monday night in San Francisco and struggled in a lopsided defeat. In the loss, Campbell was banged up as well, and if he’s unable to play it would be the newly-signed Josh McCown who would suit up.
3. Bears Looking To Fix Offensive Line Woes
For anyone who watched the Bears-49ers Monday Night Football game this past week, the most glaring weakness for Chicago was the play along their offensive line. San Francisco pressured Campbell all night, battering him from start to finish and collecting 6 sacks along the way. It was the 3rd time the Bears had allowed 6 or more sacks in a game this season, and only the Arizona Cardinals have allowed more sacks this season. It doesn’t matter who the QB is – Cutler, Campbell or Johnny Unitas – when you allow that much pressure you’re not going to move the ball down the field. Obviously the Bears will work this week to fix the issues along their line, and the Vikings will look to continue exposing whatever flaws remain. It will be a good subplot in this week’s matchup.
4. Can Adrian Peterson Continue His Climb?
What Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has done to this point in the season is remarkable. Coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, Peterson is the NFL’s rushing leader by a healthy margin (123 yards over Marshawn Lynch) and he’s actually on pace for a career-high in rushing yardage (1,804 yards). For my money through 10 games, he’s a legitimate MVP candidate and he is without question the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. He’s returned from a serious knee injury to become arguably a better player now than he was before the injury. And he was already the NFL’s beset RB before his injury. Can Peterson continue his incredible season against Chicago? If he can, it will only add to the unbelievable season Peterson is putting together. The Bears rank 8th against the run and 5th overall on defense, so this will be a great challenge for both Peterson and Chicago’s defense.
5. Vikings Must Stay Away From The Giveaway
The calling card for the Bears this season has been their dominating defensive effort on a week-in, week-out basis. They lead the NFL in takeaways with 30, and 17 of those 30 takeaways are INTs. Incredibly, the Bears have returned 7 of those 19 INTs for TDs, also tops in the NFL. The Bears defense is not only good at taking the ball away, but they are extremely good at scoring once they do take the ball away. The Vikings have been middle of the road in giveaways, ranking tied for 15th with 16 turnovers. Of those 16 turnovers, 8 have been lost fumbles and 8 have been INTs. The key for the Vikings is not to become conservative so as to prevent turnovers. That is playing into the Bears hands and will make it hard to score. The Vikings will be cognizant of staying away from the giveaway while also choosing the right times to be aggressive in an attempt to put enough points up on the board to take pressure off their own defense and try to come away from Soldier Field with a big win. Can the Vikings strike that balance? It’s one of the biggest subplots to this matchup.
6. Can The Vikings Solve The Soldier Field Jinx?
Fans hear all the time about how hard it is to win on the road in the NFL. Many times, this can be an overblown aspect. But when you’re talking about playing on the road in Soldier Field, it’s not talked about enough. Just look at the numbers. The Vikings last won at Soldier Field in 2007, and that was thanks to late-game heroics by Adrian Peterson and Ryan Longwell. Aside from that 2007 road win in Chicago, the last time the Vikings won at Soldier Field was in 2000. That’s just two road wins against Chicago since 2000. Leslie Frazier has not defeated the Bears as the Vikings Head Coach and the Vikings haven’t logged a win over their division rivals since Brett Favre got the job done in 2009.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Leslie Frazier, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 226 Comments »