Look for Lorenzo Booker to be the X-factor on Sunday night. Hmm, I wonder who might fill that role for the Bears...
All right! A prime time match-up against a bitter division rival! Let's flash forward to Sunday night's broadcast on NBC, as Al Michaels throws it to Faith Hill for her weekly theme song (for the tune to sing along, click here):
All right, Sunday night, wait--oh no!
Turn off the lights on this embarrassing show
Get on your feet, just to hit the commode,
Hey Jack, it's a fact, the bad game's in town
The Vikings and Bears, too bad we can't flex out
The stadium's booing, time to break out the frowns
The NFL's worst have come to play
For every fan there's one thing left to sayyyeeyeeyeeyeeyyyeyyyy...
We've been hatin' all day for Sunday night
The rough and the tough are nowhere in sight
The last one standing probably won't be in white
'Cause I've been hatin' all day for Sunday night!
Sunday night football on NBC,
Al and Chris try not to puke on TV,
America's ready to set their worst teams free,
Because the NFL sucks tonight on NBC!
Yep, that's what it has come to for the Bears and Vikings after just five weeks. Both teams are looking up at not one but two undefeated teams in their own division while their teams sit in shambles. I'm guessing this isn't exactly what the NBC execs had in mind when they made the schedule.
What we do have in mind is breaking down a game that probably won't mean much in the playoff race but still holds very important for two fan bases. Nobody wants to be in last place after six weeks, which is exactly what the loser of this contest will be. This season, I've already previewed games by making marriage analogies, comparing the Vikings to The Godfather, and even holding a roast. This week, I'm going to something really crazy: a position-by-position breakdown of each team! Let's start with the most important position.
Quarterback: Ours has sucked. Hard. Unless we see Christian Ponder some time during the game, that probably won't change. Jay Cutler is still a whiny little crybaby, but at least he's still a talented whiny little crybaby that can make throws if he has time. Big advantage: Bears.
Offensive Line: Does anyone remember the old Nintendo game Dragon Warrior? Both offensive lines offer about as much protection as the Leather Armor did in that game. The Vikings' O-line showed some improvement last week, but I want to see what they do against a real defense before giving them any credit. Advantage: Neither.
Hey Jay: "Thou art dead."
Running Backs: The Vikings win this one against any team, even if Matt Forte is having a banner year. I suspect that both front sevens will game plan to stop the running game, but I think both will find some success here and there. Advantage: Vikings.
Wide Receivers: The Bears keep giving the Vikings their old wide receivers like they were syphilis, and we keep "contracting" them. (See what I did there?) Unfortunately for Chicago, they keep picking up replacement wide receivers that couldn't catch the clap from an infected toilet seat. (Boom! Back-to-back STD jokes!) Minnesota's wide receivers haven't been anything to write home about, mostly because their quarterback couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with another broad side of a barn. But on the other hand, when your running back is by far your best receiver statistically, that ain't good either. Advantage: Neither.
Tight Ends: Quick! Who's the Bears' starting tight end? No, Greg Olsen plays for Carolina now. I rest my case. Advantage: Vikings.
Defensive Line: Hey, something each team can finally be proud of! I wonder what the NFL record for total sacks in a single game is... Slight advantage: Vikings, especially if Julius Peppers is banged up.
Defensive Backs: It doesn't sound like Antoine Winfield will play for the second consecutive game (neck), and the Bears might bench both of their starting safeties (injury, general ineptitude). If either team had a passing attack, this would probably be a bigger area of concern. Advantage: Neither, yet again.
Special teams/X-factor: It sounds like Lorenzo Booker is going to be more involved in the game plan this week and I'm all for it. The guy is a Darren Sproles doppelganger. He's the only guy that makes me genuinely excited every time he touches the ball outside of AP, whether it's on a kick return or flying out of the backfield. For the Bears, we know all too well about their X-factor. Devin Hester always seems to find a way to find the end zone at a crucial time against the Vikes. He's the Skeletor to Chris Kluwe's He-Man.
And oh yeah, there's one more really important X-factor: the Vikings can't win in Chicago. They've won exactly once at Soldier Field in the last decade, and that one 3-point victory was because AP went nuts for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns (not to mention 83 additional yards by Chester Taylor). If the Vikings win on Sunday, I think it will be a lot like the 2007 victory, because Tarvaris Jackson completed only nine passes that day. (Remind you of anyone?) Unfortunately I don't think we can depend on back-to-back other-worldly performances by Peterson; remember, he had only 51 yards on 17 carries in Chicago last year. Which means we'll probably remain in the NFC North basement unless Donovan McNabb can save us. Riiiiiight. Overwhelming advantage: Bears.
Prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 20
Here are the rest of my (pretty darn bad thus far) Week 6 NFL picks (home teams in ALL CAPS):
FALCONS over Panthers: If you would have told Bears fans before the season that they'd be tied with Atlanta after five weeks, they probably would have been excited. SUCKERS!
GIANTS over Bills: I'd like to take the time to thank Eli Manning for eliminating roughly 90% of the remaining Survivor Pool picks across the country with that horrendous pick-six at the end of the game against Seattle. The G-Men seem to be the ultimate "play to the level of their competition" team--since the Bills are good, I expect New York to play well.
BENGALS over Colts: Cincy is winning with solid defense and a rookie quarterback that manages the game and does just enough to give his team a chance every week. TOO BAD WE DON'T HAVE THAT IN MINNESOTA!!
LIONS over 49ers: I must have missed Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice coming out of retirement, because that's my only explanation for the combined 9-1 record of these two teams.
PACKERS over Rams: Hey St. Louis! Hope you enjoyed your bye week! Because here comes an old-fashioned ass kicking!
Eagles over REDSKINS: If you would have told me before the season that the Vikings would have the same record as the Eagles after five weeks, I would have been pretty happy. SUCKERS! Anyway, I had a good joke for this game, but I gave it to Andy Reid towards the end of a half. He had no idea what to do with it and the joke just ended pissing everyone off. If me picking the Eagles keeps resulting in them losing every week, so be it. I'll sacrifice my stats for the good of the league.
STEELERS over Jaguars: Do you think Maurice Jones-Drew is more interested in his fantasy team (he always has himself on his fantasy team) than he is in his real team at this point? I would be. "Oh well, we lost by 10 at home to the Bengals. But I still got 14.5 points and I have Rodgers as my quarterback!"
RAIDERS over Browns: The Raiders are another classic "play to the level of their competition" team, which means the Browns could come in and upset Oakland coming off their bye week. But I'm not picking against the ghost of Al Davis for a while, until I'm absolutely positive he isn't coming back as a zombie. (What?! Too soon?)
RAVENS over Texans: Houston is just too banged up. And since I have nothing left to say, here's your Gratuitous Picture of the Week!