The Minnesota Vikings currently have a record of 6-4 and, after going 0-6 against the NFC North in 2011, they've gone 2-0 this season with their sweep of the Detroit Lions. They'll have three more games against NFC North foes in the next three weeks, and those three games will make or break their season.
There are a couple of different keys to this Sunday's contest, but as we've previously mentioned, the big one for Minnesota is for their front four to play up to their capabilities against a Chicago offensive line that has had some serious issues in recent weeks. The Bears are shuffling starters, promoting backups, benching people, and all sorts of other moves since their loss on Monday Night Football to the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings have a very good front four, and their backups have performed well for the most part.
The Vikings need their defensive line to keep the pressure on Jay Cutler, now that he's been cleared to play on Sunday. No doubt that you've heard that the Vikings' pass offense is 30th in the National Football League this season, averaging just 190.4 yards/game. One of the two teams below them? Chicago, averaging 176.6 yards/game (only the Seattle Seahawks average fewer passing yards per game). In their last four, the Bears have averaged just 164 yards/game through the air, and Cutler was at the helm for 2 1/2 of those four games. The Vikings need to take advantage of Chicago's offensive line to give themselves a chance to win this game.
Another thing they need to do is to keep the football away from Devin Hester. Hester has 17 touchdowns on returns in his NFL career, with four of those coming against Minnesota. He also has 14 career touchdown receptions. . .five of them have come against the Vikings. The Vikings obviously won't be able to focus on Hester on offense with Brandon Marshall lining up on the other side of the field, but they can certainly do everything in their power to keep the ball away from him on returns. Blair Walsh has been a touchback machine in his rookie season, and if Chris Kluwe doesn't know to kick the ball away from #23 in dark blue by now. . .well, let's just hope that he does.
Lastly, with Percy Harvin being on the shelf for Sunday's contest, the team would be well-served to continue doing what they do best. . .handing the ball to Adrian Peterson. The NFL's best running back burst onto the scene at Soldier Field a little more than five years ago with a 224-yard, three touchdown performance that also featured him getting a huge kickoff return to put the Vikings in position for the game-winning field goal. The Bears have the eighth-best rush defense in the NFL, allowing just 95.2 yards/game on the ground, but the Vikings enter this one with the league's third-best rush offense, averaging 150.5 yards/game rushing. If the Vikings can get Peterson going in this one, it will allow quarterback Christian Ponder to utilize the play-action game more effectively and spread the ball around to his receivers like he did in the Week 10 victory over Detroit.
Hopefully the Minnesota Vikings can carry some of their momentum from their latest victory over to tomorrow's game against the Bears. It isn't too late for you to score some Minnesota Vikings tickets if you're in the Chicago area or planning on making a late-night trip.