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The Battle for the NFC North Lead



Date: October 19, 2008 Location: Chicago, Illinois
Time: 12:00 P.M. CST Stadium: Soldier Field
DirecTV Ch. 709
Know Thy Enemy: Windy City Gridiron
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 19, Bears 17
Final Score: Bears 48, Vikings 41

This is the last Vikings' game before the bye week, and it's looking to be one of the most important games of the Vikings' season.

With Green Bay likely spending their afternoon getting destroyed by Indianapolis, the winner of this game is looking at sole possession of first place in the NFC North. With the Vikings having a bye next week, they'd hold that distinction for two solid weeks.

Usually, we expect games between the Bears and the Vikings to be smashmouth type of contests. However, with two teams that are as outstanding against the run as these two defenses are (the Vikings are currently #4 in the NFL against the run, while the Bears are #5), the key to this one might just be how well these two teams throw the football, and that might swing the pendulum in favor of Minnesota.

For as vaunted and talented as the Chicago secondary is, the Bears currently rank 27th in the league against the pass, while the Vikings' improved pass defense has them at #15. With Gus Frerotte coming off of a decent (but not great) performance against Detroit last week, and with the amount of injuries that Chicago's secondary is currently suffering with, I'd actually look for the Vikings to. . .and I hope you're sitting down here. . .come out with a lot more 3 and 4-wide receiver sets in an attempt to spread the Bears' defense out and try to exploit the potential personnel matchups against Chicago's injury-riddled secondary.

As I've mentioned, it's possible that neither team will have a ton of success in the running game, but that might not stop the Bears from trying to force rookie RB Matt Forte onto the Vikings anyway. Currently, Forte is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards with 459 rushing yards (Adrian Peterson sits in third with 536). However, Forte's gotten 77 fewer yards than Peterson on only two fewer carries (129 to 127), which means that Forte's average is nearly a full yard/carry lower than AP's. Trying too hard to get Forte going, one would think, would play right into the hands of a defense that's only allowing 3.0 yards/carry on the ground. The Bears' rush defense, while right behind Minnesota's in terms of yards allowed/game, gives up a full .5 yards/carry more than Minnesota's. Chicago's defensive line hasn't been immune from injury, either, so if one of these two fine young running backs was going to have success today, the smart money would probably be on Peterson. Peterson simply has to learn to hold on to the football, as he's lost three fumbles in the past three weeks, including two in the red zone last week against the Lions.

On paper, the Vikings should be able to come out with a victory here. But, as we all know, games aren't played on paper. If they were, Minnesota would have beaten Detroit by about 30 last weekend and we'd all be feeling much better about our chances going into this one. However, the eternal optimist in me has the feeling that the Vikings will come out on top in a close, hard-fought battle, as most games between the Bears and Vikings turn out to be.

We'll be here all afternoon, folks. . .here's hoping you'll join us to discuss the game with the most user-friendly discussion format in the Vikings' blogosphere!