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Battle of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players

With the last-second victory by the Philadelphia Eagles this afternoon, the pressure is squarely on the shoulders of the Minnesota Vikings as they head into Chicago to take on the Bears for Monday Night Football.  If the Vikings lose, they'll lose their grip on the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs and will no longer control their own destiny to get it.  For a team that could really use an extra week off before hosting a divisional playoff game, this is really sort of a huge deal.

Now, the Vikings have had some well-documented struggles in prime time this season.  This will be Minnesota's fourth appearance on either Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football, and they've gone 1-2 in the previous three.  So, the Vikings obviously don't like playing at night. . .however, tomorrow night they'll be taking on one of the few teams in the NFL that has been markedly worse under the spotlight than Minnesota has in the Chicago Bears.

The Bears, inexplicably, will be making their fifth prime-time appearance tomorrow night when they line up against Minnesota, and they've played relatively awfully in their previous four. . .particularly their quarterback, the ultimate cry baby, Jay Cutler.  To wit, here are the Bears' four previous ventures into prime-time football this season, and how Cutler has fared in each one:


Game Score Completions Attempts Comp. Pct. Yards TD INT QB Rating
Week 1 @ GB L 21-15 17 36 47.2% 277 1 4 43.2
Week 6 @ ATL L 21-14 27 43 62.8% 300 2 2 79.6
Week 10 @ SF L 10-6 29 52 55.8% 307 0 5 33.6
Week 11 vs. PHI L 24-20 24 43 55.8% 171 1 1 63.2
97 174 55.7% 1055 4 12 52.7


That, my friends, is ugly with a capital "ugh."

Cutler has been awful this year, but he's had help in his awfulness.  Matt Forte was being mentioned in the Adrian Peterson class of running backs going into the season. . .and, though I didn't think it was possible, that suggestion is somehow even more laughable now than it was then.  For the season, Forte is averaging a pretty sad 3.4 yards/carry, and has somehow gotten even worse in the four prime-time games listed above, having totaled all of 153 yards on 74 rushes, a miserable average of 2.1 yards/carry.

(I'll grant that Adrian Peterson has had his struggles in prime time as well, but his stem more from the Vikings completely abandoning the running game. . .Forte has been awful regardless of down, distance, or situation.)

As bad as the Vikings have been in prime time this year, the Bears have been worse.  However, the Vikings certainly can't overlook this game, not even after the 36-10 pasting they handed the Bears at the Metrodome back in Week 12.  This is Chicago's home finale for 2009 and, for all intents and purposes, is their Super Bowl.  Unless they've completely given up on Lovie Smith for this year, I'd expect the Bears to come out with as much intensity as they have all season, and Minnesota will have to match that.

Both Brett Favre and Brad Childress acknowledged this week that the Vikings' offense needs to run through Adrian Peterson, and this would be a darn fine week to get back to that.  The Bears have been terrible against the run this season, and Peterson has always run well at Soldier Field.  The Vikings have to come out tomorrow night and play smash mouth football.  If they do that, there's no reason they shouldn't win this game and put themselves that much closer to securing a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.