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Baby, It's Cold Outside



Date: 28 December 2009
Location: Chicago, IL
Time: 7:15 PM CST Stadium: Soldier Field
TV: ESPN Know Thy Enemy: Windy City Gridiron
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 27, Bears 10
Final Score:

The Vikings are playing their final road game of the year tonight, and for a game against a 5-9 team with nothing to play for, it couldn't be bigger for Minnesota. A victory tonight gives them a real chance of sneaking in and grabbing the #1 seed in the NFC playoffs away from the suddenly struggling New Orleans Saints. A loss, on the other hand, would greatly reduce the chance of the Vikings getting a first-round playoff bye at all now that the Philadelphia Eagles are making their customary late-season run at things.

Right now, the Vikings' magic number for a first-round bye is still 2, meaning that any combination of Vikings wins and Eagles losses that adds up to 2 will give them no worse than the #2 seed. The magic number for the #1 seed is 3, because Minnesota has to win both of their remaining games and hope that New Orleans loses next weekend to a red-hot Carolina team.

In order to work on reducing both of those numbers tonight, here's what the Vikings need to do.

1) Do what you said you were going to do - Earlier this week, in the midst of the non-troversy that "erupted" after the Carolina game, both Brad Childress and Brett Favre said that the Vikings' offense needs to run through Adrian Peterson. . .and, as someone that's been calling for this for weeks, I couldn't agree more. While the Bears' pass defense has been pretty good. . .when they actually cared, anyway. . .their run defense has been bad whether they've cared or not. Peterson has run well in his career at Soldier Field, having put up 345 yards (at a clip of a little more than 8 yards/carry) and 5 touchdowns on the board in two career games in the Windy City. If Peterson gets going, then the play-action passing game that the Vikings have killed teams will all year will be more effective, and should lead to lots of scoring for Minnesota.

2) Continue to get after Jay Cutler - Cutler, probably the worst starting QB in the NFL right now, had a miserable game the last time he faced the Vikings and, as I detailed last night, has been miserable in Chicago's four previous prime-time appearances this season. Jared Allen, the Williams Wall, and Ray Edwards really need to make Cutler's acquaintance this evening, and they need to do so numerous times. We know that the Vikings will drop the hammer on the Chicago run game, so it's up to the pass defense to keep Chicago's season-long offensive slump going.

3) Match Chicago's intensity - This is, for lack of a better way to put it, Chicago's Super Bowl for this season. It's their home finale, and they have a chance to really screw up Minnesota's plans for a first-round playoff bye. If the Bears have even a shred of professionalism left, they'll be coming out fired up for this evening's contest, and the Vikings can't allow themselves to get behind or to give Chicago any momentum. Minnesota is simply a much, much better team than Chicago. . .that's been proven once this year already. . .and they need to come out and punch the Bears in the mouth (figuratively, of course) early. Thus far in 2009, the Bears have shown that if you do just that, they tend to curl up into the fetal position for the remainder of the game.

A victory tonight not only puts Minnesota closer to the #2 (or even #1) seed in the NFC playoffs, it will also make them the first NFC North team since the league went to the current divisional format to go 6-0 against the NFC North, which would be huge. The last NFC North game the Vikings lost came. . .well, in last year's game at Soldier Field. You remember that one, right? Two fluky touchdowns for the Bears on special teams, four interceptions for Gus Frerotte, and the Bears still just managed to squeak out a 48-41 victory.

I have a feeling that things are going to be quite different this evening. Let's hope for the Vikings' sake. . .and, quite frankly, for our sake. . .that they are.

It's about an hour and a half before kickoff, the temps in Chicago are in the 20s, and the wind chills are down in the single digits. Hope to see you here for all of tonight's action!