Kev H. is one of the bloggers over at Windy City Gridiron, the Bears SB site, and he sent over some questions earlier this week for me to answ--what? You know the drill? You want me to shut up and get to it?
Well, what if I want to drone on and on, and throw a few kudos out to WCG, which is a good site that covers a team we love to hate? You don't care, and you just want me to get to the Q and A after the jump? And you already know that my answers to his questions can be found over there?
Jeez, okay. Q and A, after the jump.
DN: The Bears are 9-4, and have the inside track to win the division. It's an impressive turnaround for a team that a lot of 'experts' thought were the third best team in the NFC North entering the season. What has been the biggest reeason for the turnaround, and are the Bears a legitimate Super Bowl contender?
WCG: The biggest turnaround is that the defense is back to being a legitimate contender, and the offense has settled itself down a bit. To be honest, it doesn't hurt that the universe seems to be against the Minnesota Vikings this year, and that the Packers have seen more injuries than a walk-in clinic on the Fourth of July.
But I think the defense really is the key. They're playing at an extremely high level, for the most part, and that's allowed the offense to settle down. Even after the debacle that was the Patriots game, the Bears are giving up an average of 17.5 points per game, good for 3rd in the league. If you can hold opponents that low, you should hopefully be able to score enough points to win. That's exactly what the offense is doing now, especially since they've found a running game again.. Though the offensive line seems to have regressed a bit in the past week and a half or so, they were starting to be a lot more consistent. I'm intrigued to see what happens if they can get some good linemen next year.
DN: As you know, the Metrodome roof collapsed, forcing the game to TCF Bank Stadium, the University of Minnesota open air stadium. Are you excited to see the Bears and Vikings playing outside in Minnesota, in December, or is this just another December game for the Bears?
WCG: To be honest, I'm actually a little concerned. This game against the Patriots showed a Bears team who was troubled by the slippery, sloppier conditions that were occurring. We've had a lot of discussion at WCG this week about the ever-prevalent myth of "Bear Weather", but it's not something that applies to this team. The Chicago Bears are built for speed and timing, both on offense and defense, and slippery conditions do not help that out. I don't think cold will matter, but I don't want to see slips and slides. Peanut Tillman falls down enough on his own--he doesn't need help. I told people earlier in the season that we were actually better off having the Vikings away game late in the season, so we could get in the dome in December. (Sorry if I jinxed that.)
That said, I think it will definitely be an interesting game to watch, since the circumstances are so weird. I'm really surprised that the NFL is being so accommodating, as it seems that it would definitely be easier to just push the game to the Lions. I think having the 50th anniversary plans is helping to focus all efforts on getting it in Minnesota, and I hope it's a memorable game (that the Bears win.)
DN: Jay Cutler looks, in many ways, like a different quarterback this season. He has reduced his turnovers, and seems to be doing well in the Mike Martz offense. Is it the offensive system in general, a better familiarity with receivers, or better decision makingthat has lead to this?
WCG: Yes, yes, and yes. The offensive system is designed to make a team move the ball around, and take better advantage of what they see from a defense. Since the bye week, the system seems to have been adjusted to better suit Cutler's strengths, to get the ball out of his hands faster (because the line sucks), and to get it to receivers who are more open.
Over the past 6 weeks, things have really started to click for them. Jay has also been able to move around a lot more, which has always been one of his strengths. Before the bye week, he was averaging 13.5 rushing yards per game. Over the past 6 games, he's averaging 23.5 yards. While you don't necessarily want your quarterback rushing that much, it's nice to know he can, and that ability is extending plays that never would've happened in the first half of the season.
DN: The Brett Favre era has ended, as rookie Joe Webb will probably get the start at QB for the Vikings. Would you just reflect what it was like as a Bear fan having to face Favre with the Vikings?
WCG: I naturally can't speak for the entirety of Chicago Bears fandom, but I can definitely share what I know I and a lot of others felt. I kind of always thought it was an inevitability that he would end up in Minnesota when he left Green Bay, and he just had to suffer through the season with the Jets. You could tell he wanted the shot back at those who'd ousted him in GB, and he finally got that chance.
I wasn't what I would call scared about facing him, even after the terrible, terrible domination he had against the Bears while he was with the Packers. Part of that could be because he only won one game against the Bears while he was with the Vikes, and part of it was because I didn't think he was quite as threatening as he used to be. It was incredibly frustrating to see him succeeding against all odds in 2009 while "Favre Lite" came into Chicago and seemed bound and determined to throw an inteception to every defensive back he faced.
I think for Bears fans, and most football fans in general, they're just burned out on Favre. If he takes a year or two off, people will start to look back and see the dominant quarterback again, and not just the guy who seems to crave attention with every pore of his body.
(Side note: The $500 footballs? Really? *shakes head* Unbelievable.)
DN: What are the keys to victory for Minnesota Monday night, and how do you see the game playing out?
WCG: As is the common theme, getting pressure on Cutler early and often will help significantly. The o-line for Chicago can get very flimsy, especially if they're attacked early. The tight ends continue to be average blockers, at best, when pressed into it. If the Vikings can throw Jay off early, it will help out. He's shown more of a knack at converting 3rd downs since the bye week, and if he can do that all night, I think the Vikings defense will pack it in.
With regards to the defense, the secondary can still be attacked. It'll be interesting to see if Webb does play, because I think he will get flustered if Peppers and Idonije get in his face. (Lord knows I would be.) If the line can keep the front four's pressure off, the Bears Cover 2 will allow him to move around a bit and hit the underneath stuff.
I think this game will ultimately end up being a 10+ point victory for the Bears, especially if the Packers lose to the Pats on Sunday. They'll just have more to gain from playing their best, while the Vikings may just want to get out of the cold.
Final Score: 21-10.
I assume Kev meant to say 21-10 Vikings, heh heh. Thanks again to Kev from Windy City Gridiron for taking time out to answer the questions that needed to be answered.