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The Only Game That Matters Is Here!



Date: 16 October 2011
Location: Chicago, IL
Time: 7:20 PM Central Stadium: Soldier Field
TV: NBC Know Thy Enemy: Windy City Gridiron
Gonzo's Prediction: Vikings 20, Bears 17
Final Score: Bears 39, Vikings 10

Yep, after a full afternoon of meaningless football, we finally get to the one game that actually means something. We're an hour and a half from kickoff, so let's take a look at what needs to happen for the Vikings to walk out of Soldier Field with a victory for just the second time in eleven years.

1) Run, run, and run some more - Yes, the Bears are starting two brand-new safeties in this one, but with as bad as Minnesota's passing offense has been, that might not matter a whole lot. What will matter, however, is the way that Minnesota attacks Chicago's rush defense. Going into this week of play, the Vikings have the third-best rushing offense in the National Football League, averaging 160 yards/game and 5.4 yards/carry. Chicago, on the other hand, has struggled to defend the run, ranking 28th in the NFL in that category with 135.4 points/game allowed and allowing opponents to average 5.7 yards/carry against them. Yes, Adrian Peterson is going to be the key to this, obviously, but with the way the Vikings should be pounding the football tonight, Toby Gerhart should get some touches in this one as well.

2) Stop. . .or at least slow down. . .Matt Forte - This season, Forte has basically been the Chicago offense. Coming into this week, he was the sixth-leading rusher in the NFL, but he was also the Bears' leader in receptions. By far. How far? Through the first five games of the season, Forte has more receptions than Johnny Knox and Devin Hester combined (30 catches for Forte, 14 for Knox, 12 for Hester). Undrafted rookie Dane Sanzenbacher. . .and, if you don't know what school he went to, Ted will tell you. . .is actually second on the Bears in receptions with 16. Now, we know that the Vikings are very good against defending the run (fourth-best in the NFL in rush yards allowed/game and allowing just 3.3 yards/carry), but as we saw in the San Diego game, a back like Forte could kill the Vikings on short passes underneath. You can bet that Fred Pagac will know where Forte is at all times and try to figure out a way to stop him.

3) Bring the heat on Jay Cutler - Entering this week of play, the Vikings were second in the National Football League in sacks with 16, trailing only the New York Giants in that category. Defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison have been playing out of their minds during the first five games, and Kevin Williams has remained strong since his return from his bogus two-game suspension. The Bears are shuffling some parts on their offensive line, including starting a new tackle across from Robison in Lance Louis, and long-time stalwart Olin Kreutz is no longer in the middle of the Chicago line to act as a stabilizing force. Granted, Kreutz isn't excelling in New Orleans or anything, but his influence was probably quite helpful last season when Mike Tice got that line to steadily improve as the season progressed. If the Vikings can get pressure on Jay Cutler with the front four and hit him a few times, they can leave more players back in coverage and make things even harder on the Chicago offense.

We've been waiting all day for Sunday night, ladies and gentlemen. Let's hope that the purple and gold can make our wait worthwhile.