The Minnesota Vikings find themselves at 4-5, and on the very periphery of playoff discussion. The playoffs are a longshot, but the next two games are the Bears and the Packers. Two wins there, which isn't impossible, and now they're looking at 6-5 and very much in the thick of the playoff hunt. The Vikings are playing much better football than the Bears are right now, and have the chance to accomplish something more rare than Spergeon Wynn completed pass--a win in Chicago. That's something the Vikings have accomplished exactly twice since 2000, and the Vikings have struggled against the Bears in general, winning only three of their last 10 contests.
So how in the world are the Vikings going to get out of Chicago with a win? Let's see.
Punch the Bears in the mouth early. Collectively, Chicago's psyche right now is about as fragile as your typical Middle East peace agreement. It's tenuous, at best, and if the Vikings can come out and take it to the Bears early, you get the feeling that the Bears might fold like a wet cardboard box. They seem to have just flat out quit in back to back blowout losses to the Pats (51-23) and Packers (55-14), and the Bears are in complete disarray right now. If Minnesota can get a couple of early scores and get things rolling downhill, it could be another long day on the shores of Lake Michigan for the Fighting Trestmans.
Let Cutler...Cutler. I don't get Jay Cutler. The guy has all the natural talent to be a great QB, but he makes some of the most idiotic throws I've ever seen an 'elite' QB make. The Bears have a very good receiving tandem in Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, but the Vikings secondary isn't the paper tiger it was last year. They match up very well with the Bears, and when you add in the pressure the Vikings defensive line has been bringing the last several games, one gets the feeling that Cutler is going to turn the ball over, more than once.
Also, my Dad calls Jay Cutler the 'whiny puss boy cry baby'. In my father's world of quarterback hatred, Jay Cutler is first, and I don't think there's a second. He called me up giggling like a 10 year old watching Cutler melt down last week against the Packers. Just thought I'd share that.
Run the ball, with whoever the running back is. It's doubtful that Adrian Peterson will be activated in time for the Bears game, but the Vikings have been making money on the ground with Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata. Without Peterson, the Vikings are 10th in the NFL in running the ball, and with the weather forecast calling for wind (at Soldier Field? NO WAY) and possible snow flurries, a strong ground game is going to be a must on Sunday. The Bears defense is old, slow, and not that good. The Vikings must take advantage of it.
But wait, the Bears can't cover a sleeping baby with a blanket, so pass the ball, too. Even though the Vikings will need to run effectively, they have an opportunity for a lot of explosive plays in the air. The Bears have been fire bombed and gutted from the air, and are 28th in the NFL against the pass. The Vikings passing game has been surging lately, as Teddy Bridgewater has passed for over 240 yards in back to back games and seems to be growing up before our eyes. Seriously, I can't wait for the first screen pass to McKinnon or Asiata in the big void on the right side of Chicago's defense created by Jared Allen's upfield rush. Either McKinnon or Asiata might be able to run all day. What's it called when you cheer and laugh at the same time? Chaughing? Laurring? I don't know, but I'm going to be doing whatever that is.
Forget (semi) recent history. 2000, 2007. Those are the only Viking wins in Chicago in the new millennium; not even Brett Favre could win there in his 2009 Deal With The Devil season. This is where Vikings teams go to die, as not only have the VIkings lost, they've been whipped more often than not. Three of the last four losses have been by double digits, the smallest of those deficits 13 points. Last year, of course, was one of the five last second losses that drove us all to drink. Forget all that. This is a new team, with a new attitude, and since that last second loss to the Bills, this team has shown up when it's mattered most. This is almost a perfect storm of opportunity for the Vikings--the Bears are reeling, the Vikings are kind of rolling, the matchups seem to favor the Vikings for the first time in a few years, and you get the feeling that this is a game the Vikings will win if they can set the tone early in the game.
Still, it's in Chicago. It's going to come down to a field goal, isn't it? Yeah, probably. I just don't see the Vikings manhandling anyone 51-14, or whatever the recent Bears scores were. even though the Vikes have been playing well and the Bears haven't, I still expect a close game, and one that could very well come down to a field goal. If that's the case, I'll take Blair Walsh.
Skol Vikings! Beat the Bears.