We've been waiting a while for Minnesota Vikings football again, but we're now just a couple of days away from seeing our favorite team get back on the football field again. On Sunday, they will take on the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium in their penultimate home game of the 2015 NFL season. It's time to take stock of what everybody thinks will happen in this one, and with that comes our widget from our friends at The Crowd's Line.
As Eric outlined for you after last night's Thursday Night Football game, the Vikings can officially have a playoff spot secured before the early games end on Sunday afternoon. But, the first component in any Vikings' playoff-clinching scenario is a victory over their division rivals. . .a win that would give them their first sweep over the Bears since 2007. The Vikings are currently on their first multi-game losing streak of the year, and they can't let that get to three at this point.
When the Vikings have the football, things will likely center around the running of Adrian Peterson once again. Peterson went over the 100-yard mark the first time these two teams played, but was held out of the end zone. The Bears are still one of the softer defenses in the NFL against the run, so the Vikings would be wise to feature a healthy dose of the NFL's leading rusher. They also need the Norv Turner that called the majority of the Arizona game to show up for this one, as their offense against the Cardinals was not the stale, predictable outfit that we've seen for much of the season.
With a bunch of extra attention devoted to Peterson, Teddy Bridgewater might be able to highlight tight end Kyle Rudolph against a defense that has had trouble covering tight ends this season. Last week against Washington, the Bears allowed Jordan Reed to reel in nine catches for 120 yards and a score, and Rudolph has been a key component of Minnesota's offense recently. He's caught 22 passes over the past four games, and if the Vikings are going to go back to the short passing game that worked against Arizona, he could be in line for another busy afternoon.
On defense, we don't know yet whether or not the Vikings' big three of Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph, and Harrison Smith will be back for Sunday's game. Joseph and Smith have been practicing, but we won't get a final injury report until later on today. Minnesota's defense stood up well without those three players against an explosive Arizona offense, and they might be able to do the same against the Bears. Matt Forte hasn't been quite the same since suffering an injury the first time these two teams played, but Jeremy Langford has filled in pretty well in Forte's place.
The Bears have also had some issues at wide receiver, as they recently placed Marquess Wilson on injured reserve and declared that first-round pick Kevin White would not play this season. In addition, Alshon Jeffery has been battling a calf injury and an illness that limited him in practice on Wednesday and kept him out of practice entirely on Thursday. Regardless of who Jay Cutler has at his disposal to throw to, the Vikings will have to do a better job of getting after Cutler than they did in the first game. They only sacked Cutler one time and allowed him to complete two-thirds of his passes. Hopefully being on their home field this time can give the Vikings' defense a little bit of an advantage.
Minnesota has a lot riding on this football game. They need to get back on track after a couple of losses, and they can punch their ticket to the post-season with a little help. This one's probably going to be tougher than some of the experts out there might be anticipating, but I think the Vikings have enough to come out of this one with their ninth win of the season.
Vikings 27, Bears 21
How about you, ladies and gentlemen? Who do you have in this one?