Moving our attention away from the unpleasantness that has been the Jeremiah Ratliff story, let us turn our attention to the gridiron. The Vikings haven’t beaten the Bears at Soldier Field since 2007, and Bleacher Report did a great job of outlining how many things have happened in that timespan. It’s been a great run, but it may end come Sunday afternoon.
Bears D vs. Vikings O
It’s always the biggest question: Can you stop Adrian Peterson? In 2013, Peterson rushed over 60 times against the Bears while maintaining a 5.1 YPC average. The year prior, he was even better in his two matchups against Chicago at 5.3 YPC. The Bears have actually been average against the run this year, which is a huge step forward compared to last year, but they still aren’t….good.
They will actually miss Shea McClellin this week. That seems like a dumb sentence, but in general it’s true. As awkward as his play is at times, he still knows where he and everyone else should be on every play. That helps turn the Adrian Peterson chunk plays of 10-20 yards into smaller 4-8 yard runs. While McClellin won’t attack and make the big play in the backfield, he would still be in the right spot to at least try and slow down that runaway freight train. With him doubtful to go on Sunday, a linebacking core led by Christian Jones will attempt to contain Peterson. While the speed and playmaking ability is upgraded with McClellin out, the football smarts and gap fitting will be severely downgraded. This will leave openings for Peterson to get to the second level much more easily, where he is generally a problem for defensive backs trying to make the tackle.
Despite letting up yards on the ground, getting significant pressure on the quarterback can help neutralize running game success. Pretty simple, get to the quarterback early and often so they don’t have a chance to beat you to death through the run. The Vikings have allowed the 8th most sacks in the NFL this season, but the Bears ranks towards the bottom of the pack in getting to the QB. This is where Vic Fangio may need to unleash the raw athleticism of what he has to work with. McPhee will be the dog that he has been all year, but other contributors like Ego Ferguson and Christian Jones need to contribute to pressuring Teddy Bridgewater.
Bears O vs. Vikings D
The Vikings defense is full of young playmakers that Rick Spielman has acquired through numerous high round picks in the draft. Led by Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith, Shariff Floyd, and Xavier Rhodes, all who are under 26 years old, the Vikings present a problem for Bears’ offensive coordinator Adam Gase at all levels of the defense.
Minnesota ranks 5th in total defense while only giving up 17 points per game. The Bears will need to maintain a stout run game in order to limit the touches for Adrian Peterson who can break a game open at any moment. A lot of the success and failure of the run has to do with the play at center. If Hroniss Grasu suits up you will see more outside running as Grasu’s strength is his mobility. If Slauson is forced to play center, you’ll probably see more of a basic off-tackle run game to take advantage of the power Slauson can bring.
Whenever we talk about Jay Cutler we always talk about turnovers. Despite his past, Cutler and the Bears have actually only turned the ball over eight times, which ranks top ten in the league. The key objective in the passing game will be to simply extend the drive and collect first downs. This has been the gameplan for Gase and his offense most of the year, which limits the possibility of turnovers and allows them to play a simplified ball-control game.
Vikings Win: 23-20
While I think the Bears will play a solid game because their coaching staff is one of the best in the NFL, the Vikings will be mimicking their ball possession gameplan throughout this contest. The difference will be the young talent that the Vikings have acquired in recent years. The Bears will be looking across the field at a team that they are aiming to become next year. Hopefully, Ryan Pace and staff can acquire enough picks and hit on those picks as often as possible so we are discussing how much young talent the Bears have next year.