One week after surrendering the lead in the NFC North, the Chicago Bears look to earn a vital division win against the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson and company are out for revenge after getting stomped by the Bears at Soldier Field two weeks ago, and a crucial injury on the Chicago defense may be the break the Vikes need.
These three factors will have the most to say about which team comes out on top on Sunday afternoon:
1. How will the Chicago defense fare without Brian Urlacher?
A strained hamstring suffered in last week’s loss to Seattle has Chicago middle linebacker Brian Urlacher sidelined for Sunday’s game. The Bears’ defense has carried the team all year, but now it will need to adjust to the loss of its emotional linchpin—not to mention one of its most versatile players.
Nick Roach is expected to move over from his strongside spot to replace Urlacher, with Geno Hayes getting the start in Roach’s place. The change leaves Chicago weaker at two positions, especially against the pass, so the Bear secondary is going to need to be even sharper than usual to survive.
2. Can the Vikings slow down the Bears’ running game?
Chicago’s 15-minute edge in time of possession was a key factor in its home win over the Vikings. Michael Bush and Matt Forte combined for 102 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in that game, and Minnesota can expect a steady diet of that duo on Sunday.
With Jay Cutler coming off an uncharacteristically strong performance against Seattle, the Vikings may be reluctant to stack the line of scrimmage against him. However, with the Bears’ offensive line and receiving corps struggling to stay healthy, Minnesota’s best bet is to force Cutler, not the ground attack, to win the game.
3. Will home-field advantage save Christian Ponder?
At Soldier Field two weeks ago, Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder turned the game into a romp for Chicago by committing two of his team’s three turnovers. He’ll have a friendly crowd behind him this time around, and he’d better not squander that advantage.
Even with Urlacher out of commission, the Chicago defense is more than capable of outscoring Minnesota’s offense by itself. Ponder’s number one job this week is to hold on to the football, and if he can’t do it, the Vikings will be in serious trouble.
Prediction: Minnesota 17, Chicago 14
Adrian Peterson ran for 108 yards against a healthy Chicago defense two weeks ago. With Urlacher gone, an even bigger game from Peterson will swing the time-of-possession advantage in Minnesota’s favor and grind out a hard-fought Viking victory.
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