Winners of their last three games on the road, the Chicago Bears (5-8) will make their annual trip to Minnesota this Sunday to face off against the Vikings. Minnesota (8-5) was able to defeat the Bears 23-20 in Week 8 and the Vikings will be hoping for a similar result this weekend.
Minnesota is likely hoping to win by more than three points on Sunday. A big part of that being able to happen will depend on how the offense performs against Chicago’s defense for the second time this season.
During the Vikings 23-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week, Minnesota’s offensive line performed rather well (minus the final play) given some of their recent performances leading up to that game. The line gave up a total of three sacks and did not allow the Cardinals to get their first sack until there were 11 seconds left in the first half.
Due to the improved play of the line during this game, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was able to attempt his first 15 passes before he was sacked for the first time. Some of the line’s success could possibly be attributed to the game plan that Minnesota’s offense rolled out with, but at least a little credit has to be given to a line that played better considering it is a unit that has given up 38 sacks this season (7th most in the NFL) .
This Sunday, the Vikings linemen will be facing off a Bears pass rush that is slightly better than Arizona’s. Chicago is averaging 2.2 sacks per game in 2015 and were only able to sack Bridgewater once in the two team’s first meeting earlier this season.
Minnesota’s game plan on offense may revolve more around their ground attack like it did in the first game when the Vikings rushed for 147 yards against the Bears. Given Chicago’s rushing defense is ranked in the bottom third of the league, Minnesota’s linemen could spend a majority of their time run blocking instead of pass blocking this weekend.
If Bridgewater wants to help lead this team to the playoffs this season, he needs to do a better job at not giving the ball away to the other team. The young quarterback has turned the ball over at least once in each of the last three games (one fumble, two interceptions) and that cannot continue to happen.
The Bears defense has not been one of the top takeaway units this year, but one of their few takeaways this season did come when they intercepted a Bridgewater pass in the team’s first meeting. If the Vikings want to complete a season sweep of Chicago on Sunday, Bridgewater needs to be more careful with the football.
The Bears pass defense is a very good unit that has allowed the second least amount of pass yards to opposing offenses this year. However, because they fail to get many takeaways (three interceptions in their last six games), they are still allowing opposing quarterbacks to have an average rating of over 90 this season.
This is not likely the game where Bridgewater has a repeat performance from last week in Arizona. But like Bridgewater told the media earlier this week, “the only stat that matters is wins,” and a victory is all the Vikings are asking from their young quarterback this weekend.
Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson began the game against the Cardinals with a vengeance and lead the Vikings to a touchdown on their first offensive drive of the game. He ran for 38 yards on that drive, but only managed to gain 31 more yards for the remainder of the game.
After a starting well this year, Peterson has seemed to slow down a bit in the past few games. His 87 total yards in Minnesota’s last two games is the fifth lowest amount he has rushed for in a two game span during his entire career.
This game might be the one where he is able to get his mojo back. Having already rushed for over 100 yards against the Bears this season, Peterson will be looking to have a similar performance on Sunday.
The last time Vikings rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs lined up against Chicago’s defense he found himself in the endzone. Since then, Diggs has yet to cross the goal line.
The rookie leads Minnesota in targets this season despite only starting 8 of the Vikings 13 games. However, more teams are taking notice and making sure that Diggs is covered at all times.
During his first four NFL games, he averaged around six catches and 105 yards. In the six games after helping Minnesota beat the Bears, he is only averaging 3 catches and just 36.5 yards.
Since Chicago’s pass defense is one of the best in the NFL, it may not be as likely that Diggs will come out his slump this weekend. Therefore, the remaining Vikings pass catchers will need to step up and produce more than the combined 92 receiving yards they had the first time Minnesota played the Bears this year.
Division games are usually a lot closer in terms of the final score and it would not come as a surprise if this became true on Sunday. The fact the Minnesota could clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win and some help should be enough motivation this weekend to propel them over Chicago,
An offensive gameplan featuring more rushing than passing is expected to be utilized by the Vikings in order to expose the Bears weaknesses on defense. If Peterson can get out of his slump and rush for over 100 yards for the seventh time this season, expect Minnesota to capture their ninth victory of 2015.
Predicition: Vikings 17, Bears 13