Heading to Chicago this weekend, the Vikings have a fairly large opportunity to come away with a signature win.
Although the Bears aren’t nearly the threat the have been in previous years, the Vikings have struggled to win at Soldier Field. Facing the their only back to back stretch of road games in the 2015 season, the Vikings have an opportunity to prove they can win on the road while beating two divisional foes.
That said, there may be plenty to be weary of in our first match up with the Bears. The Vikings have had their notable losses at the hands of the Bears and I can’t knock the feeling of a potential let down game. Coming out of the bye week, Chicago has had two weeks to prepare for this game and likely realizes any hope for their season is to pick up a game against the Vikings.
Solid At Each Level:
The Bears don’t really thrive in any specific area of the offense. Generally middle of the road and bottom 1/3 no matter what stat you look at, the Bears have play makers, but haven’t provided consistent production.
Longtime running back Matt Forte is equally good at running and catching the ball and can be a bit of a match-up nightmare. Currently 6th overall with 507 yards rushing, Forte also has 21 receptions for 191 yards receiving and accounts for 33% of the Bears total offensive production
The Vikings front seven took over the game in the 2nd half of the Lions game and I suspect they’ll do same in Chicago. In order to do so, however, you must shut down the run game immediately. If you can force the Bears to become one dimensional, you can get to a rather immobile Jay Cutler in the weakening pocket.
If the defensive line cannot create some chaos, the secondary could have their hands full with two talented downfield threats. Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett are the Bears two most talented receiving threats and bring a different flavor to the offense. Jeffery is probably the Bears most talented player, but has struggled with injuries this season. Still, of Jeffery’s 13 catches, 5 of them went for 20+ yards and is averaging a team high 17.3 yards per catch.
Bennett on the other hand, doesn’t provide as much explosiveness, but is Cutler’s go to target. Leading the team with 34 receptions, Bennett is coming off two games in which he totaled 15 receptions on 25 targets. It’s pretty clear that Bennett and Culter’s chemistry is continuing to grow and he’s becoming a major fixture of the offense.
Because of the varying ways the Bears can move the ball, the Vikings will have to be solid in every facet. I start to sound like a broken record, but everything is contingent on the defensive line. Without disruption, the secondary could struggle to contain Jeffrey on long routes and Bennett in the middle of the field eating up good yardage.
The Jay Cutler Enigma:
That’s really what Cutler is, an enigma. Gifted with a great arm, Cutler has both destroyed the Vikings and imploded before our very eyes depending on the game. Averaging 240 yards a game, Cutler and the Bears throw the ball 56% of the time.
There will be plenty of opportunity for the Vikings to create pressure and make Cutler antsy. When Cutler feels pressure, there is a notable decrease in his completion percentage from 60% to 49%.
I don’t anticipate Cutler consistently hurting the Vikings this upcoming weekend, but it doesn’t only takes one play for the Bears to pick up big yards. Again, creating pressure and collapsing the pocket will force Cutler to check down and prevent Jeffery from getting open on deeper routes.
As we’ve seen all year, the defense’s ability to get to the quarterback is key for a victory on Sunday. To do so, however, it starts with stopping the run from the get go. If the Bears can find a way to find balance on offense, the defense will struggle mightily to control the tempo and field position.