The Vikings will hit the road for the second time to face a division opponent, this week they will face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, if the Vikings can pull of win this will mark their first win in Chicago since 2007. These will be key points to keep a lookout for going into week two…
1. Ponder has to improve
As we all know quarterbacks take more of the blame than they should when things get hard, and receive more credit when everything coming up roses. The Vikings offense struggled to maintain possession last week; they turned the ball over four times and failed to put together a drive of longer than four plays until deep in the 3rd quarter. As we all saw coming Ponder has taken plenty of criticism for his and his offense’s performance in the season opener. Now is the time for Ponder and the rest of his offensive teammates to move on to the next game and figure out how to improve, and they’ll have to figure out how to do that while going against a tough Bears defense on their home turf. Coincidentally, the next biggest moment in Ponder’s career will take place on the very field in which he made his first NFL appearance back in 2011 as a replacement for Donovan McNabb. Ponder’s performance in that game was sufficient enough to lead the Vikings to use him for the rest of the season, and now it’s time for Ponder to put together the kind of performance that will get the offense back on track for the rest of the 2013 season.
2. Keep an eye on the offensive line
In previous seasons this matchup meant it was time to keep an eye on the offensive line – of the Bears. The Vikings have had some success in pressuring Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and in general the matchup between the Vikings defensive line and the Bears offensive line has been an advantage for the Vikings. But looking at last week, it’s the Vikings offensive line that people are talking about, and not in a good way. The Bears didn’t give up a sack to a very good Bengals defensive line and the Vikings struggled to run the ball in Detroit and Ponder was sacked three times. Believe it not the Vikings had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season and all five starters from that group have returned this season, so there’s no question that they have the talent and ability to play well. Expect big improvement from this group as they head to Soldier Field to face yet another stiff test in the Bears defensive line.
3. Urlacher and Winfield are gone, but don’t doubt these defenses
Key players from the Bears and Vikings defenses are gone; linebacker Brian Urlacher and cornerback Antoine Winfield have now retired. Those two players were crucial pieces to their defenses for years and were constant standouts in this Vikings-Bears rivalry. But even with them gone, these two defenses can still play. Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago forced three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) and they only allowed 3 yards per carry. On the surface, the Vikings defensive effort doesn’t look impressive because they allowed 469 net yards of offense, 34 points and 28 first downs. But when you consider the Vikings defense was on the field for nearly 70% of the 1st half and still had allowed just six points 28 minutes into the game, or that Detroit started drives inside Vikings territory five times and came away with just 10 points in those drives, you can see how the effort was impressive to some extent. The Vikings defense wanted to create more turnovers, and they were successful in forcing two against Detroit and forced another two fumbles that were recovered by the Lions. The level of talent on both of these defenses is good so we expect good hits and lots of turnovers for both teams.
4. Whose going to start the running game?
Both the Bears and Vikings have amazing running backs, but neither one of them managed to get 100 yards rushing last week. Adrian Peterson ran 78 yards on his first carry in Detroit, but he was able to muster just 15 yards on 17 carries after that. And Bears running back Matt Forte didn’t do any better, he gained 50 yards on his 19 carries. This is more relevant to the Vikings because everything they offensively rely on getting the ground game going. Peterson has played the Bears 10 times in his career, and in those 10 games he’s averaged 5 yards per carry and has 14 rushing touchdowns. He’s gone over the 100-yard mark five times, including in the last two games and also including a 224-yard outing at Soldier Field during his rookie season. If the Vikings are going to get back on the winning track, it’ll be because they ride the legs of Peterson.
5. Will Kevin Williams play?
After participating in practice this week it is anticipated that Williams will play this Sunday. He has been out since the preseason because of a knee injury. If he does return it would be most helpful in this game because the Bears have gotten better with the offensive line and they know have two talented running backs in Michael Bush and Matt Forte. Williams can still rush the passer and the Bears may include more drop back passes than did the Lions a week ago, the Vikings ability to generate quarterback pressure should be more of a factor this week.