Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears: Preview and Prediction

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Nov 1, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) has his helmet knocked off by Chicago Bears running back Jeremy Langford (33) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports


Vikings offense vs. Bears defense

Minnesota’s 31st ranked passing offense came to life in their Week 14 game against one of the best secondary’s in the NFL. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 335 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions while nearly leading the Vikings to an improbable comeback win.

This week, Bridgewater faces the 2nd-ranked passing defense in Chicago, which allows 216 yards per game through the air. The Bears have a pair of starting cornerbacks in Tracy Porter and Kyle Fuller that have been stingy on the outside against opposing receivers. Stefon Diggs and Mike Wallace will need to get enough consistent separation to give Bridgewater a target to throw to.

According to Pro Football Focus, in the previous matchup between Minnesota and Chicago, Bridgewater attempted 13 passes to receivers covered by Fuller or Porter, completing five of them for 67 yards and an interception.

Lately, Diggs has been guarded by the opposition’s number one cornerback throughout the game, as teams have recognized that he is the number one receiving threat on this offense. Diggs has had to deal with Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson the last two weeks, so seeing Fuller or Porter should be a relief.

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Wallace played pretty well against Arizona last week while Peterson shadowed Diggs, and he’ll have to take advantage again this week while Chicago likely focuses on Diggs.

On the ground, Minnesota’s 5th-ranked rushing attack will certainly be the focus of both Minnesota’s offensive gameplan and Chicago’s defensive gameplan. Norv Turner has been relentless in feeding Adrian Peterson all season, and there’s no reason for that to discontinue on Sunday. This is not only because Adrian Peterson is still a freak of nature (although that in itself is a pretty good reason), but Chicago’s rush defense is also pretty poor.

Thus far in 2015, the Bears rank 25th in rushing yards allowed per game (125.7) and 30th in rushing yards per carry allowed (4.7).

In the previous meeting between these teams, Peterson ran for 103 yards on 20 carries, displaying both powerful running and decisive hole-hitting. Most notably in that game, fullback Zach Line was dominant as a lead blocker. I’ll be watching Line this Sunday to see if he can replicate that success because if he can, the Vikings should have another successful rushing day.

Bears offense vs. Vikings defense

Jay Cutler is having his best season as a pro in terms of touchdown-interception ratio (1.8) and passer rating (92.2). Despite this, the Bears sit at 5-8, which is something I certainly would not have predicted before the season if I knew Cutler would be putting up those numbers.

Overall, Chicago’s passing offense ranks 20th at 237 yards per game, and many of those yards have been thrown to Alshon Jeffery (when he’s been healthy). In eight games this season, Jeffery has surpassed 100 receiving yards in four games and 77 yards in seven of the eight games.

Moreover, Jeffery has had some tremendous success against the Vikings in his career. In six games against Minnesota, Jeffery is averaging 10.5 targets, 6.5 receptions, 100.3 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game.

Xavier Rhodes, who has been playing pretty well of late, will be tasked with defending Jeffery this Sunday. Jeffery torched the Vikings for 10 catches for 116 yards in the first meeting this season, with five of those catches coming with Rhodes in coverage. One way to neutralize any threat the Bears may show in the passing game would be to contain Cutler’s number one option in Jeffery, and Rhodes will have that on his shoulders.

Minnesota’s 8th ranked passing defense is getting healthier both with their pass rush and in the secondary and, after a strong showing against Arizona (aside from a couple of coverage breakdowns), I expect this defense to contain the Bears pretty soundly on Sunday.

The Bears also possess the 15th ranked rushing attack in the NFL, lead by Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford. In the previous meeting, Forte was hit hard by Vikings safety Harrison Smith that forced him to leave the game. Since this injury, Forte has not been the same.

Minnesota’s 20th ranked rushing defense will need to find a way to make the Bears one-dimensional by containing the two-headed rushing attack in Forte and Langford. With the possible returns of nose tackle Linval Joseph and linebacker Anthony Barr, this defense should step up and keep this Bears offense in check.

Next: Vikings vs. Bears - Keys to Victory