The Minnesota Vikings (0-1) take on the Chicago Bears (1-0) at Soldier Field Sunday at noon. This is an important game for both teams, as they look to assert early dominance in the tough NFC North division.
The Bears are coming off a solid victory, the first for head coach Marc Trestman. They showed they can rally, coming back from a 21-10 deficit late in the game to win 24-21. The defense came out strong, as cornerback Charles Tillman had two picks on the day, and overall they held the Bengals running attack to only 63 yards on 21 carries. Although they had some miscues, I thought they looked pretty strong and ready to go. They are going to need to come out even stronger against a Vikings team that has the reigning MVP in Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings were handed their first loss by the Detroit Lions 34-24, in which running back Peterson had two rushing touchdowns and 93 yards on the ground. They definitely looked ready to go, and it does not hurt to have one of the best running backs in the league in your backfield. The defense for the Vikings gave up 469 total yards, a number that seems pretty high for a defense starring defensive end Jared Allen, but it certainly is something the Bears can certainly take advantage of with their new-found offensive attack.
This is the earliest meeting for the teams since 2002, and they split the season series last year with both teams winning on their own turf. The Bears need to show right away that they are not afraid to go up against Peterson, since he is really the only thing the Vikings have on offense. Quarterback Christian Ponder had three interceptions against the Lions, so one can only imagine the type of day he will have going against the high-caliber cornerbacks of the Bears, Tim Jennings and the aforementioned Tillman. Ponder does have wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, but those two are nothing the Bears cannot handle.
Keys for a Chicago Bears victory
Bears running back Matt Forte will need to literally hit the ground running, as he has to show he can get out in space and take advantage of open field. If the Bears’ front seven can hold the defensive line of the Vikings, he will be able to do just that and get the Soldier Field crowd rocking early and often. Especially since Forte has been utilized more in the passing game, he could line up virtually anywhere and cause problems for the Vikings.
The Bears cannot allow Peterson to gash them on every play. If the running back gains five or six yards consistently, that could leave the Vikings with easy first-down conversions and set up Ponder for short passes. The Bears’ defense needs to be stout from the outset, and I think they will be motivated from their opening-day victory and come out clicking on all cylinders.
Bears’ defensive end Julius Peppers, who looked lackluster in the opener, will have to come out focused and ready to sack Ponder. The Bears only had one sack against the Bengals but still came out with a win, but they will need to ratchet up the sacks and it all starts with Peppers. Speaking of the defense, the whole unit needs to look better than they did Sunday in regard to the pass rush. I believe their less than stellar performance was due to opening day jitters, and they have had a week to study up on last season’s MVP and the various things he can throw at a defense, so they will set the tone and dominate early.
Probably the biggest asset to a Bears victory Sunday is quarterback Jay Cutler, who is in a make-or-break year with the team. Cutler threw for two touchdowns and 242 yards last Sunday, showing poise in the pocket and not losing his composure when things broke down. In Trestman’s offense, Cutler has the ability to go through his progressions and go to a different look if a particular receiver is not open. This will be key against the Vikings, who have been known to hurry Cutler in the past.
I think the Bears will impress more people than they did against the Bengals, and consistently perform at a high level. Containing Peterson sounds like a huge challenge, but the Bears will be up for it. Expect a close game, but above all, expect an entertaining Bears victory.
Final score: Bears- 28, Vikings-24