This was supposed to be a Brett Favre-free Vikings-Bears game preview but, as you well know, Favre has a funny way of re-inserting himself into the conversation when you least expect it, as he did today when the Vikings suddenly and controversially upgraded him from out to questionable (bypassing doubtful altogether). As of right now, Favre is not yet officially the starter for tonight’s snowy game at TCF Bank Stadium, but this seems a mere technicality. The plan, as far as we know, is to have Favre test his arm three hours before game time, and decide if the numbness has subsided enough for him to return to action. Is there anyone on earth who doesn’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Favre will deem himself fit?
So it will be Favre tonight for presumably the last time against his hated rivals the Chicago Bears. The conditions could not be more perfect for a legendary sort of game: Cold, snow, wind, Favre making a miraculous recovery. Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since Favre was any good in the elements, and there’s no reason for us to believe that will change tonight. So, looking at this from a purely game handicapping point-of-view – and leaving out all the legend of Brett stuff – Favre under these conditions against the Bears defense with a decimated offensive line between him and Julius Peppers doesn’t look like a great match-up for Minnesota. In fact, the argument can be made that the Vikings would be better off with the younger, more-mobile Joe Webb playing. But that, apparently, is not in the cards.
Actually, considering the weather conditions expected tonight in Minneapolis, the quarterback change might not end up being a big factor. My guess is that the Vikings will stick to the ground game as much as possible, taking most of the onus off Favre. Yes I realize the Patriots passed very effectively against the Bears last Sunday in similar conditions, but…well, the Vikings ain’t the Patriots. This game has Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart and Lorenzo Booker written all over it.
For the Bears, your big wild card is Jay Cutler. The sometimes erratic QB had arguably his best game of the year in the first match-up with the Vikings; the much-maligned Bears offensive line was unexpectedly dominating that day, giving Cutler all the time he needed to pick apart an overmatched Vikings secondary. The priority in this game must be for the Vikings to hit Cutler and hit him hard. Cutler isn’t fond of the cold and wind to begin with, and if you knock him to the hard turf a few times, he will certainly fold the tent. Then it’s a matter of stuffing the Bears’ running game and maybe forcing a couple of turnovers. If the Vikings are to win this game, I believe they will have to win it with their defense. A pick-six, a fumble return for touchdown, a big turnover that gives the Vikings a short field. I don’t care who plays quarterback for the Vikes tonight – I have no confidence that their offense can do anything against the Bears’ defense.
Whatever happens, I’m certain tonight’s game will be as wild as anything we’ve seen this year – and that’s saying something.
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