Call it the Battle of the Bottom Feeders. That’s what tonight’s Bears-Vikings tilt amounts to in light of the Packers’ and Lions’ fast starts. Even if the Bears win to get back to 3-3, they will still be two games behind Detroit. If the Vikings win they will still be far back in the pack but at least they’ll have some company in their misery. If the Vikes lose they will be beyond buried.
A lot of folks are picking the Vikings to pull off the upset. The Bears look like they’re unraveling at the seams, while the Vikings, after dismantling Arizona 34-10, look like maybe they’re figuring it out. The match-up most often pointed to in making the case for the Vikes is Jared Allen and Brian Robison vs. that ever-reshuffling Bears offensive line. Jay Cutler is supposed to be in for a long night, at least according to the experts. Only thing these experts are forgetting is how that vaunted Viking pass rush tends to disappear on grass – or, in the case of Soldier Field, dirt.
I do think Jared and Robison well get some pressure, I’m just not convinced they’re going to harass Cutler as much as some people expect. And even if they do get to Cutler, he can still pick them apart. My main concern isn’t the deep passing game for Chicago, it’s the screen game to Matt Forte. Without Antoine Winfield out there, look for Forte to have a big night both running and racking up receiving YAC.
Offensively…well, it’s the same story as every week. Can the Vikings mount enough of a passing attack to keep the Bears from crowding the line and bottling up Adrian Peterson? The Bears defense is not its usual fearsome self this year, but they still have some pretty good players and in case you didn’t notice, our offensive line isn’t exactly great either. But even if they pass-protect for Donovan McNabb, that’s no guarantee McNabb will be able to hit his receivers. It figures to be another ugly, grinding offensive night for the Vikings: lots of Peterson early (and probably not enough late), lots of trying to get Percy Harvin involved, lots of short throws to Michael Jenkins. I’d love to say something like “The Vikings hope to put pressure on the Bears’ suspect secondary by pushing the ball down the field” but I have too much self-respect. In the end this one could turn on a special teams play. Devin Hester is always a threat to house one, and now Marcus Sherels is becoming a legit return man for the Vikes.
Win or lose, Donovan McNabb will once again find himself in the crosshairs during and after this game. We know what the defense is capable of (and what’s it not), we know the offensive line is not going to get appreciably better, we know the receiver corps is not suddenly going to get an upgrade in talent. McNabb…has…to…play…better. That’s the long and short of it. I expect the Bears to conjure up a solid defensive effort in spite of their recent troubles and create all sorts of misery for Donovan and the Vikings offense. When it’s over, the Vikes will be at 1-5 and the calls for McNabb to go will become louder than ever. And I’m sure Leslie Frazier won’t listen, nor should he.