Bears @ Vikings, MNF!
On the surface, this game looks like it should be an easy win for the Bears…we handled them pretty easily in the first game, the discrepancy in the win-loss records…but I gotta be honest—THIS GAME SCARES THE CRAP OUT OF ME. Maybe its the fact that its a division game; maybe its the fact that its going to be an away game; maybe its the way we forgot to show up last weekend versus the Patriots. Here are a couple things I will be paying attention to leading up and going into the game next Monday:
1) Where are we going to play? It definitely is not going to be the Metrodome. Early word had the game being moved to the University of Minnesota’s stadium; but the NFL has not given a thumbs up yet; due to the fact that they haven’t been able to clean the same 17-inches of snow off of this field that collapsed the Metrodome, and the lack of heating elements in the field itself at the college stadium. The NFL has acknowledged that the site of Monday night’s game remains a ‘fluid situation.’ Lambeau field has been rumored; The Colts’ field has been offered up. I think either of those might turn this game into a psuedo-home game for the Bears; regardless, it is tough to say how the not knowing will affect both teams.
2) Who will start at QB for the Vikings? Last weekend, Brett Favre missed his 1st game since 1943. Then, Tavaris Jackson left the game with turf toe. The third string QB, Joe Webb, has a hamstring issue. The Vikings signed Patrick Ramsey as insurance incase all three cannot go on Monday night. None of these four will ever be compared at this stage of their respective careers for Tom Brady.
3) Other Viking injuries of note are DE Ray Edwards and CB Chris Cook (Placed on IR). The Edwards thing could be a huge bonus, because JMarcus Webb has struggled recently. He made Jermaine Cunningham look like LT. He has made evey DE in the league so far look like LT.
4) Which run defense will show up? The one from the Giants and Patriots losses? Or the one from the rest of the season? With the uncertainty at the Viking QB spot, you have a feeling Adrian Peterson will get 25-30 carries. And he has hurt the Bears before.
5) Can our offensive line revert to pro-Pats game form? We seemed to take a step back in the last game, after a great deal of consistent improvement the prior 5 weeks. Maybe it had a little to do with the fact that we were losing by 30 points in the second quarter; but it bears watching in a game where you’re facing 2 stud DTs (Pat and Kevin Williams) and Jared Allen. The Vikes are super-thin in the secondary, so if we can give Cutler time, we should be able to exploit that.
6) Can we eliminate the deep ball? Lets assume that Favre or Jackson plays. And Harvin and Rice are on the outside. Can Whatever combination of safeties we use NOT get beat deep? Harris looked old and slow; Wright made some poor decisions.
7) What is up with our Kick and Punt Coverage teams? Hester and Manning have been superb as usual on our returns. With all the injuries to the Vikings secondary, there will no doubt be some guys who should be bagging groceries covering kicks for the Vikings; so on Monday night, I fully expect Devin Hester to break the returns record (that he has actually already broken, if you count th e Supe Bowl return, and the 108-yard FG return versus the Giants in 2006). But I cannot remember the last time WE gave up so many big returns. We can’t afford that with Harvin back there.
I am cautiously optimistic that this team has too much pride to follow up the terrible performance at home versus the Pats with a second bad game. Maybe this is what this team needed to get back their edge going into the last four games.
My prediction: Devin Hester runs a punt back for a TD that breaks this game open early in the fourth quarter. Bears win, 28-13.
UPDATE: Tarvaris Jackson has been placed on IR, so expect Brett Favre to give it a go; but if he can’t, it will be Joe Webb.