After struggling to get on track in the previous few games, the Minnesota Vikings went into their Week 11 bye on a high note by beating the Detroit Lions 34-24 in Week 10. That gave them a season sweep of the Lions, and also kept them in the NFC playoff race with a 6-4 record. Now the toughest stretch of the schedule is coming, with four division games in their final six contests, starting with a trip to the Windy City in Week 12 to take on the Chicago Bears. The Bears have lost two straight games, but are still tied for the lead in the NFC North with a 7-3 record.
The Vikings hope to get wide receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) back this week after a one-game absence, though quarterback Christian Ponder performed well (24-for-32, 221 yards, two touchdowns) with Harvin sidelined against the Lions. Harvin did not practice at all on Wednesday, leaving his status for Sunday very up in the air at this point. Even if Harvin is not quite 100 percent healthy, his mere presence should have an impact on Minnesota’s offense beyond any production he has.
Rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright made an impact in his NFL debut against Detroit, as he caught a 54-yard pass from Ponder and then a touchdown on two straight plays early in the game. Wright should have some sort of role in Sunday’s game regardless of Harvin’s status, but there is a chance he will be inactive yet again if Harvin is able to suit up.
Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson is the league’s leading rusher with 1,128 yards, as he has made a borderline miraculous recovery after suffering a devastating knee injury last Christmas Eve. He has a good track record against the Bears, averaging over 100 rushing yards per game with 12 rushing touchdowns in eight career games, so his performance on Sunday will definitely be a big key to a Minnesota victory.
The Bears have a major injury concern of their own with quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion) missing last week’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Cutler’s status is unclear for Sunday’s game right now, but a short week coming off a Monday night game is not an ideal situation for him to return to action. If he is unable to play, Jason Campbell will make his second straight start.
Minnesota’s defensive line will have to take advantage of a porous Bears’ offensive line no matter who is under center, and the clear leaders of that effort will be defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison. Bears’ wide receiver Brandon Marshall is a physical mismatch for the Vikings’ undersized cornerbacks, so this may be one of the weeks that cornerback Chris Cook’s (broken arm) absence is most noticeable if they struggle to generate pass rush consistently.
Prediction: Vikings 20, Bears 17