The Vikings, who come into this game having lost four of their last five, are a loss away from being all but statistically eliminated from playoff contention. As for the Bears, who fell from the top of the NFC North last weekend, they’ll be looking to bounce back and maintain their positioning in one of the two Wild Card spots.
The key to this game is the play of the quarterbacks, whose performances have been instrumental in deciding whether or not their respective teams land in the win column during close games.
So far this season, Christian Ponder has been a bit of a letdown for the Vikings. After getting off to a strong start, the second-year quarterback has struggled to provide the offense with any significant air attack. Especially with electrifying wide receiver Percy Harvin now on the IR and veteran receivers Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson struggling to make plays, it’s going to be difficult for Ponder to get anything going against this tough Chicago defense.
In the Bears’ case, they’ll be hoping that Jay Cutler can give their offense enough life to get past the stubborn Vikings defense. The biggest variable in this equation, though, will be whether or not the Chicago offensive line can provide their quarterback with enough blocking. They’ve already allowed 35 sacks on the season, and Minnesota’s pass rush will be rearing for a big game.
The X-factor to watch for in this matchup is Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who is the league leader in rushing yardage and is on pace to fall just short of 2,000 yards on the season. Peterson has cracked the 100-yard mark in the past six games, including a phenomenal 210-yard outing against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13. If he can have the same type of impact against the Bears’ 10th-ranked run defense, it’ll take some of the pressure off of Ponders’ shoulders and allow the Vikings to work the clock.
Overall, it’s going to take a valiant effort from the Vikings to overcome a tough team like the Bears. With one of the best defenses in the league, Chicago isn’t going to lie down and give this one away. However, if the Vikings plan on playing past December 30, a win is a must at this point.
It’s not going to be easy, but the Vikings desperately need a win to escape Week 14 with their playoff hopes still intact. If they can’t, Minnesota might as well call it a season and go into rehab mode.