The Chicago Bears (8-4, 3-2 road) will face off with the Minnesota Vikings (6-6, 5-1 home) for the 104th meeting in their history. The Vikings hold a 52-49-2 edge, but Lovie Smith has won all four meetings against Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. This game will be a big factor in deciding which of these teams makes it to the playoffs.
The Vikings will be without one of their best offense weapons in WR Percy Harvin, who leads all Viking receivers, by more than double, with 62 catches for 677 yards. Running back Adrian Peterson is having another monster year with 1,446 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. The Bears know that he can single-handedly win a game, like he did in 2007 when he had 224 rushing yards, nine receiving yards, 128 yards on kickoff returns and three rushing touchdowns. Someone (or multiple players) from the Bears defense will need to stop him and hope that TE Kyle Rudolph (eight receiving touchdowns) doesn’t do much damage.
Jay Cutler will need continue his stellar play (68.0 completion percentage in his last four games), especially with rookie WR Alshon Jeffery (16 catches, 199 yards and two TDs in six games) coming back. Vikings QB Christian Ponder has looked terrible lately (four of his last six games he has had a QB rating under 60), so the Bears defensive line, led by Henry Melton (six sacks, two forced fumbles this season) will need to keep pressure on him all day.
Here are some numbers to remember when watching the game this Sunday.
92.6: Cutler’s Total QBR when outside of the pocket, best in the NFL.
16: Number of touchdowns Cutler has thrown against the Vikings in seven career games.
0: Number of times Matt Forte has rushed for 100 yards or more against the Vikings.
5: Number of receiving touchdowns Devin Hester has scored against the Vikings. He has 14 total receiving touchdowns in his career.
6: Number of games that Adrian Peterson has gained 100 or more yards from scrimmage against the Bears in nine career games.
2: Number of Vikings other than Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, who have scored touchdowns against the Bears in their last five meetings (Kyle Rudolph in 2012 and Joe Webb in 2010).
11.34: Cutler’s average yards per pass attempt in the fourth quarter this season.
2-5: The Bears record under Lovie Smith at the Metrodome.
2-6: The Bears record under Lovie Smith during Week 14 of a season.
10: Number of receptions needed by Brandon Marshall to break the Bears single-season record, currently held by Marty Booker with 100 in 2001.
8: Number of forced fumbles by Charles Tillman this season, two shy of the NFL single-season record held by Osi Umenyiora of the New York Giants in 2010.
3.9: Average yards per punt return by Bears opponents this season, best in the NFL.
2: Number of times the Bears defense has given up more than one touchdown in the second half/overtime (Tennessee and Seattle both scored two).
3: Points scored by Bears opponents on their opening drive of the game.
109: Points scored by the Bears this season off of the 34 turnovers they created.
1: Number of plays over 27 yards by Bears opponents in the fourth quarter this season.
8: Number of plays over 27 yards by the Bears offense in the fourth quarter this season.
2009: The last time the Bears won an overtime game (December 28, 2009 against the Vikings).
21-2: Bears record when they lead after the first quarter since 2009.
Plain and simple, the Bears need to start quick and hang onto a lead. They have done a great job of it in recent years, despite last week’s overtime debacle against the Seattle Seahawks. Let’s all hope that Lovie Smith can manage this banged up defense and Mike Tice can figure out a way to block Vikings DE Jared Allen (13 career sacks against the Bears). This one has a lot of playoff implications.