The Minnesota Vikings (6-4) head into Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears (7-3) in a very pivotal Week 12 matchup. Chicago will likely get starting QB Jay Cutler back after he missed Week 11 while recovering from a concussion suffered in Week 10.
Having Cutler back will do wonders for an offense that has become dependent on his ability to improvise and make its patchwork offensive line manageable. Cutler may not be a lot of things, but he's a competitor and one that can direct the Bears' offense much better than backup Jason Campbell.
Minnesota is looking for an upset in Chicago but will have to do it against the full Bears offense this weekend.
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
When: Sunday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket Max
Betting Line: Chicago (-5.5), according to Covers
Minnesota Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/20/2012)
|WR Michael Jenkins||Foot|
|DL Letroy Guion||Foot|
|WR Percy Harvin||Ankle|
Chicago Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/20/2012)
|WR Alshon Jeffery||Knee|
|QB Jay Cutler||Concussion|
|LB Shea McClellin||Concussion|
|DL Matt Toeaina||Calf|
What's at Stake?
The Vikings are currently 2-0 in NFC North competition and have four games remaining in the division (two against Green Bay, two against Chicago). Three of those four games are over the next three weeks and two of them are against the Bears.
Going into Soldier Field and beating up on the Bears, handing them their third-straight loss, would send a message to Chicago and build confidence for the Vikings' difficult road to the postseason.
A win may help but there is still plenty of work for the Vikings to do down the stretch and in the next couple of weeks especially.
Chicago needs to win to avoid a tailspin. They have three divisional games in their next four as well (two being against Minnesota and one against Green Bay). The following three weeks could very well determine both the NFC North champion and a lock for one of the NFC's Wild Card playoff berths.
Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson
"All Day" has been on an absolute tear this season. He has got the hot hand right now, too. Over the past two games he has put up 353 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns. He has also rushed for 120 yards in each of the last four games.
Despite the daunting task of going up against the stingy Bears defense, Peterson has the ability to break a big play at any moment. His second effort and ability to make things out of nothing make him a must-play in any format, against any defense.
Plus, he's averaging 4.9 yards per carry and has rushed for 823 yards and 12 touchdowns against Chicago in eight matchups.
Chicago WR Brandon Marshall
Despite missing the targets from Jay Cutler last week, Marshall still managed to get in the end zone and salvage an otherwise dismal fantasy outing. With Cutler under center he's averaging 12.8 targets per game and is one of the biggest threats in the league. Campbell threw just four passes in his direction last week.
No matter who is taking the snaps on Sunday (and it's looking like it'll be Cutler), Marshall should be factored more into the game plan if the Bears have any ideas about coming away with a win. He presents the biggest matchup problem of anyone on their roster.
What They Are Saying
NFL.com's Michael Lombari says that Jay Cutler's absence truly exposed how bad the team's offensive line is struggling.
Monday's game showed that neither the backup nor the coordinator were the Bears' real problem. Their real problem was -- and continues to be -- the offensive line, regardless of who's calling plays or who's under center (unless, of course, his name is Jay Cutler). Face it, Bears fans; your offensive line stinks.
Matt Abbatacola of CBS Radio Chicago - 670 The Score, reported on Tuesday (via Twitter) that Jay Cutler will start for the Bears on Sunday against Minnesota:
Jay Cutler will start Sunday against the Vikings— Matt Abbatacola (@MattAbbatacola) November 20, 2012
Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller said the Vikings had better be looking at how the San Francisco 49ers managed to run the football against Chicago's defense last week (via Twitter).
You can bet the #Vikings are looking at the SF game plan tonight and seeing how to run the ball against Chicago.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 20, 2012
Key Matchup: Vikings pass rush against Jay Cutler
Jason Campbell was abused by the pass rush of the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football in Week 12. Aldon Smith led the charge to personally account for 5.5 of the six sacks on the backup quarterback. Jay Cutler is used to running for his life, and if he plays as he is set to, he should fare much better behind center than Campbell did last week.
Jarred Allen may not be the top pass-rusher in the league anymore but he's still a disruptive force off the edge and could wreak havoc on Cutler and the Bears' plans on Sunday. Minnesota's 26 sacks rank them 11th in the NFL for sacks.
This one is tough to call. If Cutler does in fact play, I think the Bears are a much better football team and a more complete team than the Vikings. Christian Ponder has been wildly inconsistent and the Bears' secondary could seize the opportunity to take matters into their own hands this week.
Look for a tough, close game that's decided in the final minutes of the fourth quarter by a big play on defense or special teams in favor of the Bears.
Bears 20, Vikings 14