Less than two weeks ago, the Chicago Bears ended a two game losing streak by defeating the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field 28-10.
The Bears' defense held the Vikings to 258 yards of total offense and just one touchdown while forcing three turnovers.
In order for the Bears to remain in the driver's seat for at least a wild card spot, the defense will once again have to slow down the Vikings' offense.
In their previous meeting, Adrian Peterson continued to add to his impressive 2012 campaign by rushing for 108 yards on just 18 carries. Peterson's comeback from a torn ACL and MCL suffered last season is nothing short of remarkable. Through 12 games this season he has rushed for 1,446 yards and eight touchdowns—some would argue that he looks better than ever.
Without Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker, the Vikings will likely try and go after his replacement, Nick Roach. Roach has prior experience filling in for Urlacher at the middle linebacker position and in their previous meeting he caused Peterson to fumble, setting up the Bears' first touchdown of the game.
In order to shutdown Peterson, defensive tackles Stephen Paea and Henry Melton will have to do a better job of getting up field and plugging the running lanes. Peterson has the ability to not only run outside of the tackles, but is a solid power running back between the tackles.
The Vikings' passing game struggled two weeks ago and, due to the Bears' sizable lead, they were forced to throw the ball 43 times. Quarterback Christian Ponder's success has diminished since the beginning of the season and much of that can be blamed on the lack of weapons around him now that wide receiver Percy Harvin has been placed on injured reserve (h/t ESPN).
In the nine games that Harvin played he had 62 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns and also ran the ball 22 times for 96 yards and one touchdown. Without the threat of Harvin, the Vikings' offense has become very one dimensional and Ponder has struggled to find much of a connection with any other receiver.
With Harvin out and neither Jerome Simpson nor Michael Jenkins making much of an impact on the outside, tight end Kyle Rudolph will be Ponder's number one option in the passing game, particularly in the redzone. Rudolph has 45 catches for 412 yards and eight touchdowns on the season and caught five passes for 55 yards and score in their previous meeting. New starting strong side linebacker Geno Hayes will likely get the assignment against Rudolph and will have to utilize his exceptional speed to match up against him.
The Vikings may try and take a page out of the Seahawks' playbook from a week ago in which mobile quarterback Russell Wilson effectively ran the read-option against the Bears' defense and came away with 293 yards through the air and 71 on the ground. Ponder is gifted athletically and, although not nearly as much of running threat as Wilson, he does have the ability to pick up yards on the ground when needed. Roach in the middle and Lance Briggs on the outside will have to do a better job of keeping containment than they did last week if Ponder decides to get outside the pocket.
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