The Vikings' season got off to a rough start last week as they fell to the Detroit Lions 34-24. That loss makes their Week 2 game against the Bears a must-win. Should they fall to 0-2 in NFC North play, their hopes of winning the division go up in smoke. An 0-2 record in the NFC would also put them behind in the wild-card race.
A desperate team is a dangerous team, and that's exactly what the Bears will be facing this week. They'll have to be much better against the Vikings than they were this week. Here are a few things you need to know heading into the game.
It Won't Get Much Easier for the Bears Line
If the Bengals have the best defensive line in the league, the Vikings aren't far behind.
The Bears offensive line held up much better than expected against the Bengals, as Jay Cutler was not sacked and was hit just four times, according to the box score on ESPN. It'll have to play equally as well this week staring down another terrific defensive line.
The big matchup to watch will be Vikings defensive end Jared Allen against Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod.
The two have squared off in the past, and Bushrod has held his own. In their 2011 matchup, Allen had just two tackles and no sacks. With help from tight ends and running backs, Bushrod has held Allen without a sack in their last three matchups.
The Vikings defensive line is more than just Allen, however. Brian Robinson and Everson Griffen take advantage of the extra attention given to Allen and will be a handful for rookie Jordan Mills on the right side.
Inside, the Vikings may have Kevin Williams back after he missed Week 1 with a knee injury. With Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and first-round pick Sharrif Floyd, the Vikings have a lot of depth in the middle.
The Vikings didn't have a lot of success getting pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in Week 1, but Detroit's line has been strong for the last few years.
The Bears need to keep quarterback Jay Cutler clean again this week if they're going to come away with another win.
Matt Forte Could Have a Big Day
While Matt Forte wasn't necessarily unproductive against the Bengals, he could have some big plays against the Vikings this week.
Forte finished with 91 yards on 23 touches, which isn't bad but is nothing compared to Detroit's Reggie Bush, who had 201 yards on 25 touches.
Bush was consistently able to move the ball on the ground, but it was his play as a receiver that really hurt the Vikings, as he had four catches for 101 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown.
Like the Bears do with Forte, the Lions move Bush around. As you see in the screen shot below, Bush is in the slot on a play that ended up being a middle screen for 13 yards.
Bush wasn't the only Detroit back who killed the Vikings. Second-string running back Joique Bell ran for 25 yards on six carries and added five catches for 67 yards, including a screen pass for 29 yards.
If the Bears can copy some of what the Lions did with their running backs, it could make stopping the Minnesota defensive line much easier.
We know the Bears are going to give Forte the ball a lot this season, and if the Vikings don't play much better, he could have a big game.
Adrian Peterson Is Still a Home Run Threat
Anyone hoping the Vikings' star and reigning league MVP would've lost a step this offseason had to be disappointed after his first carry against the Lions when he went 78 yards for a touchdown.
After that carry, Peterson's numbers were pedestrian—rushing for just 15 yards on 17 carries—but the fact that he can score on any given play is what makes him scary. It forces the defense to give him extra attention and opens up plays downfield for others.
The Bears have seen Peterson enough times to know what he can do. He ran for 262 yards on 49 carries last year, although that may be misleading. Chicago got a big lead in their first matchup, and most of Peterson's yards came when the game was already in hand.
The second game, however, showed how important it is not to allow Peterson to have a big run. Peterson went for 51 yards on his first carry of the game and finished with 103 yards on his next 30 carries. That first long run set up a touchdown; other than that, the Vikings offense didn't do much the entire game.
Peterson is as unstoppable as any player in the league, but if the Bears can limit him, they have a good chance to win.
Vikings Have Receiving Options
While they won't be confused with the Packers any time soon, the Vikings do have some receivers who can hurt a defense.
The Bears' biggest issue against the Bengals was giving up deep passes, as they allowed A.J. Green to catch two passes over 40 yards and had a pass interference penalty in the end zone on a 3rd-and-13 play.
The Vikings don't have an A.J. Green, but they may have more receiving options than the Bengals.
Greg Jennings didn't do much in his Minnesota debut, but he's terrorized the Bears before as a member of the Green Bay Packers. He had four catches for 50 yards in their only game last year and had nine catches for 119 yards in their only game in 2011.
Jennings no longer has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, but we'll get to that later.
What the Lions learned last week was that Jerome Simpson can make big plays. Simpson's first year with the Vikings was a bust, as he caught just 26 passes, but he got off to a good start this year. Against the Lions, Simpson caught seven passes for 140 yards, including two for over 40 yards.
The Vikings also have tight end Kyle Rudolph, who made the Pro Bowl in 2012. Cincinnati tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined to catch 10 passes for 82 yards against the Bears in Week 1.
If the Bears don't figure out the coverage issues they had against the Bengals, the Vikings have the weapons to beat them.
Christian Ponder Is Still Mistake Prone
And here's the thing that continues to hold the Vikings back, as Ponder continues to make as many plays for his team as he does the opponent.
Although he completed over 64 percent of his passes against the Lions, Ponder threw three interceptions and was credited with a lost fumble on an exchange with Peterson.
Even when he did make throws downfield, they were off the mark, as his 44-yard completion to Simpson was thrown short and his 47-yarder to Simpson was long. Both required Simpson to make great adjustments to come up with the play.
Ponder's biggest strength is his mobility, so if the Bears can keep him in the pocket, there's no reason to think he is capable of beating them.
Jay Cutler Owns the Vikings
Outside of last season's stink bomb in their second matchup, Cutler has had the Vikings' number in his time with the Bears.
Cutler has gone 5-2—losing his first game and his last one—with an average passer rating of 90.5 against the Vikings. Cutler has thrown 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions and finished with passer ratings over 100 in three of those games.
More importantly, in those seven games, the Bears have averaged 27.7 points per game.
Also, the Vikings have had a very good defensive line and the Bears have had a very poor offensive line. If the Bears' play upfront against the Bengals wasn't a fluke, they could have another big game on Sunday.
Matthew Stafford torched the Vikings defense for 357 yards and finished with a passer rating of 96.8 in Week 1, and Cutler is capable of doing more.
If his dominance of the Vikings is going to continue, the Bears will need someone other than Brandon Marshall to step up. The Vikings showed they can take away a team's top receiver, holding Detroit's Calvin Johnson to just four catches for 37 yards, but the Lions were able to spread the ball around.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!