It's back, again.
In an effort to provide the best possible coverage of the Vikings' game Sunday against the Bears, I wanted to team with Bears Featured Columnist Andrew Dannehy, who is also the associate editor for the Trempealeau County Times and a writer for Cover 32, again like he and I did before the Week 2 match up.
Below are Dannehy's insights on this Sunday's game, with my take of his analysis.
What is one adjustment you’re expecting each team to make?
AD: For the Bears, the biggest adjustment is one they’ll have to make with a different quarterback.
McCown simply doesn’t have the arm that Cutler does, but he may not need it. Cutler’s ability to throw the ball despite the rain and the wind saved them last time around, however, neither team will have to deal with that in a dome. With McCown under center, the Bears have used a lot more short passes, relying on their receivers to make plays after the catch. It’s worked reasonably well so far and McCown has shown the ability to make big throws, but you won’t be seeing any ropes like Cutler threw to Martellus Bennett for the game-winner last time.
The Vikings should try to get Cordarrelle Patterson the ball more. He had only two targets in the first game and had just 11 passes thrown his way in their first five games. They’ve made an effort to get him involved in recent weeks as he had 11 targets last week and nine the week before.
Although he’s had limited success (7.5 yards per catch), the Vikings had to have seen what Tavon Austin did to the Bears last week and know that Patterson is just one missed assignment away from breaking a big play.
MN: McCown, regardless of arm strength, should be able to have his way with the Vikings in the controlled Metrodome environment. This is a pass defense that allowed Matt Flynn to go off for 216 passing yards in the second half and overtime period. McCown is more talented than Flynn and has a good rapport with his receivers.
As for the Vikings, getting Patterson the ball more is something I've been an advocate of for some time. He's demonstrated the ability to wreak havoc on the opposition as a kick returner. Get the ball to him in the flats or as a running back and those skills as a kick returner will come to life.
What is something you’re concerned about with the Bears facing the Vikings?
AD: The most obvious one is Adrian Peterson going against the league’s worst run defense.
Although he’s not having quite the year he had in 2012, Peterson is coming off of a 146-yard performance against the Packers and he’s still among the most difficult players in the league to contain.
Peterson “only” had 100 yards the first time the two teams played, but he’s a good bet to get far more than that this time and could easily top 200 against Chicago’s defense.
The Bears rank dead last in the league giving up 145.2 yards per game and they’ve allowed an average of 197 yards in their last five games.
They haven’t fixed the problem yet, how could anyone expect they will against the NFL’s best running back?
MN: This and Patterson's skills as a kick returner are the only things to strike fear into Minnesota's opponents these days.
Toby Gerhart showed life as the change-of-pace back against Green Bay and should be in line for more carries as the season advances.
What is one area you think the Bears can exploit in the matchup?
AD: The Vikings secondary is really bad and the Bears receivers are really good. This figures to be a huge problem for Minnesota.
Minnesota has the fourth-worst pass defense in terms of yards per game and opponents have an average passer rating of 97.7 against them.
That was also before Alshon Jeffery broke out. Jeffery had only six catches the first two weeks, including just one against Minnesota. Since then, he’s averaged 5.8 catches per game and is on pace for 84 catches and over 1,200 yards.
The Bears also have tight end Martellus Bennett, who is a matchup nightmare.
MN: This was exactly what I pointed out when I analyzed what Minnesota has to worry about in facing the Bears.
Chicago has one of the league's best receiving corps, with Marshall, Bennett and Jeffery. McCown and company should have themselves a good day, especially in the environment-controlled dome.
Who do you think wins and why?
AD: In a lot of ways, the Vikings are exactly like the team that just wallopped the Bears (St. Louis). I don’t think Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is capable of solving their problems against the run, so I’m going to pick the Vikings 31-28 on a last second field goal by Blair Walsh.
MN: Funny, in both cases the featured columnist picked against the team he writes about.
I can't see this one being all that close, with the Bears likely to go off through the air.
Minnesota may get its fair share of yards on the ground, but the Bears will reign supreme.
I see this one 28-17 Bears.