Tonight, the Monday night game which should be one that deserves a national audience, seems like a mismatch. The Minnesota Vikings who are the NFL’s best defense will try to take over Soldier Field, coming in tied for the best record in the NFC. The Chicago Bears will play host, and currently they are at the other end of the spectrum, tied for the NFC’s worst record. They already are on their second three-game losing streak of the year.
What might look like some silver lining to the cloud hanging our the Bears is that the Vikings are coming off their worst performance of the season. The Philadelphia Eagle bounced them and gave them their first loss, with a 21–10 score. The really bad news for Chicago is that they are also coming off their worst game of the season, in a brutal loss to the Green Bay Packers. In that game which couldn’t have gone worse, they also lost quarterback Brian Hoyer to a broken arm. So that means Jay Cutler, who’s recovered now from a thumb injury, will get his starting job back, Hoyer had actually had some success in sparking Chicago’s offense.
If Minnesota’s has anything to worry about, it’s the possibility that the Eagles gave other future opponents a blueprint for beating the Vikings and getting under their skin. They secret: Make the Vikings them play from behind, and pressure Sam Bradford as much as you can to force turnovers. But the questions is, even with a plan, are the Bears able to do those things?
All eyes will be on the offense, more specifically, the offensive line of the Vikings when they plays the Bears on Monday Night Football. The one win and six Bears are familiar foes, but something about going to Soldier Field has always been hard for the Vikings to do. There is potential for an upset here is the Vikings aren’t careful. Though under coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have a record of three wins and one loss against the Bears. The one loss was back in 2014, in a Week 11 road loss to Chicago when Jay Cutler got a record 440 total yards against a brutal Vikings’ defense.
Since that loss, the two teams have trended in different ways. One up, one down. If you include the playoff loss to Seattle last year, the Vikings have a record of 19-10; and the Bears have eight wins and 21 losses in the same time period. The last time the teams met in Chicago, the game was close and they defeated the Bears by a score of 23-20.
Despite their record, the Bears have been playing a really tough schedule, and their only win was at home. Also, in a few games the Bears looked much better than their one win record, but just couldn’t finish. For example, last Thursday night against the Packers, until the second half the game was still undecided until Mark Sanchez came in at quarterback.
The Bears do have Jay Cutler who has fared well against Minnesota and its defense. He has eight career wins against the Vikings in his last 13 starts, and has thrown 26 touchdown passes, both numbers are his best against all opponents. Despite losing three straight to the Vikings, he’s thrown just one interception in those contests. But Cutler has a huge mountain to climb if he wants to win tonight. He hasn’t played since Week 2, and he’s up against a defense that has been dominant, even in their loss last week. The Vikings know how to force turnovers, they’ve done that more than any team in the NFL, and are in the top five against both the run and pass games.
It’s also tough to gage if the Bears can play defense like the Eagles. Having a lead would help, but they will be hard wn points against the Minnesota defense. The Bears can try to pressure Sam Bradford and force the Vikings into turnovers, but it’s unlikely. The Vikings’ weakness is their offensive line but Chicago has more than two sacks in just one game this season, believe it or not five vs. Indianapolis. They don’t force a lot of turnovers, and rank a sad 23rd with only seven takeaways. That’s a drawn out way of saying no, the Bears can’t push the Vikings out of their comfort zone on offense without a miracle.
The most important thing for the Bears is that they can’t beat themselves. Even with a 1-6 record, statistically speaking they have been a middle-of-the-pack team ranking 16th in total offense and 12th in total defense. So everyone and the coaches are wondering, why have they scored the fewest points in the league? The main reason is that they can’t finish drives, since they rank 26th in red zone touchdown percentage. They’re very undisciplined, penalized 10 times in each of the three games during their three-game losing streak. So they need to stay calm and not let the frustration get the better of them. They haven’t forced many turnovers either, only seven takeaways in seven games, and that needs to change now. It you can’t score points, you’ve got to stop them.
Even with that bad game against Philly being their most recent, Minnesota’s overall play suggests that they are unlikely to turn the ball over four times in a game again, so that is unfortunate for the Bears. But the Bears need to make their own luck, otherwise the Vikings will force a rusty Cutler into a lot of mistakes and big points, so they can get back into the win column, and not look back.