The (0-1) Minnesota Vikings head to the “Windy City” to take on the (1-0) Chicago Bears in week two action. The Vikings looked like a team with no wins in their week one defeat against the Detroit Lions. They were outscored in the second half 21-10, making the final score 34-24. The Chicago Bears won their first ball game against the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-21. They look to continue their winning efforts at home against the unraveling Vikings.
The big storyline in this game: Jay Cutler against this Vikings defense. Cutler has notably torched the Minnesota secondary with a 5-1 record in his past six starts. For the Vikings secondary, it will be very important to step up and make some plays in coverage while coming up and securing tackles in run defense. The defense last week gave up many big plays to Detroit due to a host of missed tackles.
Tackling will be key in this divisional matchup. The return of Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams hopefully should help the team’s defense against the run, which in turn helps the secondary focus on coverage.
I expect the Bears to throw in a large amount of screens to their game-plan against the Vikings. I also expect the Bears offense to try and exploit Minnesota’s poor tackling. Reggie Bush proved last week that running screen plays out of the backfield can beat the Vikings. With a great back like Matt Forte, the Vikings’ defense will have a hard time stopping the Bears offense out of the backfield and in the air down field.
You can never count the Minnesota Vikings out when Adrian Peterson is on the field. He started his 2013 season with a 78-yard touchdown run. Watch how the Vikings offense relies heavily on Peterson and the play action pass to get Ponder’s offense rolling. The offense needs to get back in sync and convert on more third downs if they have hopes of getting back to .500.
The x-factor in this game: Christian Ponder. Will he be able to keep up with Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense?
Ponder threw 3 interceptions last week against Detroit. He was unable to keep the offense moving on crucial third downs including an INT to put the game out of reach.
Peterson can help by making some big plays on early downs to keep the 3rd downs shorter for Ponder. It will be important for the Vikings to set themselves up with more 3rd-&-3 or 3rd-&-2 situations if they want Ponder to have the best chance to convert with his legs or through the air. I think Ponder will rely heavily on Kyle Rudolph in the play-action game as well.
Player to Watch: Jerome Simpson. He had 7 catches for 140 yards last week against Detroit. Will he duplicate his performance and finally become the weapon the team thought they had when they picked him up? This could be the game that wakes up Simpson for a breakout season.
This is a crucial game for the Minnesota Vikings. Going 0-2 to start the season statistically gives the Vikings a 12% chance to make the playoffs. It’s easy for many to say there is a lot of season left to play and anything can happen. However, I honestly believe this game is more important because it is a divisional game. Starting the season 0-2 in the division is worse than starting the season 0-3 against opponents outside your division. It should be another physical game by both squads.
My pick: Vikings (24-21)