3TFO: Bears @ Vikings, Week 13
After being blown out at St. Louis, Chicago desperately needs a win to keep pace in the NFC North. The Bears currently share first place with Detroit, who host the now Matt Flynn-led Packers on Thanksgiving. You won’t hear this often, but Chicago will be hoping Green Bay can find a way to win. It’ll give them an opportunity at sole possession of the top of the division over a Detroit team that will own the tiebreaker in case both teams finish the season with the same record. Chicago will travel north to take on a Vikings team that they barely snuck past earlier this season. It took a game-winning drive by Jay Cutler for Chicago to secure a 31-30 win in week 2.
Luckily for the Vikings, they won’t have to face Cutler this time. Josh McCown will get the start once again, as Cutler continues to try and get back on the field from a high ankle sprain injury. Minnesota is coming off a tie to the Packers, its first since 1978, which ironically also came at Lambeau Field. At 2-8-1, Minnesota is out of the playoff race, but is looking to play spoiler to Chicago for a consecutive year.
Yo, Adrian. It’s me, the NFL’s Worst Rush Defense
In the first matchup of the year between these two teams, Chicago didn’t allow Minnesota’s best offensive player, Adrian L. Peterson, to beat them. Peterson, even while reaching the 100-yard mark, logged his second lowest overall grade of the season, (-1.4) so far, against the Bears. In that game though, Chicago had most of its defensive starters available, including: Henry Melton, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs. Most of the guys that were there to contain Peterson are now absent because of injury and Chicago’s run defense (-67.3) has since regressed to the lowest-rated in the league. Chicago gave up 258 yards on the ground to St. Louis last week and will now face the NFL MVP. Yikes.
Another Pass Rushing Challenge
Offensive tackles Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills had historically bad days against the St. Louis pass rush. Bushrod’s grade of -11.6, to this point, was the worst performance of an offensive tackle this season and the worst by Chicago player since PFF started collecting data. The good news for these guys is that they won’t have to see Robert Quinn or Chris Long again this season. The bad news? Minnesota’s pass rush has generated more pressures and hurries than St. Louis’.
DLE Brian Robinson (+4.1) had a pretty good game against Mills in the first meeting. Robinson had six QB hurries, a QB hit and two stops and his counterpart DRE Jared Allen had a sack, a QB hit and four hurries as well. This will be another tough challenge for Bushrod and Mills. The duo of Robinson and Allen on their home turf with a ton of crowd noise can be just as lethal.
Jennings vs. Jennings
With Tillman out, Tim Jennings is now Chicago’s best corner and will likely draw a matchup with Greg Jennings. It’s been a less-than-stellar year for the two former Pro Bowlers, with neither player playing at the level we have seen in the past. Even so, someone has to win this matchup, right? Greg is battling an Achilles injury that mysteriously kept him out of the week 11 game against Seattle, even though he was listed as probable. He also dropped a key pass in overtime of last week’s tie against his former team, Green Bay. Greg just hasn’t been able to get in rhythm since jumping ship to division foe, Minnesota, which could have something to do with the inconsistent quarterback play.
After leading the NFL with nine interceptions last year, Tim only has three so far this year. Because Tillman was playing at such a high level last year, teams were throwing at Tim more, which led to additional opportunity to make plays. Actually, through 11 games in 2012, Tim was thrown at 78 times compared to 58 this year.
It’ll be an interesting matchup between these two guys, who have been division foes since 2010. We’ll see if either one can find their former self in Sunday’s game.
Follow Rashawn on Twitter: @RashawnFranklin.