With all of the buildup to the opener against the Bengals and the Bears prevailing over a quality opponent, it will be difficult to take the Vikings as seriously. Some will be tempted to put this one in the win column before taking a hard look at the task at hand.
That would be a huge mistake.
While the Vikings are a better matchup for the Bears, the fact is they have an awful lot in common with the Bengals. Have we forgotten already Minnesota had an identical 10-6 record to Cincinnati last year and, like the Bengals, were first-round playoff losers?
Can we ignore the fact it was the Vikings who knocked the Bears out of a playoff spot last season with a superior record in the NFC North and a fairly sound 21-14 thumping in Minnesota in Week 14 last year?
Take the Vikings lightly at your own peril and if the Bears do, they’ll be 1-1.
The biggest difference in the Vikings and the Bengals is Andy Dalton is a quarterback who can beat you while Minnesota’s Christian Ponder is more likely to beat himself.
After an allegedly strong preseason, Ponder struggled in the Vikings opener in Detroit, going 18-for-28 for 236 yards, one touchdown but throwing three picks.
The Vikings can’t win if Ponder is that generous with the Bears.
But they can absolutely knock off the Bears if the NFL’s reigning MVP, Adrian Peterson, takes over the game. In two outings against the Bears last year, Peterson was 49-for-262 with two touchdowns, going over 100 yards on the ground in both games and adding eight receptions for 46 yards.
On Peterson’s first carry of 2013, he went 78 yards for a touchdown last week. The Lions actually held him to 17 yards on 15 carries the rest of the way, but he did rush for another score and catch four passes for 18 yards and a third touchdown.
Minnesota’s top three receivers – Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and first-round draft choice Cordarrelle Patterson - were held to six catches for 70 yards between them last week. Jerome Simpson did have seven catches for 140 yards.
On defense, the Vikings were horrible in Detroit, allowing the Lions 469 yards of offense, including 352 through the air. Jared Allen did notch his first sack, but it was the only time Matt Stafford was pressured all day.
We should also note the Vikings defense allowed four of its past five 2012 opponents to go over 400 yards.
The Vikings will have to be a completely different team this week to push the Bears at home. They can be if Kevin Williams is healthy and, at this writing, we are told he should be and will go.
With all that was written last week about the Bengals’ defensive front and the Bears “new” offensive line, it was just a couple years ago that Williams and not Geno Atkins was the best three–technique in football and this Viking defensive front is still capable of a big effort. If Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Sharrif Floyd decide to help Allen and Williams push the pocket, look out.
The Vikings secondary is iffy but Chad Greenway is a Pro Bowler at outside linebacker and Eric Henderson is capable in the middle.
This will probably come down to Peterson. The Bears did a nice job holding the Bengals to 63 yards on 23 carries, but this week is different.
The Bears have handled him better than most, facing him twice in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012 and once in 2010 and 2011. Peterson has 1,085 yards on 217 carries with 13 touchdowns against the Bears. He’s been held under 100 yards rushing in five of his 10 games but has scored in all but two. The Bears best defensive effort against him was 39 on 12 carries with a touchdown in their only 2011 meeting.
The NFL is certainly all about “On any given Sunday.” But if the Bears don’t let Peterson beat them, it’s unlikely the Vikings will.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at email@example.com.
HUB ARKUSH'S 3-POINT STANCE
1. There is only so much an NFL defense can do against Adrian Peterson. Week 7 of 2012, he rushed for 153 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries against Arizona, Week 15 against St. Louis, he was 24-212 with one touchdown; Week 17 at Green Bay, 34-199 with one touchdown and another TD receiving; and Week 14 against the Bears, he rushed 31-154 and two touchdowns. In the NFL, one player can't win a game by himself, but Peterson was the reason the Vikings won those four games, the difference between 6-10 and 10-6. The Bears must limit Peterson and not let him force the defense to stay on the field.
2. The Bears have to run the football much better than they did against Cincinnati. If they allow the Vikings to make them one dimensional, they will have success rushing Jay Cutler and forcing turnovers.
3. The Bears have to find their missing pass rush. Christian Ponder is an unfinished product but not incompetent. If the Bears allow him to stand in the pocket and throw without pressure, he can make enough plays in the passing game to beat you.
– Hub Arkush, firstname.lastname@example.org