MINNESOTA VIKINGS (6-4)
at CHICAGO BEARS (7-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Even, Total: TBD
The Bears hope to see their starting quarterback return when they host the Vikings in a key NFC North matchup on Sunday.
The Vikings enter this one well-rested after a bye week while the Bears have a short week coming off a Monday nighter. Itís been almost exactly three years since Minnesotaís last win over Chicago, as it has dropped five in a row SU and ATS to the Bears. The Vikings have won at Soldier Field once since 2004, going 1-7 SU and ATS over their past eight trips there. The Bears have lived off takeaways this year (30 forced turnovers), and Minnesota QB Christian Ponder has been turnover-prone (9 TO over his past six games). Ponder will not likely have top WR Percy Harvin, who is listed as doubtful with a severely sprained ankle.
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Ponder has been pretty terrible in two career games versus the Bears, throwing for a paltry 4.7 yards per pass attempt. It won't be easy improving that mark against the eighth-best passing defense in the league (217 YPG). And the likely absence of Harvin, whose 677 receiving yards are more than twice the amount of any of his teammates, will definitely hurt. Harvin has averaged 89 total YPG in six career meetings with Chicago. However, not all is hopeless for the Vikings whenever Adrian Peterson is healthy enough to carry the football. The NFL's top rusher (1,128 yards) has gained more than 120 yards in four straight games, and he has had little trouble running through the Chicago defense too. In eight career games in this series, Peterson has 823 rushing yards (4.9 YPC) and 12 TD. The Bears rank eighth in the league in run defense (95 YPG), but have allowed the past four opponents to gain an average of 132 rushing YPG. Minnesota's offense has been plagued by turnovers all year, but it just ended a five-game streak of committing 2+ TO with a turnover-free afternoon against Detroit last week. The offensive line has not been great recently though, allowing 16 sacks over the past five games.
Cutler is certainly chomping at the bit to come back this week to face a Vikings secondary he has burned in the past. He has won four straight starts against them, throwing for 243 YPG, 12 TD and 4 INT. And although Minnesota is surrendering a pedestrian 229 passing YPG (15th in NFL), that number has jumped to 252 passing YPG allowed in the past three games. The Vikings have given up at least 350 yards in each of their past five games, a stretch where opponents have scored 28.4 PPG. The Bears could be missing two key receivers though as WR Alshon Jeffery (knee) and starting TE Kellen Davis (ankle) are both unlikely to play on Sunday. Cutler's hopeful return would also open up holes for the running game that has been held to just 200 yards on 3.9 YPC over the past two weeks. Matt Forte has seen a lot of eight-men fronts with Jason Campbell under center, but has usually run well against what is historically a strong Vikings rushing defense. Forte has totaled 625 yards (89 YPG) in seven career meetings in this series, and Minnesota currently ranks 14th in rushing defense (112 YPG) after allowing 145 rushing YPG in the past five contests. Chicago has committed 10 turnovers in the past four weeks, but Minnesota has just five takeaways in its past five games.