The Bears and Vikings Collide in Minnesota, Playoff Hopes Are Once Again at Stake
By: Kim O'Hara | Posted: December 07, 2012
It's a new week in the NFL and, with it, a new matchup of paramount importance in the NFC North. This week features two teams that must win to keep playoff pace; Chicago still hopes to win the division while Minnesota aims to remain in the Wild Card picture.
The Bears lost an overtime shocker to Seattle last week at Soldier Field, dropping them even with Green Bay in divisional standings. Chicago will have the opportunity to take one from the Packers next week, but it must first knock Minnesota out of contention. One week at a time for Chicago.
The Vikings would be wise to adopt a postseason mindset from this week forward. A loss in Green Bay last week rendered Minnesota a .500 team, not entirely shut out of the playoffs, but far from guaranteed an invitation to play in January. It will be no small feat to win out, but that's likely what will be required of the Vikings to keep their season rolling.
So can the Vikings defend its home turf against Chicago this weekend? It's hard to say. The accomplishments of running back Adrian Peterson are varied and many. Peterson continued his outstanding 2012 campaign last week with a 210-yard effort (including an 82-yard touchdown dash). In his first outing against Chicago two weeks ago, Peterson lost just the second of his fumbles this season. Rest assured, he will approach this matchup with redemption (and ball security) in mind.
Perhaps Christian Ponder is the individual with most at stake in this week's game. The quarterback has had an awfully tough time holding onto the ball in his second year (committing at least one turnover in all but one game since October 7th). He will need to execute cleanly against the League's number one turnover-creating defense to give his team an earnest chance at victory. Though receiver Percy Harvin, who had been having a career year prior to an ankle injury, has been placed on Injured Reserve, Ponder has established terrific chemistry with tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph has caught eight of Ponder's fourteen touchdown throws, including one in each of his last three games.
Much has been made of the injury to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, and though his veteran leadership (and 68 tackles, two forced fumbles and interception)will be missed, there's more than enough defensive talent to pave the way. Fellow linebacker Lance Briggs leads Chicago's defense with 70 tackles, defensive end Julius Peppers has recorded seven sacks, and the one-two punch of Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at the cornerback position (a combined eight forced fumbles and ten interceptions) are potent enough to impact Sunday's game.
Perhaps a bigger concern would be Jennings' shoulder. He suffered the injury late in last week's loss against Chicago and his status remains unknown for this week. But with or without Jennings, anticipate the Bears to exploit Minnesota's young, turnover-prone quarterback. If they succeed, it will set the stage for an incredible game next week against Green Bay.
Kim O'Hara is the Associate Editor of TheFootballGirl.com. She is an avid fan of sports in general, but the NFL in particular. She has also been a contributor to ESPN the Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @KimOHaraTFG
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