Week 8 NFL Game Preview: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

Week 8 NFL Game Preview: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
(Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune) Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (17) can't make a catch in the end zone in the fourth quarter of a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 16, 2014.

The Chicago Bears have won seven straight games at Soldier Field over the Minnesota Vikings. The last victory for the Vikings in Chicago came in 2007 when a then rookie running back Adrian Peterson amassed 224 rushing yards and three scores in a 34-31 win.

It's been a dominant streak for the Bears at home against Minnesota as they've won 12 of the last 13 matchups dating back to the 2000 season.

However, right now these are two teams with opposite records as the Vikings sit at 4-2 winning two straight and four of their last five. The Bears are 2-4 after opening the season with three consecutive losses and posting a 2-1 record prior to last week's bye.

Games between the Bears and Vikings are always fun to watch. Minnesota is a rising team that is grateful to have Peterson back as their star offensive piece along with an improved Teddy Bridgewater. On defense, the Vikings are generating pressure and that's something to monitor in this game.

The Bears have been in games up until the end over the last three weeks and it has shown us plenty about the resiliency from this group under John Fox and his staff. This will be a tough matchup, but the Bears have plenty of offensive firepower to put up enough points to win.

Minnesota leads the all-time series between the two NFC North rivals 55-51-2. The Vikings are the only team in the division that owns a winning record against the Bears.

Here's a breakdown of what both teams are thinking heading into Sunday's 109th all-time meeting.

What the Vikings are thinking

Minnesota will continue to ground and pound with Adrian Peterson, the league's fourth-leading rusher with 530 yards on a 120 carries. Peterson has three touchdowns as he's accounted for the third most 20 plus yard runs (6) behind only Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell and Tampa Bay's Doug Martin.

He has 14 rushing touchdowns and a 5.0 yards per carry mark against them. However, 11 of the 14 scores came during his first three seasons in the NFL (2007-09) as he's added only three touchdowns over the past six games of the series.

The Vikings star back has totaled 100 yards or more in all but three of his 12 career games against the Bears.

Second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater certainly looks more comfortable with Peterson front and center. When defenses load the box that's when Bridgewater and the passing game can attack. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Bears' defense is allowing the fourth-highest QBR (93.8) off play-action in the league this season.

Bridgewater has thrown five touchdowns and four interceptions along with rushing in for a score. He's tossed more interceptions than touchdowns in three of six games this season as he owns an 87.7 passer rating.

The other offensive weapon to monitor is emerging fifth-round Maryland product Stefon Diggs. The speedy rookie has 19 receptions for 324 yards and two touchdowns (1 receiving, 1 rushing). He's started the last two games topping the 100-yard receiving mark in both. Diggs is a mismatch and the Bears' defense better take notice.

On the flipside of the ball, the Vikings have allowed the second-fewest points (17) and the seventh-fewest total yards per game (338.8). Minnesota has only allowed 20 or more points in two games this season.

The Vikes are led by defensive end Everson Griffin with 4.5 sacks while second-year linebacker Eric Kendricks has four for a unit that has 16 total on the year. Minnesota has created eight turnovers (4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles). This unit can create havoc and that doesn't bode well for the Bears' offensive line.

What the Bears are thinking

The Bears know they'll have their hands full with Peterson and the Vikings running game. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and the rest of the Bears' defense must play better against the ground attack than they have so far this season.

Vic Fangio's defensive unit ranks 25th overall, allowing 124.8 rushing yards per game.

"It's going to take 11 guys playing good run defense to get this guy stopped," Fangio told ChicagoBears.com. "You can be going along fine with him and then all of a sudden he breaks a 40- or 50-yarder or more. So you've got to be on point with him all the time."

This is a week about discipline and the Bears have to be smart in their gaps and assignments. Generating a pass rush against an offensive line that has allowed 17 sacks, the ninth-most will help force the Vikings hand. But slowing Peterson down will be the main challenge ahead on Sunday.

Head coach John Fox is 10-3 following a bye in his career with the last loss coming back in 2007 as the man in charge of the Carolina Panthers.

Jay Cutler and the Bears' offense realize they have to capitalize on red zone opportunities against a gifted Vikings defense. Ranking 28th overall in points (20) scored and 27th overall in yards (337.7) per game, Adam Gase's offense has to improve.

Having No. 1 wide receiver Alshon Jeffery back healthy along with Eddie Royal, and of course Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett, Cutler should have plenty of options to help move the offense up and down the field consistently. Don't forget about receiver Marquess Wilson, who is now the fifth target, but a dangerous one at that.

The offensive line has been a changing unit basically all season. This week left tackle Jermon Bushrod is returning as a backup behind Charles Leno Jr. With Hroniss Grasu out with a neck injury, Matt Slauson will slide into the center spot with questionable options at guard Vladimir Ducasse and Patrick Omameh.

Regardless, the Bears have a big chance to earn their third win of the season and their first divisional win this Sunday. Minnesota serves a tough test, but as of late under Fox the Bears have proven to be just that; tough.

Injury Report

Bears - DOUBTFUL: Linebacker Shea McClellin (knee)

QUESTIONABLE: Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (shoulder), defensive tackle Bruce Gaston (illness), center Hroniss Grasu (neck), safety Antrel Rolle (ankle)

PROBABLE: Linebacker Pernell McPhee (personal), offensive lineman Patrick Omameh (ankle), guard Matt Slauson (knee/shoulder)

Vikings - OUT: Linebacker Audie Cole (finger), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), defensive end Justin Trattou (foot), tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion)

PROBABLE: Defensive tackle Tom Johnson (knee), fullback Zach Line (hip), running back Adrian Peterson (hip/finger/ankle), wide receiver Adam Thielen (ankle), wide receiver Jarius Wright (concussion)

Final Score Prediction

Bears 23, Vikings 20

I like the Bears by a Robbie Gould field goal. Even as home underdogs, the Bears should be able to pick up the victory in what could be a close game. If Cutler and the offense can limit their mistakes they should find themselves on the winning side of things in Week 8.

Season predictions: (3-3)

Weather.com Forecast

By the time kickoff comes around the temperature should be in the low 60's, sunny with SW winds gusting at 9 mph. With rain expected throughout the day Saturday, a tarp will likely be laid down to keep the grass as dry as possible for Sunday.

What's to come?

The Bears head out on the road for consecutive games, starting with their first primetime game of the season next Monday night in San Diego. In Week 10 they draw a matchup with the physical St. Louis Rams.

Read up on the five Bears players you should keep an eye on in Sunday's game against Minnesota, here.

Thoughts on the Vikings-Bears Week 8 matchup? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.

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