Week 15 NFL Game Preview: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Week 15 NFL Game Preview: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune Alshon Jeffery after a touchdown catch against the Vikings in the third quarter. (Dec. 1, 2013)

Two teams headed in different directions will square off at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, the 5-8 Chicago Bears and the 8-5 Minnesota Vikings.

The first meeting this season between these two NFC North rivals came back in Week 8 at Soldier Field when the Vikings squeaked past the Bears 23-20. Despite winning only one time at home this year, the Bears are 4-2 on the road and have won three straight on the road including two in primetime, in San Diego on Monday Night Football and in Green Bay on Thanksgiving/Brett Favre retirement night.

Even though, the Bears held Minnesota to just one offensive touchdown in that Week 8 matchup, a 40-yard Stefon Diggs score; a kick return touchdown and three Blair Walsh field goals held off the Bears. Alshon Jeffery had a 21-yard touchdown grab and Jay Cutler scrambled in for a four-yard score in that game, but the Vikings outscored the Bears 13-7 in the final quarter to win it.

It could be another close battle this week between these two black and blue franchises. The Bears have lost three straight games at Minnesota, losing by a combined 14 points.

Here’s a breakdown of what both teams are thinking heading into Sunday’s 110th all-time meeting.

What the Vikings are thinking

Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson. I can’t stress it enough. When it gets to the cold months of the year, it is time to run the ball and what better play to do just that than AP himself. The Vikings star back combined for 109 yards on 22 touches (22 runs, 2 receptions) in the lone meeting this season.

Peterson has 14 rushing touchdowns against the Bears in just 13 career games against them. That mark is the most against any other opponent. He’s rushed for 100 plus yards in eight of those games including two 200-yard performances which might not ever be topped by his rookie (2007), 20 carry, 224 yard and three touchdown pounding.

He has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last five games against the Bears, but hasn’t scored in three straight games. Look for Peterson to lead this group into the playoffs, starting with a dominant performance on Sunday.

Starting linebacker Anthony Barr is out with groin and hand injuries while safety Harrison Smith is also out with knee and hamstring issues. The Vikings could also be without starting defensive end Everson Griffen and steady defensive tackle Linval Joseph, both listed as questionable.

Against an impressive and athletic tandem of Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford, the Vikings will have to hold down the fort without their full plethora of talent.

What the Bears are thinking

Alshon Jeffery wants a new contract and it appears the Bears will be handing that out to him this off-season. If they don’t, the secure franchise tag can always be used.

Despite missing five games this season due to lower-body injuries, Jeffery has recorded 53 receptions for 797 yards and three touchdowns. He caught 10 balls for 116 yards and a score against the Vikings earlier this season.

Jeffery has 602 receiving yards and five touchdowns against Minnesota in six career games. The yard total is his most against any NFL franchise. His 12 catch, 249 yard, two touchdown performance stands out and proves when he’s healthy and surrounded by other top talent, he can do some serious damage.

Limited this week in practice with a calf injury and an illness, Jeffery is expected to suit up in this divisional game.

“The secret to this league is being consistent,” head coach John Fox said via the Tribune. “That’s really the exercise for everybody, and that’s been something we’ve been a little short on. So hopefully we can develop some consistency in our play over the last three games.”

I don’t blame Fox for wanting consistency. The defense has been making more plays in terms of the pass rush as their 14 sacks rank as the second most over these last four games. The offense is beaten up and still fighting and the roster is always shuffling. This is a group that should be better next season when more talent and scheme fits are brought in, but right now it’s about finishing strong and figuring out who will be around come 2016.

Injury Report

Bears – DOUBTFUL: Cornerback Bryce Callahan (quad)

QUESTIONABLE: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (illness/calf), cornerback Sherrick McManis (concussion), linebacker Pernell McPhee (knee), tight end Zach Miller (rib), safety Antrel Rolle (knee), cornerback Tracy Porter (ankle), defensive lineman Will Sutton (knee)

Minnesota– OUT: Linebacker Anthony Barr (groin/hand), defensive end Scott Crichton (concussion/neck), wide receiver Charles Johnson (ankle), safety Harrison Smith (knee/hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE: Defensive end Everson Griffen (shoulder), defensive tackle Linval Joseph (foot)

PROBABLE: Safety Robert Blanton (knee), safety Andrew Sendejo (knee) and linebacker Brandon Watts (ribs)

Final Score Prediction

Vikings 27, Bears 17

This Vikings team is simply too much for the Bears to handle on the road. Adrian Peterson and his offensive group will control the clock while the defense will contain the Bears’ rushing attack and pressure Jay Cutler.

Season predictions: (7-6)

Weather.com Forecast

Cloudy. High 38F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.

What’s to come?

The Bears travel to Tampa Bay to battle the 6-8 Bucs, who are still hoping for a late playoff push this season.

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

Thoughts on the Bears-Vikings Week 15 matchup? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.

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