Gridiron Gab Week Twelve Preview – Minnesota at Chicago

With the status of QB Jay Cutler up in the air once again, the Bears 2012 season which had visions of the Super Bowl dancing in their heads is suddenly very much in doubt.

Cutler is listed as questionable (50/50) for Sunday’s divisional game vs the Minnesota Vikings at home, and if he can’t play the team is going to have to find a way with backup Jason Campbell to do something, anything, to get some offense going.

The Bears starter at QB in Cutler is still trying to return from a concussion suffered in a 13-6 home loss to Houston two weeks ago. He sat out Monday’s 32-7 loss at San Francisco, while Campbell connected on 14 of 22 passes for 107 yards with one touchdown, two picks and six sacks.

That performance left offensive coordinator Mike Tice itching for Cutler’s return against the Vikings (6-4).

“God, I hope (he can play),” Tice said. “I do, I really do. Not anything against Jason. Jason did a remarkable job based on the opportunities he was afforded. We’ve got to get our guy back.”

The Bears have faced two top defenses in the Texans and Niners the past two weeks, but don’t overlook the Vikings, who still feel they have a run in them to make the postseason.

The Bears have won 10 of the last 11 home meetings with Minnesota, including four in a row. Overall, they’ve won five straight, one shy of their longest run in the series set from 1983-86.

“You’re going to play a great team on their home field, a place that we’ve struggled at,” Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. “But this is a new year, a new team. And I think we’re going to have a focus going in there that we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”

Another strong performance from Adrian Peterson should improve the chances for the visiting Vikings.

Peterson leads the league with 1,128 rushing yards, averaging 5.8 per carry with seven touchdowns. He’s gained 629 of those yards and scored five times on 82 carries over the last four games.

Peterson came up big again prior to the Vikings’ bye two weeks ago, carrying the ball 27 times for 171 yards – with 61 coming on a fourth-quarter TD in a 34-24 win over Detroit.

After averaging 138.5 yards per game and 6.2 per carry while scoring eight TDs in his first four games against Chicago, Peterson has been limited to 67.3 per contest – and 3.4 a touch – on the ground while scoring four times in his last four.

Vikings starting QB Christian Ponder has to be aggressive vs the Bears Sunday, taking some shots and hitting throws to not allow the Bears to load up the box.

The 49ers thrashed the Bears at home on Monday night in part because rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick wasn’t afraid to challenge the Bears with high-risk passes down the field. Kaepernick did an excellent job when it came to timing and pinpoint accuracy down the field in a 32-7 rout.

The Bears enter this matchup with the league’s fifth-ranked defense (311.9 yards per game), but the team seems to be defined by turnovers. Chicago is plus-18 in the turnover department in its seven wins and minus-6 in its three losses.

It didn’t force one for the first time all season in San Francisco, and also continued to struggle against the run. The Bears have allowed an average of 131.5 yards on the ground in their last four games – 60.5 more than they surrendered during their first six.

Still, coach Lovie Smith is looking on the bright side since Chicago is tied with Green Bay for first place in the North.

“We have to take 7-3 into it,” Smith said. “And I’m not disappointed in us being at the top of our division with the best record, tied for the best record in our division. That’s the football team that we are.”

The Bears’ leaky offensive line has allowed 34 sacks – second-most in the league – and that’s great news for Jared Allen. Minnesota’s star defensive end has 13 sacks in eight games versus Chicago – 4 1/2 in two meetings last season.

This is a tough one to call. My guess is Cutler sits again, just like Alex Smith for the Niners to protect these two QB’s from further damage.

If Cutler does indeed sit, it gives the Vikes a huge crack at getting a win in the Windy City as long as Peterson has a huge game, which he should.

Nevertheless, I like the Bears – not sure why, but I do. I think the homefield will be huge for the Bears, and Percy Harvin is doubtful for Minnesota, their biggest weapon in the passing game.

I think Campbell and the offense scores just enough in a rather ugly game to get a win.

Chicago 14 Minnesota 10


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